Ayurvedic Evening Routine for Healthy Sleep
Just as it is essential to have a consistent and healthy Morning Routine (known as Dinacharya in Ayurveda), it is equally as essential for you to have a soothing nighttime routine in order to wind-down and de-stress before going to bed.
If you are experiencing sleep issues, it may be helpful to make some positive changes in your evening habits to establish sound sleep, each and every night!
Sleep issues often stem from high Vata invading the nervous system and mind, which provokes restless thinking, anxiety, fear, worry, and an overactive nervous system. ad of course, it prevents you from falling asleep or awakes you at night.
By welcoming in calming activities in the evening, you allow your energy to ground and your mind to quiet so you can find a deeper, longer and sounder sleep.
Have a light dinner before 7pm and avoid all food after
Begin the wind-down phase by 8pm (or earlier if you can)
Be in bed by 9.30pm, asleep by 10-10.30pm (max!)
Activities to avoid after 8pm
Avoid staying up past 10pm (this often leads to a second wind)
Avoid bright lights and loud music
Avoid heavy, serious, or upsetting conversations and arguments
Avoid any work-related activities (e-mails, etc.)
Avoid television or movies (especially scary or stimulating ones
Avoid exercise (although a gentle walk after dinner is recommended)
Avoid eating and drinking too much fluid
You'll find below a few practices that you can put in place to help you have a sound night sleep. The list is rather long but it is absolutely not intended for you to do everything, every night. It is best to choose what you need most on any given evening and performing one, two or three of these recommendations. See what resonates wit you.
Early & light dinner
Have you ever wondered why you wake up feeling sluggish, or not feeling rested although you've slept a whole eight hours? It might be linked to what and when you ate the evening before. The heavier and later dinner, the less restful the night.
Ayurveda recommends (at least) a three-hour gap between your last meal and bedtime. Try to have dinner somewhere between 6 and 7pm. As the sun goes down, so does your digestive fire, Agni. The body can’t break down food as well at night, which means that food sits in your gut, undigested, leading to toxicity. Another good argument is that eating late at night will disturb your sleep as the body will use its energy to digest rather than regenerate and repair muscles, organs and other cells.
Then, dinner should be light and easy to digest: soup or steamed vegetables with a little basmati rice for example. Don’t go for a beef stew or a big plate of pasta, if you see what I mean. Eating in large amount at night makes it difficult for our body to digest. Lunch should be your largest meal of the day.
Again, if you notice that you are not able to wake up fresh and clear, it might be interesting to analyse the quantity of food and the time of night you had dinner the day before.
Set a gentle and soothing atmosphere
Dim out the lights, light some candles, and turn on your essential oil diffuser. Create a nice and soothing atmosphere. Set the tone for a restful night sleep, let your mind and body wind down. Find some peace and quiet.
Avoid paraffin and artificially-scented candles, air fresheners and incense; use soy candles for example or natural vegetal candles. As far as essential oils are concerned, you can add a few drops of lavender, chamomile, frankincense to your diffuser to soothe your nervous system and prepare your body & mind for sleep.
You have children, you say? It’ll be beneficial for them too! You could also turn on some relaxing music, and the whole family will be chilled out before bedtime.
Try to schedule a technology detox at least an hour before you go to bed.
Say what? I know, no one wants to go to bed without cuddling with their phones, but it’s actually crucial for a good night sleep. It's actually not only your phone, no screens at all, computer and tablet included. The brightness of the screen (it’s actually the blue light that emanates from the screen) stimulates the senses and keeps everything ‘on’ rather than helping you to wind down. Your melatonin levels drop, preventing you from falling asleep and also disrupting your sleep.
Why not read a book or a magasine? Do some knitting?
The top notch thing you can do is to leave your phone in the kitchen (or anywhere else really) before you go to bed. It's your alarm clock? Ha! Excuses, excuses. For a just a few euros, you can buy yourself an old fashion alarm clock (and even better, you can't really snooze with those!).
Stillness, meditation, breathing
A meditation practice, whether it’s long or short, can be incredibly therapeutic. There’s strong evidence to suggest that regular meditation can help improve your quality of sleep. Similarly to how exercise promotes physical health, exercising your mind is equally essential for our mental health.
Meditation can sound quite daunting for some, but it doesn't mean that you have to levitate or anything, or finding yourself in an altered state.
Meditating can simply be sitting in a cross-legged position, bringing awareness to your breath, and sit still for a few minutes. Accepting whatever thoughts come forward, noticing them, letting them go, and gently coming back to the breath. That is meditating.
You might also simply take a few conscious deep breaths, which can be very calming and allow you to enter a state of relaxation.
If you're not familiar with meditation, you can download the application Insight Timer, there are loads of great guided meditations to help you out.
Drink a calming & warm beverage
Drinking a soothing cup of herbal tea each night is a great way to induce a sleepy state in your body and mind. And also, the simple act of taking a moment to prepare a cup of tea and slow down is super relaxing (provided you don't multi-task while making your tea).
Try to have it about an hour before your go to bed so you avoid an overactive bladder during the night.
Here are a few ideas of soothing herbal teas:
You can also have a cup of warm milk or golden milk tea.
This ancient Ayurvedic practice involves scraping the dead skin cells off the top layer of your skin with a dry brush.
Your skin is the largest organ of the body and a mirror that reflects our overall health. About a third of the body’s toxins are excreted through it, so if the skin is covered with dead particules, it can’t breathe and detoxify - which can in return cause inflammation and toxicity.
Dry brushing present a large number of benefits: it stimulates the skin and lymphatic system, it enhances blood circulation, detoxes accumulated toxins, eliminates inflammation, revitalises all the bodily systems, promotes physical relaxation, and relieves stress & anxiety.
Using a dry brush massage your entire body excluding your face, heart and chest. Avoid any areas that are sensitive or where the skin may be inflamed or broken.
Start at your feet and gently move your way up the body.
The direction of the stroke should always be toward your heart as this helps drain lymph back to your heart.
Use circular strokes on the stomach and joints ( shoulder, elbows, knees, wrists, hips and ankles). Use long sweeping strokes on the arms and legs.
Most importantly, be mindful, gentle and kind to your body when dry brushing.
Although it's recommended, you don't have to do it every night if you don't feel like it. Two or three times a week is also beneficial.
Self-oil massage (Abhyanga)
That's one of my new favourite self-care practice, it's a wonderful way of nurturing yourself everyday. It requires about 5 minutes, but trust me, they're worth it. It's a beautiful way to give love to yourself. Your body is your temple, your most precious possession, and it should be treated with the same care you'd give to a baby.
Self-oil massage has so many amazing benefits: it improves circulation, calms the mind, tones the muscles and detoxifies the body. The skin of the entire body becomes soft, smooth and brightened.
Take about 80ml-100ml of warm (not hot) oil, begin with the head and neck
Then, move down to the chest, stomach, back, arms, hands, and finally the buttocks, legs and feet. Don't forget your private parts.
Massage the oil in with long strokes on the limbs and circular motions around the joints.
Finally, after you have oiled your feet put on your socks to retain the oil; and put on your pj's (not your fancy silky ones though) so your body can soak all the oil up.
Some people prefer to practice Abhyanga in the morning, that's really up to you and how much time you have. I like to oil myself before I take a shower so the oil can enter the skin during the shower, others would rather do it after. See what works for you.
You can watch this video if you want to know how to do the full-body Abhyanga massage.
Vata > Sesame oil or almond oil.
Pitta > Coconut oil or sunflower oil (no need to warm up the oil though)
Kapha > Sesame oil or almond oil
Tips to warm up the oil:
- rub it between your hands if you don't have much time.
- fill a glass bottle with the amount of oil you need and either put it in a pot of hot water over the stove (bain-marie style) or use an electric baby-bottle warmer, it's perfect as the oil gets to the exact temperature. That's what I do and it's awesome!
Massage your feet before bed
My favourite of all, self-foot massage right before getting under the duvet. This is a simple, yet effective ritual that you will not want to go without once you've tried it. Taking a few minutes to massage each foot before bed is a great way to bring your energy downwards, calm your mind, and release tension from your body.
This practice is best done directly before bed, using a calming massage oil or any other lotion/balm that you like (and might be less greasy than oil). I keep it in my night table and massage my feet when I get to bed. Once you've done one foot, put on an old sock to encourage absorption and avoid getting oil on your bed or on the floor. Then repeat on the other foot. The socks only need to stay on for about 10 to 15 minutes, if you don't like to sleep with them on.
So there you go !
Remember, these ate just recommendations. you might not like them all and you certainly won't have time to do them all every night. See how it works, try them out and see what resonates with you.
Don't hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions or if you'd like to set up a consultation.
I wish you a restful and deep sleep/
Love & Light.