SLEEPLESS IN AMERICA
This year, the National Sleep Awareness Week sponsored by the National SleepFoundation falls from April 1 through April 7. Results of a poll conductedby the Foundation in 2001 reveal some disturbing statistics and trends:
America is increasingly becoming a society that lives to work, not works tolive 40% of adults report getting so little sleep that resulting daytimedrowsiness interferes with productivity several days in a monthOver half of adults surveyed said they had driven while drowsy in the lastyear Almost 70% report having one or more sleep problems several times a week
Physical, mental or emotional stress -- job worries, budgeting and finances,relationship pressures, work deadlines, tests and exams, for example -- aretop of the list of factors that can rob you of sleep. Pain and physiologicalcircumstances such as menopause or pregnancy for women, travel across timezones, young children, excessive noise and snoring partners can allcontribute to inadequate or poor quality sleep.
Why Sleep is Important
Both ayurveda and modern medicine are in accord about the importance ofsleep as a means to recharge and rejuvenate the physiology.
The short-term consequences of inadequate sleep or poor quality sleep areoften obvious - loss of productivity and reduced mental capacity the nextday, lethargy and drowsiness leading to lack of focus and concentration,lower physical energy and impaired appetite and digestion, lacklusteremotions and reduced zest for life, and lifeless skin and bags under theeyes, to name just a few. Research studies indicate that the brain actuallyuses sleep time as a time to categorize and store information, so thatindividuals who sleep after a period of intense study are often able toremember more of it later than people who do not take the time to sleep.
The long-term effects of ongoing sleep deprivation are sometimes lessobvious, but just as, or more, damaging to health and well-being. Impairednatural immunity means less resistance to infections and disease (studieshave linked sleep deprivation to obesity and high blood pressure, amongother things), lowered mental and emotional stability can damage relationships andongoing work performance (sleep deprivation is linked to chronic depression)and a disruptive sleep-wake cycle can throw the body's systems out ofbalance.
How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?
According to ayurveda, and according to many modern researchers as well, thenumber of hours of sleep an individual needs can vary widely. Some adultscan get by with 5-6 hours of sleep on an ongoing basis, while others may need9-10 to really function optimally the following day. Listening to your ownbody and mind during the day for a couple of weeks can tell you how muchsleep you need each night.
Also, the quality of rest is crucial. According to ayurveda, the mostrestful sleep occurs when the mind is completely detached from the senses.
Get The Rest You Deserve
Severe and ongoing sleep deprivation and disorders such as sleep apneawarrant a visit to a qualified health care professional. Physiciansqualified in Maharishi Ayurveda can help design a diet/lifestyle/supplements programbased on an ayurvedic pulse diagnosis and your individual circumstances andneeds.
If you have occasional difficulty falling asleep or sleeping through thenight, or you wake up feeling unrefreshed, diet and lifestyle changes mayhelp resolve the problem:
Cut back on caffeine
Especially in the evening, substitute relaxing herbal teas for caffeinateddrinks or alcohol. Slumber Time Tea from Maharishi Ayurveda is a blend ofherbs and spices formulated to help you relax. For a heartier beverage, trya small cup of warm milk about an hour before bed. If you're feeling irritableor frustrated, add a spoonful of Rose Petal Preserve to the milk.
Eat light at night
Most Americans tend to eat lunch "on the go" and then eat a heavy meal lateat night. "Not a good idea," says Rama Kant, ayurvedic expert."Eating a heavy dinner at night taxes your digestion at a time when it's windingdown, and this will lead to ama build-up as well as difficulty in settlingdown to sleep." Ama, digestive impurities, blocks the channels of the bodyand creates an environment conducive to disease.
Teach your body to woo sleep
If you establish a regular sleep-wake cycle, going to bed at about the sametime each night and waking up at the same time every morning, your body andmind will help you by automatically winding down as that bedtime approaches.According to ayurveda, going to bed by 10 p.m. and waking up by 6 a.m. atthe latest is ideal. Do not sleep during the day if you have trouble sleeping atnight.
Turn off the tube
A significant number of Americans report watching television right beforebed, some even fall asleep watching TV. "Your mind and emotions should befocused on calming, positive activities as bedtime approaches," says VaidyaMishra. "Avoid news or entertainment that can shock or disturb the mind andsenses." Instead, listen to soothing music (Sama Veda, or Gandharva Vedamusic appropriate for the time of evening, are especially designed to calmthe senses on a deep level) or practice deep breathing.
Count your blessings, not sheep
In the same vein, Vaidya Mishra advises taking the time each evening toreflect on the people and things in your life that bring you joy and bliss."Anxiety and anger are poor bed companions," he says. Two subdoshas that aredirectly related to sleep quality and quantity are Prana Vata, which governsthe mind, and Sadhaka Pitta, which governs the emotions. Take the Worry Freetablets or the Blissful Joy tablets to help keep these subdoshas in balance.
Herbs that heal
The Blissful Sleep herbal tablets from Maharishi Ayurveda promote deep,restful sleep, naturally. Indian Valerian and Musk Root are renowned inayurveda as natural sleep aids. Winter Cherry helps balance the mind andemotions. If your sleep imbalance is specific, take one tablet each of theBlissful Sleep tablets along with one tablet of Blissful Sleep 1, 2 or 3about an hour before bed. Blissful Sleep 1 addresses a Vata sleep imbalance(not being able to fall asleep with ease), Blissful Sleep 2 is for aPitta-related imbalance (not being able to sleep uninterrupted through thenight), and Blissful Sleep 3 for a Kapha imbalance (waking up unrefresheddespite long hours of sleep).
"It's all a matter of following the ayurvedic routine," says Vaidya Mishra."If the human body were to not need sleep, it would have been designed thatway. Learn to say no to demands that force you to take shortcuts on thebasic needs of your body and mind. You'll find over time that if you take care ofyour physiology, you can accomplish just as much, or more, than if youstrain to work all the time."
Note - This information is education and is not intended to replace standardmedical care or advice.
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