Did you know that in the United States alone, nearly 70% of adults experience poor sleep at least one night a month, with 11% reporting insufficient sleep every night? According to Sleephealth.org, approximately 50 to 70 million Americans experience sleep-related problems and disorders, many of which are to blame for poor physical health, worse performance at work, and even lower mental well-being. In my personal experience, my hectic school and work schedule lead me to seek out prescriptions that I quite frankly didn’t need to help me concentrate, which then lead to awful nights with little to know sleep. To combat the negative effects these drugs had on me, my doctor prescribed yet more pharmaceuticals to help me sleep better.
As a recent college graduate entering the workforce, little did I know that these pharmaceuticals would not only be worse-off for my physical well-being in the long run, but were habit-forming substances that actually ended up doing more harm than good. I found it harder to wake up and stay focused while taking prescribed sleep medication, and eventually had to wean myself off of both classes of drugs.
As I grew to learn about the powerful teachings of ayurvedic medicine and the efficacy many all-natural remedies can have on sleep, I discovered that treating sleep disorders should be approached from a balanced, holistic standpoint. These teachings reinforce the idea that each person has a unique pattern of energy, so treating any health problem is essentially bringing the body back to a state of balance. This lead me to eventually find a myriad of herbal supplements and daily practices that ended up being far more impactful and sustainable on my sleep.
Ayurveda and the Three Principle Energies of the Body
If you are already familiar with the basic teachings of Ayurveda, it is likely that you’ve been exposed to the construct of the body’s three principle energies. As a brief overview of this concept, ayurvedic medicine assumes that when health issues occur, it is due to an imbalance between these three distinct types of energy:
This is the energy associated with space, air, and movement. When in a state of balance, vata encourages creative expression, while an imbalance may cause anxiety and fear.
Pitta is the energy that symbolizes the body’s internal metabolic system, allowing the stomach to digest food and absorb nutrients, control temperature, and sustain physical homeostasis. When out of balance, this energy can be the source of jealousy and hatred.
Finally, kapha is the “glue” that holds the structure of the body together, dictating the flow and disbursement of water throughout the body. When in balance, this energy is expressed as warmth, patience, and love. However, when imbalances occur, it can lead to envy and greed.
What Does Ayurveda Say about Sleep Disorders?
Similar to ayurvedic medicine’s approach to most health problems, Ayurveda teaches that sleep issue occur due to the imbalances of the three principle energies. However, different types of sleep disorders are associated with specific energy imbalances. For example, if your mind is racing when you go to lay down for bed and the inability to put the hectic events of your day behind you causes you to stay awake, this condition is associated with a Vata imbalance. Conversely, a Pitta imbalance may manifest itself in unexplained awakenings in the middle of the night and the inability to fall back asleep. Finally, a Kapha-related imbalance might cause you to sleep deep and sound, but feel groggy, tired, and have trouble focusing throughout the day.
While a balanced and customized approach to diet, exercise, and general health is encouraged in ayurvedic medicine to treat whatever specific sleep ailment you are experiencing, if you are reading this you are probably looking for specific herbal remedies to aid with rest. Here are some ayurvedic medicinal remedies and herbal supplements to address sleep disorders and promote quality rest.
Here at rootbabes, we are long-time lovers of the powerful healing herb known as ashwagandha. As a foundational pillar to herbal medicine, the benefits of this plant have been used for over 3,000 years. For individuals experiencing an imbalance of Vata (making it hard to ease the mind and go to sleep at night), ashwagandha might be an ideal herbal remedy. Studies have shown that ashwagandha is highly effective as a treatment for anxiety and stress. These effects are enjoyed by many as a natural aid to help individuals fall asleep, without negative side effects like addiction or morning grogginess.
While many studies document the positive effects brahmi can have on brain enhancement and cognitive functioning, many also use this herb for aiding with sleep. Taking small doses in both the evening and morning is known to produce higher quality sleep at night, while also aiding in memory and brainpower during the day.
One of the most popular herbs used to reduce symptoms of many sleep disorders is chamomile. This remedy is commonly enjoyed as a tea, and research has revealed that regular use of chamomile not only produces higher quality sleep, but can also reduce symptoms of depression.
4. Lemon Balm
Similar to chamomile, lemon balm is another herb that is commonly enjoyed for its benefits on sleep quality. Especially when combined with chamomile or valerian root, this remedy has been studied to be effective in treating restlessness and other sleep disorders.
5. Valerian Root
This wonder herb is commonly regarded as one of the most powerful natural solutions to poor sleep. Whether you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, this herb is known to interact with chemicals in the brain that are linked to both issues. For example, one study revealed that valerian root produces significant sedative and sleep-enhancing effects due to the fact that it contains a flavonoid known as linarin. Another study observed the herb’s powerful ability to reduce anxiety and ease the mind, which can possibly aid in promoting prolonged quality sleep throughout the night.
Jatamansi is also known as a multi-use herb, with benefits ranging from aiding with digestion and lowering blood pressure, to improving mood and reducing stress. When it comes to sleep disorders, specifically insomnia, some research has provided evidence that jatamansi helps to promote more restful and consistent sleep. Interestingly enough, this same study found that the herb also produces significant antidepressant effects as well.
7. Abhyanga Oil
Unlike most of the other herbal remedies on this list, Abhyanga Oil is most commonly enjoyed topically, either massaged into the skin or even the scalp. Known for some incredible benefits ranging from diminishing the effects of aging to increasing circulation, this ayurvedic remedy is a widely regarded as a holistic solution to many ailments, and a nourishing expression of self-love. With regard to sleep and rest, The Chopra Center denotes that massaging your body with this herbal oil can have significant benefits on promoting deeper, better sleep.