Ayurveda gives huge importance to both preventive and curative aspects of health. One of these concepts for preventive health mentioned in medieval Ayurveda textbooks is ‘Ratricharya‘ or the nightly regimen. Sleep is one of the main pillars of good health in Ayurveda and is as important as diet in sustaining a quality and healthy lifespan. Sticking to the same serene ‘Ratricharya’ decides how your sleep will be, which in turn decides how you feel when you wake up the next day. The purpose of all these night-time rituals is to prepare your mind to go into a deep state of relaxation and remove any negative emotions.
To understand Ayurveda, we must constantly remind ourselves of the adage, ‘as in the macrocosm, so in the microcosm’. ‘Yat Pinde, tat Brahmande’. Ayurveda suggests we surrender to the awesome powers of nature that inherently rule us - ’as in the world out there, so in the body in here’. These principles of Ayurveda are not random. They correspond to a keen awareness of astrophysics and quantum physics the ways in which the forces in the larger universe affect our bodies.
Recommendations for nightly regimen
Moon-bathing: Exposing yourself to moonlight is beneficial according to Ayurveda for its Cold and soothing effect on the body.
· Pacifies thirst and absorbs Soma
· Enhances vigor and relaxes mind
· Pacifies aggravated Pitta like inflammation and burning sensation
· The ideal time for consuming dinner is around 5:30- 6:00 PM during the initial 3 hours of night (first prahara).
· Dinner should be the lightest meal of the day, since the digestive strength/fire (agni) is the weakest at this time.
Things to avoid during sunset
Classical Ayurvedic Text Bhavaprakasha has mentioned certain actions that have to be contraindicated during the evening hours.
Here, evening time to be more precise is sandhya kala which is said to be the joining /junction period between the end of the day and beginning of the night- time, also called a ‘Pradosha-Vela’. This is approximately between 6:30 PM and 8:30 PM depending on your location, season, and the sunset time.
· Aaharam/Intake of food – The food taken at this time will not be digested and can end up in the formation of ‘Ama’ or toxins. As the sun sets down, the agni starts to decrease, so the digestive power of your gut is also reduced at this time.
· Maithunam/Sexual Intercourse – Sexual intercourse at this time of the day is said to cause fetal abnormalities. Sex should be done just before bedtime around 10 PM to 11 PM as this particular time-frame is governed by Pitta Dosha and when stamina and passion are at their peak. The recommended frequency is quite different for each dosha and season. Vata people should participate in sex less often than pitta dosha people. Kapha people can have sex more often ( once a week ) of all the doshas. Frequent sexual activity will bring the Ojas (immunity) down. It's also recommended to have less sex during warmer months when compared to colder months. I will write a detailed post on sex and Ayurveda
· Nidra/Sleep – Sleep at evening (not night) can result in poverty, loss of wealth and loss of intelligence as per the classical scriptures. This time is called ‘Pradosha vela’ or ‘Asura Sandhya Vela’ a very auspicious time when the Angels and diets descend on to earth. So, it's considered to be disrespectful for them. Instead play some mantras during sunset. Instead, clean up your house and light up a lamp or incense to invite the positivism.
· Sampatam/Reading – This can result in ayu hani or bad effects to life. Keep in mind these are the days when Ayurveda was documented perhaps 5000 years go when there was no electricity. So , it was recommended to read only when the sun was up.
· Adhwa gamana/Walking long distances – It is said to cause fear and anxiety of darkness. One more reason is that walking longer distance after sunset may not be safe and that will in turn aggravate vata dosha. This time should be utilized to unwind
· Turmeric latte or Golden milk
Milk boiled with turmeric and balancing spices like dry ginger powder/cardamom/saffron/nutmeg/cinnamon along with ghee. You can optionally add soaked almonds or fresh dates. Check out my post on turmeric latte.
Milk with ghee 1 hour before bed acts like a laxative and a great sleep inducer.
· Triphala mixed with honey or ghee at night is said to enhance vision and acts as a laxative. Please understand that continued use of Triphala can also be harmful. Please work with a practitioner for the suggested dosage and intake.
· Wash hands after a meal
Danta Dhawan- Brushing the teeth. Scraping tongue is avoided in the evening time because it may trigger the agni
· Gargling with water or oil (sesame oil)
Intake of medicated Smoke (dhoomapaan) to pacify any aggravated Kapha
Wash your face with milk or a gentle cleanser. Apply Shatadhoutaghritam ( Click here) ( Washed ghee) over the face and massage upwards. You can also use a kansa bowl or kansa wand (Copper massage wand or bowl)
· Eye care before bed
Touching eye lids with moist and cool fingers before bedtime to soothe and reduce eye stress.
Apply organic cold pressed castor oil on eyelashes and eyebrows for lustrous eyelashes
Apply triphala ghritam (medicated ghee) over the water line. This will enhance the vision and improve the sclera of the eye.
As per Sushruta Samhita, it's recommended to Shatapada gamana ( short walk with hundred foot steps)
Wash feet and hands before bed and massage warm sesame oil or castor oil on the soles of the feet or the centers of the soles of feet. This practice is incredibly soothing to the nervous system and a great way to help settle down for bedtime
Practice alternate nostril breathing or meditation. Yoga nidra is also a great idea before bedtime.
Guidelines for a sound sleep
No screen time at least one hour before going to bed. This will bring the cortisol levels down and allowing your mind to relax and stay away from external sensory stimulation
According to Ayurvedic scriptures, it's recommended not to read before bed, but if that’s the only time you can read or unwind, it's ideal to read a fiction book instead of non-fiction which can stimulate your brain and can increase Vata.
The day is broken into recurring Vata, pitta, and kapha dominant cycles. In the evening, the Kapha phase begins from 6PM to 10 PM. That’s the time your kapha is at its peak and you want to use that time to unwind, relax, moon bathe and listen to soothing music or even water sounds.
The recommended time to go to bed is before 10 PM. If you stay up after 10 PM, the pitta phase begins to kick’in and you may feel active or even hungry.
It’s OK to put off that email you must respond to or watch your favorite TV series.
Listen to soft sounds, soothing relaxing music or mantras before bed.
Say a prayer or gratitude to the universe for a beautiful day.
It’s ideal to keep the bedroom clutter free, cooler, darker for a sound sleep. You can use a soft lamp ( or a Himalayan pink salt mini lamp ). The cooler temperatures allow you to relax and unwind, you may also use a heavier blanket to reduce any Vata activity during your sleep.
You follow these tips, I can guarantee you can fight any stubborn stage of insomnia
PS: It is a good idea to clean up your kitchen and your house before you go to bed so you can wake up to a clean and welcoming kitchen to start your day with.
According to Dr.Wayne Dyer ( motivational speaker), before bedtime, show gratitude and say intention to the universe. Whatever you say, the universe will whisper back into your ears and allow them to marinade, so its better to have the best thoughts before going to bed. If you have any negative emotions or thoughts holding up, its ideal to resolve them before hitting the bed