Ayurveda and the Sleep Cycle
Updated: Apr 13, 2022
As an Ayurveda Health Counselor, I speak with many people that are struggling to fall asleep in a reasonable amount of time when they lie down at night.
What is a “reasonable” amount of time to fall asleep? The amount of time it takes a person to fall asleep when they are ready is called Sleep Latency. It has a direct impact on the efficiency of sleep and how rested we feel upon waking. Most people will fall asleep within 10-15 minutes of laying down. This is an ideal amount of time to fall asleep.
Melatonin is a hormone that helps induce a feeling of sleepiness. Melatonin production follows a 24-hour cycle and is released by the pineal gland in the brain at regular intervals. This allows for a “sleep gate” to occur. If you miss the gate, you may find it difficult to fall asleep.
One of the most common modern factors that affect our production and release of melatonin is nighttime screen time. As darkness sets in the brain gets the signal to release melatonin and this is hampered by the light emitted from computer and television screens. The input from these screens also keeps our brain engaged and does not allow it a time out to prepare for sleep.
Maximum sleepiness also happens when our core body temperature (CBT) is at its lowest and melatonin levels are at their highest. If you choose to workout just before bed this is also sending mixed signals to the brain because your body temp will be higher.
My recommendations to improve sleep latency and sleep efficiency are all about the natural rhythm of the body. Turn off all screens at least an hour (or more) before bedtime. A warm (not hot!) shower or bath about half an hour before bed can help lower the core body temperature as the body cools after the shower/bath.
Of course, we all have nights when we toss and turn because it seems our minds aren’t quite ready to let go of the day or stop prepping for the next. But, for some people this is more the norm than being able to fall asleep easily. There are many easily accessible techniques to trial and error in finding your way to a night of true rest.
~Tonia Mayerle, Ayurveda Health Counselor, Yoga Instructor