Insomnia is a sleep disorder in which you have trouble falling or staying asleep, or cause you to wake up too early and not able be able to get back to sleep. You feel tired when you wake up. Insomnia can sap not only your energy level and mood but also your health, work performance and quality of life. The condition can be short term (acute), which lasts for days/weeks or can last long term (chronic) for a month or more. It may also come and go.
According to Ayurvedic science, Insomnia is understood as Anidra or Nidra-nasha. The condition is lack of sleep, caused by increased vata dosha and decreased kapha dosha.
Symptoms of Insomnia
- Difficulty falling asleep at night
- Waking up during the night
- Waking up too early
- Not feeling well after a night’s sleep
- Daytime tiredness or sleepiness
- Irritability, mood changes, depression or anxiety
- Difficulty paying attention, focusing on task or remembering
- Increased errors or accidents
- Ongoing worries about sleep
Causes of Insomnia
Causes of chronic insomnia include:
- Concern about work, school, health, finance or family can keep mind active at night, making it difficult to sleep. Stressful life events or trauma- such as the death or illness of a loved one, divorce, or a job loss - also may lead to insomnia.
- Travel or work schedule
- Disrupting body’s internal clock can lead to insomnia. Causes include working late or early shifts or frequent changing shifts.
- Poor sleep habits
- Irregular bedtime schedule, naps, uncomfortable sleep environment, using your bed for work, eating or watching TV.
- Eating too much late in the evening
- Eating too much before bed time makes you physically uncomfortable while lying down.
- Additional common causes for insomnia include:
- Mental health issues like depression, anxiety
- Medications for cold, allergies, depression, high blood pressure and asthma
- Medical conditions linked with insomnia include chronic pain, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), overactive thyroid, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Pain or discomfort at night
- Caffeine, tobacco or alcohol use
- Hyperthyroidism and other endocrine problems
- Other sleep disorders like sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome
Risk factors of Insomnia
- Age - Insomnia affects older people more than younger ones.
- Sex - Insomnia affects women more than men.
- Mental health disorders - Many such issues can also disrupt sleep.
- Stress - Stressful times and events can cause temporary insomnia.
- Irregular schedule - Changing shifts at work or traveling can disrupt sleep-wake cycle.
Complication of Insomnia
Sleep is as important factor to your health as a healthy diet and regular physical activity. Insomnia can affect you both mentally and physically. Our body and brain need sleep so they can repair themselves.
Complications of insomnia include:
- Lower performance on the job or at school
- Slowed reaction time while driving and a higher risk of accidents.
- Mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety.
- Increased risk and severity of long-term diseases or conditions, such as high blood pressure and heart disease.
Modern perspective- management of Insomnia
Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-1) helps to develop good sleep habits and avoid behaviors that disrupt your sleep. Strategies include, for example:
- Stimulus cold therapy
- Relaxation techniques
- Sleep restriction
- Remaining passively awake
- Light therapy
- Prescription sleeping pills
Ayurvedic treatment for Insomnia
Insomnia is understood as Anidra or Nidra-nasha. The condition is lack of sleep, caused by increased vata dosha and decreased kapha dosha. Ayurveda understands sleep as one of the three pillars of life (triads of health), along with Ahara (food) and Brahmacharya (abstinence). Acharyas mentions importance of sleep in various physical and mental activities. Sleep is essential for:
- Perception of joy
- Proper physical growth and tissue nourishment
- Logical thinking and retention of acquired knowledge
- Lengthy and good quality life
In ayurveda insomnia (nidra nasha) is not merely a illness, but it is a symptom of underlying imbalance and sign of upcoming chronic physical, behavioral, cognitive and mental issues, if not managed. Treatment for insomnia has two goals. One is to improve the quality and quantity of sleep; the other is to understand the causes and to prevent further health issues.
At Amala, our treatment includes Ayurvedic panchakarama procedures like shirodhara, shiroabhyanga, tarpana along with internal medications, yoga and pranayama has good impact on insomnia.
Diet in Insomnia
- Drink a glass of milk
- Avoid or limit caffeine and alcohol
- Avoid large meals and beverages before bed time
Lifestyle in Insomnia
- Stick to sleep schedule
- Stay active, regular activity helps promote a good night’s sleep
- Check your medication
- Don’t use phones or e books before bed time. Their light can make it harder to fall asleep
- Avoid or limit nap
- Avoid trying too hard to sleep
- Get out of bed when you’re not sleeping
- Make your bedroom comfortable for sleep
Best Yoga postures for Insomnia
Yoga is not only beneficial for improving strength and flexibility of body, it can also help you sleep better. Yoga on a daily basis can help you sleep longer, fall asleep faster, return to sleep more quickly if awaken in the middle of night. Some yoga poses that are ideal for preparing your body for sleep are below:
- Legs up the wall pose (Viparita karani)
- Lying butterfly pose (Supta baddha konasana)
- Corpse pose (Savasana)