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Season 1 - Episode 9

Nighty Night

10 min - Talk
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Get back to the old school rhythms of nature. Sleep is one of the most important pillars of Ayurvedic health and the all to common lack of it can greatly impact your overall wellness. Katie offers helpful tips and suggestions on how to prepare yourself to sleep like a baby.
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Sep 15, 2015
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(waves crashing) So let's talk about one of the most important pillars of Ayurvedic health, which is our sleep. I was reminded of how important sleep is from an article I read about Arianna Huffington, who's the owner of the Huffington Post. And, in the article it said that one day she was in an office board meeting, and she just fell over. And they rushed her to the hospital to try to figure out what was wrong. And there was nothing at all wrong, other than the fact that she was completely exhausted from lack of sleep.

And I think this really, it actually catalyzed in her this revolution in her company about valuing sleep. I love this story because I think it speaks to such an important aspect of our life that really we have forgotten about. So, sleep is the time when your body regenerates from everything that occurred the day before, whether it be physical, psychological, emotional, or even spiritual. Sleep is a critical period where we digest the impressions that the mind and the senses had to take in during that day. So, it's a real critical aspect of not only our physiological health, but also the health of our our mind.

So as I keep saying in all these talks, the day begins the night before. So what are some really simple things that, simple but perhaps not easy, things that I can do to help myself sleep like a baby? The first thing that I would say is to really look at your relationship to light. So traditionally, when we had very little electricity, or none, we would go down when the sun went down. And if you've ever been camping, or been somewhere in the world where there wasn't as much access to electricity, you know that very quickly, within a few days, your body starts to adjust to this natural light, and you start to become really sleepy when the sun goes down.

What artificial lights do is they keep the melatonin from actually secreting in the brain. They change our circadian rhythms and make us feel like it's still daytime, even though we're aware that it's night. So, if you don't feel sleepy around nine, 10,10:30, 11pm it could be because you have a lot of lights on. In fact in my work with people who suffer from insomnia, one of the first things I ask them to do, they don't believe me, they don't believe that it'll work, and I'll say put on low lighting. Turn off all the overhead lights.

Use really dim lighting after the sun sets. And they've done that, and some of them are completely cured of insomnia, just from that one thing, 'cause they had a lot of overhead light stimulation. So make sure that the lights are kinda mellow as the sun sets. Another thing that's emitting light, you may have heard about this phenomenon of the blue light that's coming out of our screens. This light is detrimental.

It's been shown scientifically to shift our circadian rhythms in the most dramatic of ways. Way more even than overhead light. And so, turning off your screens, ideally after the sun sets. If that's not possible, at least around 9pm, try to be disciplined, to not be in front of screens. And I know again this is challenging.

I often times find it fun and comforting to watch a movie or a show, but really if we're going to align with Ayurvedic rhythms, the best is to avoid screens, especially after 9pm. Why 9pm? There's a magical time that's around 10pm, where we, again, like the surfer riding the wave, now the wave's over, and the surfer just sort of comes off and comes off the board, or just swims away. He doesn't try to keep standing up and riding the wave. It's the same thing with the sun.

So at 10pm, whoosh! There's this natural wave that secretes the hormones in our body, the chemicals that actually send us into sleep. That natural wave occurs around 10pm, and in the summer it can be a little later. And depending on where you are on the globe, it's obviously a little bit different. But you can kinda feel into when that wave is happening. So from 10pm until 2am, we are now in what is called the fire time, the Pitta time of night.

This is super important if you want to get a good night's sleep. I know some of you might be night owls, and you're probably not gonna wanna be friends with me right now. But, from 10pm until 2am this is when your fire comes alive that does the deep transformational work of cleansing the body, and transforming the undigested thought material in the mind. So, it's like a night janitor. The night janitor comes at 10pm.

And if the night janitor shows up at the school and the kids are still in the building at 10pm, awake and doing projects, the night janitor can't deep clean. And so what he does is sort of shuffle around and do what he can, but the kids are still there doing projects. So he can't deep clean as he would, as if there were no children there. So what we want to do is make sure that nighty-night, we are asleep, so that when the night janitor comes he can do his job. This is why those of you that are night owls, you get what we call the second wind.

It happens around 10, 10:30, 11. I've felt it in my own body. You've probably experienced it many times. If you don't get on the wave of sleep, you wake up again. And then you're awake, and now even when you want to go to sleep, you can't.

That is because, again, the night janitor is there, And now that light is back on, and you've diverted it from the belly, from this area where it can do the detoxification work, and from the subconscious mind, where it can digest the impressions and send you into the realm of dreams, you've diverted it and sent it back to the thinking, conscious mind. So then you get your big ideas, you can do your big projects, again, you get that second wave. It feels really good to the ego, but the body and the deep subconscious mind suffers. So, I know I may have lost a couple of you as friends. I'm sorry, but that's what the ancient, rhythm lineage says.

So, try to ride that wave and I think you'll feel a lot more powerful in the morning. Another thing that you can do to kind of ease into nighty-night routines, is a warm bath at night. A warm bath really does a great job of resetting the nervous system, especially if you've done something the night before. I hear this a lot from yoga teachers, or performers, or people that have to go out waiting tables at night, people who have to go out at night and be on, then they can't fall asleep. This is really common.

And so what you've done is you've stimulated yourself, and now you need to reset the nervous system. Warm bath, really great idea for doing that. Another thing that we can do to help reduce insomnia and sleep really well, is oiling your feet, and your head. This idea of oiling the feet is this really beautiful ritual from many different traditions. It is, there was a wisdom around the feet, and what they held in terms of surrender and letting go.

So the ultimate act of selfless love was to anoint someone else's feet. So if you can find someone that wants to anoint your feet before bed, even better, but in general you might need to do this for yourself. And it's just this coating of the area of your body that leads you into that downward surrender of sleep. You can also do the head. You have most of your marma points, many of them are actually from the neck up.

And so, just a general head massage of oil will be really helpful. I mentioned this before but it just bears repeating, avoiding mental stimulation after dinner. This means avoiding the people, the media, and anything really that's going to disturb your mind. I think 11 o'clock news is one of the worst things that we've ever done to people, because it disturbs our mind, and it disturbs our mind right when we need to be entering into sweetness. So, anything that stimulates you in general, will not be a great idea for your nighty-night routine.

What do I do then, if I'm not being mentally stimulated, and I'm not looking at screens? What typically and traditionally we would do is to have some sort of ritual together. Prayer, or storytelling, or sitting by a fire, or watching the sun set, or just playing a game. Just anything that is fun. Reading a book that inspires you is a wonderful idea.

Kind of getting back into these old-school rhythms that enabled us to sleep well, is super important. The last thing I want to mention, as you're going to bed, a tantric methodology for entering into sleep in a really conscious way, is unraveling the day. Some people find that this doesn't work for them, because it sends them into remembering, but a lot of people find it incredibly helpful for drifting into sleep in a very conscious way. And what this is, is I start with 30 minutes before the moment that I got in bed, and I just remember that moment. I don't judge it, I just remember what I was doing, what I was thinking, what I was feeling, and then I go back 30 minutes.

Remember. And again, until you get to the morning. And what this does is simultaneously relaxes the mind, because every part of your day has been touched to be digested. But what it also does, is it makes me really aware of myself throughout the day. What you may be astounded by is how little you can remember when you first start doing this practice.

And that is incredibly telling for the state of the mind during your day. So if you're really rushed and you're just go, go, go, what you may find is you're actually having a hard time even going back. This would be something to look at. And then over time, what you'll find is the more you do this, the more you're able to really remember everything, and simultaneously just continue to let it go, let it go, let it go. So those are just a few really helpful Ayurvedic techniques that will help you sleep like a baby.

I hope you give yourself permission to do this, and really value sleep as this wet nurse of your life. Thank you.

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