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Trouble in the sleep department

As I lay awake last night from 3am-6am I thought of you. (Is that weird?)  I'm normally pretty blessed with decent sleep, but every now and then it just doesn't happen. So as I sat with my mug of warm milk at 5am, I thought of a couple things that that might help us all.

Let's talk about vata.


In Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga, there are three main energies at play within us and in our surroundings.  Like the humors, they are related to the elements and explain the experience and behavior of our body and mind. We are all made up of various amounts of these substances: wind and ether, fire, earth and water.  You might have come across the terms

🔥 pitta (fire and water),

🌎 kapha (water and earth),

💨 vata (wind and ether).


Now there is A LOT to learn about all this, and I can't go into everything right now.  For our purposes, we're going to focus on the wind element and time.


Vata blows through our world and is the instigator of all things movement, change, clarity, pain, and creativity (to name a few). In the body, it "lives" in your colon and when there is too much of it can leave you constipated.  In the mind it is active in the sense of worry and anxiety.  


Vata (and each dosha) also rules a certain time of day.  You can see this on an Ayurvedic clock.  Vata is heightened from 2-6, am and pm.  Pitta runs the show from 10-2, am and pm.  Kapha slows us down from 6-10, am and pm.  (Incidentally, pitta, the get stuff done element, is why you can knock out half your household chores from 10pm to midnight.)


Then take another step back and see the Ayurvedic calendar where the doshas rule the seasons.  Vata is Fall, because that's when the greatest change happens with the turning of the season from vibrant to dormant. 


So there I was at 3 am (vata time of day) watching my mind spin with various worries and concerns (vata symptoms), during the vata season of the year (autumn).  I didn't stand a chance! And if you're in the vata season of life (50-60 +) you are likely to suffer from sleeplessness even more! 


So what do we do? 


First, if you do wake in the night between 2 and 6am, have compassion for yourself, don't get too upset, and have some warm milk. Take some deep breaths and try to focus on the positive things in your life. Tell yourself this too shall pass. I find if I get upset at the sleeplessness then I'm not only tired but angry too!  Might as well roll with it as best you can. 


As they say, though, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  So practice a good bedtime routine and add in some Ayurvedic foot massage with oil to help settle you towards dream land.  Avoid caffeinated drinks after noon, and turn off your screens an hour before you go to bed.


But the #1 thing you can do is go to bed earlier! 


 As my Ayurveda teacher says, "The sleep train leaves at 9:30pm!" Take a look at that Ayurvedic clock again. Notice how the kapha time of day (kapha is the slow, grounded energy of earth) is from 6-10.  This means if you can go to sleep during that window, you are following the natural rhythms of the earth and it will help you get better z's all night long. If you stay up until the 10 o'clock hour you go into pitta time, where you will either dig into your to-do list or just lie there obsessing over it.  


Now, you might be saying, "but I go to bed at 10:30pm and I'm fine!" And if that's the case for you (which it usually is for me), then yay! No need to change.  But if you're out of balance in body, mind, or spirit, that scenario might not play out. And I think it's good to have an idea of what might be going on so you can take some thoughtful action the next day and get yourself back on track.


One last thing: Waking for the day during vata time (like 5/5:30am) will allow you to carry the clarity and creativity of vata with you into your day, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed!   If you're a night owl that has trouble going to bed, spend a few days waking up before 6 and see if you can change your clock over the course of a few days. I've done this in the past when my schedule was wonky, and it works. You're gonna want to nap, but try and push through by walking instead. Your clocks will right themselves in due time.


So here's to a good night's sleep! These concerns, among so many others, are things we can discuss in a Yoga Therapy session. Book a FREE 20-minute discovery call and let's see how valuable one-on-one sessions can be! 


May you settle that vata, snuggle in early, and enjoy yourself a long winter's nap. 


Much love,


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