Ayurveda is called the sister science of yoga. For health and well-being we often combine the practices of yoga and Ayurveda together. Yoga offers practices for the physical body in terms of movement and breath and Ayurveda offers prescriptions around diet and life habits that we can change to help bring greater overall health to the system.
Ayurvedic practices offer particular support around sleep issues. We often think of the time postpartum as a time where sleep is at a premium because of the regular feeding needs and waking of the baby, but many prenatal students often complain about sleeplessness as well. Here are some easy ways that you can use the practice of Ayurveda to help address your issues with sleep no matter when they arise in your journey of parenthood:
Mealtimes: when we are pregnant, and particularly postpartum, meals can become more challenging. Prenatally we find that is often difficult to eat big meals and that snacking over the course of the entire day often takes place. Postpartum meals can be completely unpredictable, they may be taken at random times during the day when meals can be worked in. Because the practice of Ayurveda focuses quite a bit on what we eat, meal times also become very important. Ayurveda recommends that heavier meals are toward the beginning and middle of the day. Breakfast and lunch become our larger meals, and dinner becomes a smaller meal.
This can greatly impact our sleep as we are not being forced to digest a large meal at the same time that we are sleeping. If you know it is difficult to eat bigger meals for breakfast and lunch because of lack of time for preparation, you may try to have easy things pre-prepared that you can grab and heat up, One of my favorite breakfast options is a frittata. You can make one of these at the start of the week, filling it with any veggies or meats in your fridge. This can often last about a week as each morning you cut off a piece and heat it up. Visit our Pinterest page for other easy-to-make recipes that can support you at this time.
Eat nutrient rich foods: the old saying goes “you are what you eat” and Ayurveda believes very strongly in this saying. One of the major tenants is that we eat foods that are fresh and nutrient rich. This means whole foods like grains, fruits and vegetables and if we are eating meat and dairy, do so from responsible sources.
Particularly postpartum, when our food prep time and shopping time is limited, it can be very difficult to integrate food like this into your diet. If you haven’t already, I highly encourage you to set up some kind of meal support (here’s one) postpartum. If you have friends, coworkers or family who are interested in supporting you, encourage them to bring you food. Home-cooked meals are so much more nourishing to the system than frozen or store-bought meals.
It does however, often become necessary to supplement our meals with pre-prepared foods. Try to be conscious about the food that you bring home. If you have a local grocery store that has a deli that offers fresh salads and green items, you should stock your fridge with some of these.You might also consider looking into some of the many amazing companies that are now offering organic frozen meals that are low in preservatives. Support your body with food as best you as you are able, but don't beat yourself up if you have to eat a slice of pizza or take-out from time to time. Ingesting guilt and shame along with our food is also incredibly unhealthy.
Bedtime warm drink: one of the things that I love about Ayurveda is that many of its prescriptions include warm milk drinks with spices and sweet dates. This is one of my favorite recipes for a warming nourishing drink that you can have before bed. You’ll notice it's called an Ojas milk. In Ayurveda, Ojas refers to our vital essence which can get depleted if we are over-worked or stressed. Besides being calming this drink can also help replenish us if we are drained which is particularly true postpartum after childbirth during which time we lose a lot of our body fluids (body fluids are considered to contain ojas).
This drink is also especially helpful during pregnancy as often, times of sleeplessness are due to the fact that we are waking up because we haven't had enough protein before bed. The milk (dairy or non-dairy) in the drink helps to provide protein, the warming herbs in the drink help to soothe you and the sweetness of the dates is a taste that can help calm the system. I wouldn't recommend this drink every night, but it’s certainly something that you can add to your routine on nights that you might be feeling particularly agitated, tired or hungry.
Rituals: Ayurveda prescribes many nourishing rituals as part of self-care. One of these rituals is self massage (called abhyanga). You can do this in the morning or right before bed as a calming activity to help soothe your system. This can also be particularly helpful practice if you're suffering from itchy skin or from stretchmarks. To find out more about the practice, or for help in selecting the oils right for your type visit the Banyan Botanicals website.
You can make this a wonderful night time practice that can be done with warm oil. You can heat the oil by heating water up in a pan and then placing the bottle oil in the pan to gently warm it. If you plan to do it right before bed make sure that you are wearing older clothing that you don't mind getting oil stains on or that you aren’t sleeping in your nicest sheets. You might also bring this self massage practice into a warm bath before bed. Use the oil deliberately and then leave it on the body when you get into the warm bath. The warmth of the bath will open up the pores allowing your skin to absorb more of the oil and it will also help to wash away any excess oil before getting into bed.
Remember, sleep is about quality not quantity. When we get frustrated that we aren’t sleeping or are experiencing insomnia we can create additional stress around sleep. Integrating practices such as this can help you to fall asleep more easily and can ensure that you stay asleep even longer.
So even if you are only getting short bouts of sleep the sleep can be much deeper and more restful ensuring that you're able to better navigate all the things that life throws at you. Want some more about insomnia? Visit my Insomnia blog post.
Wisdom and insight with a dash of humor to help guide you on your journey through motherhood.