Ayurvedic Hacks for Quality Sleep with Lauren Massalas
Sleep is a big one that many of us struggle with. Especially as we start 2019, many people have set the intention to get better sleep.
We turned to Lauren Massalas, yoga and Ayurveda practitioner, for the best tips and tricks to get your best rest.
Early to bed early to rise, people. I’ll admit I was a night owl until I started studying Ayurveda. During the summer of 2016 when I began yoga teacher training in Boston, I was basically forced to wake up at 5:30am every morning, which got me in bed around 10pm. Once I transitioned to the “Ayurvedic clock,” a schedule that supported circadian medicine, I experienced an energy level, clarity, and motivation I didn’t realize was attainable.
Ayurveda works by distinguishing medicine versus poison according to the individual. But one life hack that benefits everyone is caring for the senses. The senses are how we experience what it means to be human. However, they take quite a beating in today’s modern landscape, especially in the city, through excessive screen time, chemicals in products and cleaners, and over-information, just to name a few. When the senses are nourished, the body and mind are able to perform efficiently. And at 10pm, the job of the body and mind is to shut down and recharge.
Here’s how to pamper all five senses for deep sleep and “rasayana,” the Sanskrit word for rejuvenation, repair, anti-aging, and longevity.
Sight: Set a tech curfew. This may take discipline and practice, but shut down your tech 1-2 hours before bed to prepare the nervous system to relax. Dim bright lights and switch to indirect lighting or candles. Keep phones, TV, and computers out of the bedroom, a place reserved for love and sleep. I leave my phone charging in the hallway so I have to get up in the morning and shut it off when my alarm rings.
Sound: Silence! Our ears take in so much noise from horns, gossip, podcasts, and loud music via headphones. Meditation, deep breathing, or even just a few moments of quiet rests the ears. If silence feels too abrupt, transition from unconscious “background TV noise” to organic music like piano, violin, or relaxing jazz.
Smell: Think simple and natural. Diffusing essential oils like lavender or rose calms the body and mind. I also love the earthy, grounding qualities of burning palo santo wood, or a candle like balsam and cedar.
Touch: Wash off the day. After a long day at work or city commuting, I like to hop in the shower first thing when I get home, before dinner. Self oil massage, called “abhyanga” with rich sesame oil or coconut oil nourishes the body’s biggest sense organ, the skin. I find that after this spa-like ritual, I make much better dinner choices because I’ve comforted my body in a different way.
How to oil up: Heat the oil by placing it in a mug filled ½ way with hot water for a few minutes (you can skip this step, but warm oil penetrates your tissues more potently). Lovingly massage your whole body for 5 minutes, then hop in a steamy shower (which slurps in the oil), wash off the “pits and bits” and pat dry. Pro tip: make long strokes over your bones, moving up and down in a vertical motion until you’ve coated that part with oil. Make circular strokes over the joints, breasts, and bum.
Taste: Eat light and early, ideally 2-3 hours before bed so your digestion doesn’t rob the detoxification that accompanies sleep. According to Ayurveda, digestion mimics the sun, which is strongest at noon and goes down at night. Therefore lunch should be your biggest meal, and supper is a supplement. “Light” eating doesn’t necessarily mean a salad, since raw vegetables are difficult to digest in the winter. Vegetable soup is the best way to get in the same nutrients that will assimilate easily.
Pro tip: Love green smoothies? Skip them in the winter and make cleansing green soup instead. Blanch greens of your choice in water with a knob of chopped ginger and ground turmeric. Immersion blend (regular blender works fine if you don’t have an immersion blender) and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with grounding coconut oil for a light meal that will digest quickly.