Insomnia – An Ayurvedic Perspective
Ayurvedic Treatment for Insomnia
Somehow, the lifestyle that we have adopted today is wreaking havoc on our health. It is responsible for making us vulnerable to many diseases and health problems. The reason is, we don’t take care of our health, we don’t eat right food and live a chaotic lifestyle. One of such problems arising out of a poor lifestyle is the problem of Insomnia which means sleeplessness.
Having a good sleep is very important to remain healthy because it directly influences our heart and brain. A disturbed sleep gives rise to irritability and annoyance. Generally people take Insomnia very lightly. An inadequate sleep can lead to a serious problem which is called Insomnia in common language. The reason for a disturbed sleep could be tension, mental imbalance, hormonal changes or intake of extra dose of drugs.
Today we are going to have a detailed discussion on Insomnia with our Ayurvedic health expert, Dr. Parmeshwar Arora. Welcome to our show Dr. Parmeshwar.
Q. As it is commonly seen, especially in case of women, every other day they complain about sleeplessness. Rather, I would say, they have this kind problem everyday due to which they have spinning head all through the day and the entire day becomes problematic. Here, before asking you about Insomnia, I would like you to tell us, what is the importance of sleep? Why do we need to have a good sleep?
Having a good sleep is very important. People who suffer sleeplessness will be able to tell you in a better way that how troublesome it could get. Sleep actually does the job re-energizing us. After entire days work, when we get exhausted we sleep at night and if we sleep properly during the night then we again become fresh for the following day to carry on our work again. But it is not so if you don’t get a proper sleep during the night. Actually, it is very simple to understand that sleep is important for re-energizing our body. One who is not able to sleep would not get recharged and feel fatigued the following day and if it continues for long, he won’t be able to deliver his work properly. So, sleeping can be associated with re-charging.
Q. Very rightly said indeed. If we are unable to have a good night sleep of 8 hours then the following 24-72 hours go for a toss i.e. we remain disturbed for another 2-3 days. Please tell us in more detail, which condition can be defined as Insomnia or sleeplessness?
I would say, Insomnia is a symptom which can be considered as an independent disease as well as it can occur as a consequence of some other health problem. For example, if you are suffering from gas in stomach, or you have acidity, or you have polyuria because of which you have to pass urine frequently, or there is some kind of mental trauma, or you have some injury which is quite painful then the patient can have a symptom of Insomnia. In such cases, if you get the treatment for these problems then your problem of Insomnia will get automatically resolved. It means, since your sleep is not being disturbed by frequent passing of urine or pain caused due to some injury etc., the problem of Insomnia would go away automatically. This kind of condition of Insomnia is comparatively quite easier to deal with. But when Insomnia is existent as an independent disease, then that becomes quite a suffering. Now coming to the point that why does it happen then I would say that our physiology completely depends upon three doshas namely vata, pitta and kapha. When the kapha dosha aggravates then it somehow induces extra sleep. Similarly aggravated vayu dosha, brings disturbance in our brain. The basic property of vayu is movement and lightness. So, vayu disturbs our sleep. It directly implies that as much as there is an increase in vayu in our body, as much would be reduction in our sleep. As much as the kapha increases you would feel more sleepy because kapha induces sleep. Often you would observe that thin and lean people tend to sleep lesser and fat people tend to sleep more. Kapha dosha in its natural form induces natural sleep but as it increases it induces extra sleepiness which again is a disorder. So, increased sleepiness is also a disease. It shouldn’t be such that as soon as you come to a rest position, you should fall asleep. These days, increased sleep is not at all considered good. In earlier times, people would get fascinated by somebody’s snoring while sleeping but now-a-days if somebody snores, it directly suggests an obstruction in his airways. This obstruction in airways results into sleep apnea i.e. a type of sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. As a result, during day time also if you are left unoccupied for even as less as 10 minutes, you fall asleep. Even during a wait of 5 minutes at the traffic signal, you may fall into sleep. So it is quite a dangerous situation in itself. So, increased vata can make you a patient of anindra i.e. insomnia and increased kapha can make you a patient of atinindra i.e. sleepiness and a proper balance of vata and kapha induces normal sleep in a human being.
Q. Doctor, as you said earlier, Insomnia can occur as a result of some other existing health condition. But can Insomnia become a reason for another health problem too?
As it is mentioned in Ayurveda, having a good sleep results into happiness and having a disturbed sleep results into misery. If we talk about childhood, the children who sleep more gain a better weight faster and the children who sleep less gain the weight much slowly. So, in a way your physicality (i.e how bulky you are) depends upon how much you sleep. Even your strength (i.e. how strong and energetic you are) depends upon your sleep. If you have a good sleep at night, you find yourself much stronger and active in the following morning. See, I directly associate sleep with recharging. If you get a good sleep you get recharged properly and your strength remains maintained. In contrary, if you couldn’t get a good sleep through night and next day also you have put yourself to work, then somehow you are compromising your body. This will gradually make you a victim of various diseases as you are working against the strength of your body. Your body does not have enough strength to do the work (as you could not get recharged) but still you are working endlessly. So somehow these are inter-related i.e. if you get a good sleep, you will become strong and if don’t get a good sleep then you will gradually become weaker. Additionally, if you sleep properly, you have a good sexual power and disturbed sleep can become a reason for impotency. So, definitely if you don’t sleep properly then as initial symptoms your eyesight becomes weaker, you will have heaviness in eyes, you can have headaches. Apart from this night awakening directly becomes a reason for aggravated vayu.
Q. From our earlier discussion, we learnt about various complications which may result from Insomnia. Now if we talk about our diet and lifestyle, then since Insomnia is a very difficult condition, is there any relevance of diet and lifestyle?
As I said, vata dosha is directly responsible for anindra i.e. Insomnia. As the vayu in your body increases, you have a risk of becoming a victim of Insomnia. As I always say, if we talk about eating habits then we can find four types of irregularities: 1) quality of food that we consume, is compromised 2) quantity of food is compromised 3) combination of food is compromised 4) timing of food intake is completely disturbed. When we follow these four types of irregularities in food intake then we become a patient of indigestion as our stomach is unable to digest the food properly in this type of setup. You would agree that these days every second person is suffering from indigestion and that’s a reason enough that every second person is having the problem of Insomnia. This is because, this indigestion aggravates vata (air) in our body and this vata prakopit vayu (aggravated air) makes us a patient of Insomnia. So you can say that any food type which you feel is producing gas or any rich food which you are not able to digest properly, can be a reason of Insomnia in your case. I would say that if you are a patient of Insomnia, rather than taking a medicine to induce sleep you should better regulate your diet. You need to watch that you are able to digest your food properly. Any food which keeps you light and energetic and you are having normal stool and urine then that kind of food is recommended for you. In contrary any food which produces gas and you have to depend upon some medicine to pass stool, can directly be responsible for Insomnia via vata prakopa (aggravated vayu).
Q. It means we need to avoid such food items which have a possibility of producing gas. Apart from this, if we talk about lifestyle then somehow I have a feeling that lifestyle has a great influence over various types of diseases. What kind of influence can lifestyle have in case of Insomnia?
If we go to sleep with a preoccupied brain (i.e. we carry on some thought or tension of next day’s work) then you have a disturbed sleep throughout the night. I talked about vata causing disturbance in our sleep pattern. This vata can increase because of bad eating habits as well as poor lifestyle. So, somehow the stressful lifestyle wherein we carry on various kinds of thoughts and we are not able to ignore minor incidences of our past life and we have quite a weak willpower can eventually lead to Insomnia. These days I come across many patients who are suffering from a mental trauma. The problem is, whether it is a physical thing or physiological thing we have developed a unique sense of possessiveness. We don’t offer anything to God. We sing prayers saying that everything that we own belongs to the God but it’s all just in prayers and in reality we are not ready to part with even little things. So this kind of sense of possessiveness and belongingness where we start believing that everything lying with me is just mine hurts us badly when we lose something. The sense of losing any belonging gives such a mental trauma that it snatches away our sleep from us.
Q. What kind of treatment is available for Insomnia if we want to get rid of it?
I will again mention the reasons if we are talking about its treatment. When we talk about diet, you would need to stay away from eating anything which produces gas and makes you a patient of indigestion or constipation. Secondly, if we talk about lifestyle, you would need to make your life as stress free as possible. If you watch out for these two things then I don’t think you would require any kind of medication. But still for the time being, I would advise ‘medha pushti churna’ which can be taken as 1 gram during bedtime. But there is a specific method to consume this medicine. For this you would need a ‘jata manasi phaant’. ‘Jata manasi’ is a herb which can be easily procured from a provision store. You have to prepare a coarse powder from ‘jata manasi’ and soak 1 spoon of this powder for an hour into a cup (250 ml) of hot water (Please don’t boil it in water). Once ready, you have to strain the liquid and consume the above mentioned ‘madha pushti churna’ with this liquid. This will provide you a mental relaxation and you will begin to have a good sleep. After some days, you wouldn’t even need to take this preparation. Those who are forced to depend upon sleeping pills to sleep can start taking this medicine alongside. Believe me it is not going to interfere in any manner with the sleeping pills that you are already taking. Take the Ayurvedic medicine first and if needed, take the pills too. Gradually you will see an improvement and you would not need any sleeping pills at all.