Pearls of wisdom for improved, optimal sleep

Ayurveda (translates as the science of life) — the original, natural and oldest system of medicine — teaches us that sleep is essential for the body, mind and spirit. It’s not just that you sleep but how you sleep that provides us with the vital healing contributions towards health. With proper rest, our bodies reset. Our digestion reorganizes the day’s worth of

information, ranging from food to what we’ve taken in through impressions. With good sleep, our nervous system becomes nourished, which affects our cognitive functioning and immunity. Sleep is where we withdraw from the outer world and tap into the inner space where we can find respite from our daily lives and come back with a clearer perspective on life, as we wake up refreshed and rejuvenated. With adequate and good-quality sleep, we can also retard the aging process. A nervous system gone haywire is a domino effect from lack of good sleep, which increases sensitivity to stress and inevitably leads to an onslaught of potential cascading imbalances that bring us to disease. With lack of sleep or poor sleep habits, we encourage inflammation as well.

Below are some tips to support your health with sleep.

•          Awaken by 7 a.m. (the latest)

•          Go to sleep by 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. (the latest). No ifs, ands or buts.

•          Caffeine before bed should be avoided.

•          Spicy food before bed should be avoided.

•          Warm almond, coconut or pure whole milk, warmed and used with spices such as cardamom, ginger, nutmeg and honey, make a great tonic for sleep.

•          No TV in the bedroom. If it’s unavoidable (which it usually isn’t because it’s a choice), you can cover it up with a neutral-colored fabric, such as white, purple, green or blue.

•          Bookshelves should be either covered up or preferably removed, as this energetic impression can also stimulate movement in the space around you.

•          Mirrors should not be in the bedroom or at least should not be facing the bed.

•          The bedroom should be Zen in nature. It should be calm, soothing, quiet and nurturing.

•          Avoid reading stimulating material before bed — only light reading, nothing cerebral or that requires much cognitive input.

•          Avoid stimulating and charged conversations before bed.

•          Avoid naps longer than 15-20 minutes in the afternoon, unless you’re ill.

•          Make sure you’ve gotten some form of exercise in for the day, preferably in the morning and less so at night. It takes energy for the body to fall asleep. If you’re wired then you can’t sleep and, if you haven’t used your energy up physically, then it’s difficult to fall asleep.

•          It’s better to get to bed earlier and wake up earlier than it is to go to bed later and wake up later. When we go to bed earlier and wake up earlier, we have a clearer perception of life and feel more motivated, as we are in alignment with the natural rhythms/circadian rhythm embedded in our DNA. They used to say, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man/woman healthy, wealthy and wise” for a reason. When we stay in bed later, we use up resources of energy that are only cultivated efficiently and optimally when we are in bed earlier. Inspiration, according to Yoga, comes more readily and clearly during the subtle hours of the early morning with the sun’s rays that start with the violet hue, which has a profound effect on the pituitary gland and master systems of the brain.

Vishnu M. Ayu (Antonio Aragona), BA Psy., LMT, CSP, E-RYT, CS2, is a licensed massage therapist with more than 15 years of experience. He has a master’s of Ayurveda Yoga from the Hindu University of America. Ayu is the owner of Hidden Health Center at the Camac Center in 12th Street Gym. To learn more, visit