In life, we can choose to move with or against the current of nature’s natural rhythms. Our daily rhythms and hormonal fluctuations are tied to the cycles of nature and, when these are all in sync with each other, life seems a lot easier because you’ll be ‘going with the flow.’
According to Ayurveda, the stress of living against these natural cycles is a fundamental violation of healthy living. Living in sync with nature’s cycles is a powerful lifestyle tool to de-stress the body and mind and feel like you’re in the flow of things.
Ayurveda suggests that, in nature, there are two 12-hour cycles that are each divided into three smaller cycles.
First 12 Hours of the Day: 6am – 6pm
6am – 10am – This is the best time for exercise, before the sun is giving its peak heat.
10am – 2pm – This is the best time of the day to eat your biggest meal, as your digestive fire is the strongest in the middle of the day.
2pm – 6pm – This is the best time for mental and creative energy, as the nervous system is more active. Craving sweets at this time indicates exhaustion, blood sugar issues, poor digestion or that you didn’t eat a sufficient lunch.
Second 12 Hours of the Day: 6pm – 6am
6pm – 10pm – This is the best time to begin settling down for sleep. With cortisol levels dropping at this time, you should be getting sleepy!
10pm – 2am – This is the best time to be sleeping. The liver engages in detox at this time. If you are constantly up and awake during this time, the detox can be disturbed.
2am – 6am – The nervous system begins to stir during this time before the sun rises. This is the best time to sleep deeply and naturally wake up before the sunrise.
What we can take from the above is that ideally you fall asleep easily around 10pm, wake up refreshed around 6am and you don’t wake up at all in the middle of the night.
Why is this ideal for proper sleep? Because it syncs perfectly with your adrenal output of cortisol which drops between 6pm – 10pm and increases between 2am – 6am. Cortisol in the right concentration is actually a big part of what wakes you up in the morning without an alarm clock.
So, how many of us have this perfect sleep cycle? I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t! I struggle to get into bed before 10pm, often wake up during the night, and hardly ever rise without an alarm to get me up.
Here are some of the common sleep issues I noticed in myself or hear about from my clients and my suggestions for how to fix them:
Can’t fall asleep until super late – This suggests that you’re getting a surge of cortisol too late in the evening and it’s keeping you awake. The fix: use oat straw tincture at 5pm and 8pm. And take ashwagandha which helps the body adapt to stress and supports natural sleep cycles.
Wake up around 3am for no apparent reason – This suggests you have a congested liver. The fix: take a supplement for liver support. Avoid ‘liver loaders’ like caffeine, sugar, and alcohol.
Super light sleeper (the littlest things wake you up) – You may be vitamin K deficient. The fix: take a calcium supplement that has vitamin K in it.
Wake up really groggy in the morning – This suggests that you may have hypoglycemia (your blood sugar has dropped too low). The fix: minimize carbs and sugars at and after dinner.
Wake up during the night to pee – This suggests that you may have a magnesium deficiency. The fix: take magnesium glycinate daily at bedtime. As an added bonus, this will help calm your nervous system and help your muscles relax too. Eat lots chard and spinach, two excellent sources of magnesium!
More Deep Sleep Tips:
- Establish a regular bedtime routine and regular sleep-wake cycle (ideally, 10pm – 6am)
- Spend the evening relaxing and winding down instead of staring at a bright computer or TV screen
- Avoid daytime naps greater than one hour
- Sleep in complete darkness – wear an eyemask if needed
- Avoid drinking coffee or tea after 2pm, or remove caffeine all together
- Reserve your bedroom for sleeping (no TV or working in bed)
- Avoid having your cell phone or other electrical devices near your bed
- Eat light meals at night
- Supplement with magnesium
- Try sedative herbs like passionflower or hops