It wasn't so very long ago, before the invention of electricity, that when the sun tucked itself in for bed, all human beings did too. Back in those times, once the sun set, and the last candle burnt itself to the end of its wick, there was nothing left to do but to retire to bed. Before the acquirement of artificial light in every household around the world, humans lived in much more effortless alignment with nature's rhythms and with the natural circadian rhythms, specifically.
Today however, there are endless reasons, excuses and opportunities to stay awake far past the time that nature flicks off its own switch. And because of our normalized disregard to live in harmony with nature's suggested bed time, we are collectively paying the price through the symptoms of insomnia, anxiety, restlessness, burnout, adrenal fatigue, and so many more symptoms of this disharmonized lifestyle choice.
Like the more well-known morning routine, dinacharya, Ayurveda also offers an evening routine, called ratricharya. Ratri, meaning 'evening,' and charya, meaning 'regimen' or 'conduct' is the medicine that will ensure our sleep is natural, easeful and sattvic (so crucial to our well-being), promoting good health and vitality.
Here are some general suggestions:
Have a Light Dinner before Sunset
Make dinner your smallest meal of the day and have it before 7pm. It should be light, cooked and easy to digest. Eating late, or soon before bed-time, will force Agni (digestive fire) to work over time while you sleep, leading to Ama & Tamas accumulation and pitta imbalance.
Take 100 Steps
Go for a light stroll outside, and in nature if possible to allow your meal to digest with calm movement
Read a Book
After dinner, read a book, watch some sattvic programming on TV, listen to music or spend quality time with your loved ones.
Sip on a nourishing cup of a turmeric latte, to begin the winding down process. Ours is a deeply golden, vegan blend, that–literally–everyone adores.
Brushing/Tongue Scraping (Jivhanirlekhana)
Make sure to scrape the tongue and brush your teeth with a natural toothpaste to remove the residues from the day and move into sleep with freshness and lightness. Also wash the face and eyes.
Expose Yourself to Moonlight
The moon (Chandra) is associated with cooling, healing, feminine energy. Her energy is rejuvenating and calming for the mind. Bathe as much of your body in her energy.
Keep Devices Out of Your Bed
Staring at devices in the hour or two before bed will disrupt natural melatonin-production, which is needed to induce sound sleep. Make a sankalpa (sacred intention) to turn off all devices by 8 or 9pm (at the latest).
Pada-Abhyanga (self-foot massage)
Massaging the feet with medicated Abhyanga Oil or ghee promotes deep relaxation as it activates the many marma points on the soles of the feet. Get your significant other involved in this to make it extra restorative and loving.
Meditation & Pranayama
Brahmari (Buzzing Bee Breath) & Sama Vriti (Box Breath) Pranayama just before you sleep helps calm the mind, draw the attention inwards and balance vata dosha.
Administer Nasya Oil or organic ghee in both nostrils to support sound sleep and also reduce white hairs, respiratory problems, headaches & so much more.
Gratitude (Prayer) Just Before Sleep
This is the best way to end your day as well as to begin it. If this feels challenging for you, make a list of 10 things you are grateful for, hold the list to your heart and breathe each one in.
Sleep by 10pm
Health, happiness, strength, intelligence, mental function/stability and dhatu (tissue)-building all depend on quality sleep. Sleep by 10pm so that pitta dosha has ample time to process and digest the inputs from the day, and so you can wake up truly fresh and free of the past.
If this list feels overwhelming, start with just one or two of these suggestions, and slowly integrate more as it feels possible, joyful and easeful. Little by little, you’ll notice that sleep becomes so natural and effortless, and that every area of your life thereafter benefits in tremendous ways.