Enjoying the act of nourishing ourselves and practicing a holistic diet of seasonal whole foods is one of the basic pillars of living a balanced life. Ayurveda teaches us that the vital energy within foods sustains and invigorates our entire body, and helps to maintain our health through every age. Another pillar of Ayurvedic living is maintaining good quality - and quantity - sleep. And both sleep and nutrition are intimately connected in our daily lives.
We spend nearly a third of our lives sleeping, and nearly an equal amount of time digesting our foods throughout the day. The process of digestion in Ayurveda is extremely personal to our individual dosha, and to the foods we choose to consume to balance our digestion. Quite often, if we suffer from poor digestion due to a nutrient poor diet of low quality foods, or inappropriate foods for our body type, it is expected that our sleep will ultimately suffer over time.
When we consume food - especially a large meal - it is very metabolically taxing on the body. Much of our energy is diverted to digesting, assimilating, metabolizing, processing and utilizing what we have just consumed - a process that can take a couple of hours depending on the size and quality of the meal.
For most people, their largest meal of the day is consumed at dinner time. This can often account for over 70% of their daily intake, and usually it is consumed within 1-2 hours of going to bed. When such a large portion of our daily energy intake is consumed that close to bedtime, we are unnecessarily diverting our body’s energy to digesting that meal while we’re sleeping. Instead, our sleep time is when our body should be resting & repairing - not digesting. While we sleep, our body goes through a full body repair process, allowing our organ systems to take a break, and our nervous system to remain in a calm state. When we are actively digesting, we have less energy to harness for repair processes.
If we are trying to fall asleep and stay asleep with a full stomach, we may experience difficulty falling into a fully relaxed state. Moreover, if the foods we consume are poor quality, too heavy, or cause excess inflammation in our body, we may experience digestive problems that keep us awake, such as acid reflux, heartburn, stomach cramps, blood sugar spikes, gas or bloating.
Ayurveda teaches us that our digestive fire, or agni, fluctuates with the season, and also with the time of day depending on our dosha (you can take the dosha quiz here). The earlier you can consume dinner the better, and ideally while it is still daylight. Also, balancing your meals to include seasonally appropriate herbs and foods can make a big difference in supporting your digestion, and in turn supporting your sleep cycle!
Enjoy your last meal of the day three hours or more before going to bed.
Ayurveda encourages lunch to be your largest meal of the day (not dinner).
Enjoy your first meal within one hour of rising in the morning to support your natural cortisol patterns and a healthy daily circadian rhythm.
Prior to your first morning meal, consume 8 ounces of room temperature water with fresh lemon. This helps to stimulate your digestion after a sound sleep for optimal digestion during the day.
Do not consume cold beverages when eating meals (especially dinner) as this dampens the digestive fire and leads to less optimal digestion.
Avoid alcoholic beverages in the evening if you are prone to pitta imbalances at night, such as night sweats, hot flashes, restlessness of mind, or sharp digestive pains.
Enjoy a cup of warm, soothing tea 1-2 hours before bedtime to encourage relaxation of mind and body. Pukka’s Night Time tea is a perfect blend of adaptogens, nervines and soothing herbs to help you fall asleep and stay asleep during every season.
If extra digestive support is needed, try a cup of After Dinner tea to soothe digestion shortly after dinner.