Without a worry in the world, sleeping like a baby, deeply and soundly tends to dissipate as we get older. The natural, innate, rhythmic occurrence our mind-body requires to rejuvenate, can be challenging as we age. Slowly, taking a toll on the immune system, the digestive tract or our emotional/mental faculties. Through Ayurveda’s lens, insomnia or restless sleep usually speaks of a vata imbalance. The dosha governing all movement in the body. When vata (air + ether) become excessive, the mind-body can begin to move rapidly. Manifesting as nervousness, anxiety, insomnia, and even constipation.
When it comes to sleep, vata, a dosha living within us all, and the most common dosha to go out of balance in today’s age of fast living and technology, appreciates warm, nourishment. Words, rituals, foods, scents, sounds to ground its hummingbird-like energy in a soft, gentle manner. Using sensorial signals that call its attention, informing it the time has come to slow down. Similar to our childhood days, when a loved one would transition us from the active phase of the day to the passive phase with an evening bath, a bottle of milk and a bedtime story, the vata dosha in us appreciates transitory rituals. Gently nudging and caressing the buzzing, mobile qualities to let go and relax.
Transitory rituals can be as simple as lighting a candle and permeating your space with an earthy scent. A grounding aroma like vetiver or lavender to signal the brain of an energy shift. Aromatically informing the mind-body bedtime is near. Or dimming the lights, turning off the television or computer, which softly supports the process of letting the eyes rest. Then there is a warm, nighttime soak in the heavy element of water. Which acts as a warm embrace on a cold night. Last by not least, is when the leaves begin to turn yellow, brewing a nightcap of spiced milk infused with nervine and sedative properties.
An elixir of cardamom, dates, nutmeg, and saffron. Ingredients that counter-balance milk’s heavy, mucus properties, with a warm, nourishing and balancing effect on vata dosha. Nutmeg, a natural nervine and sedative when used in small doses, calms vata’s nervous, rapid moving energy internally. Combined with saffron, which amongst its many other properties is also a nervine. Both spices have tryptophan, an amino acid that supports the elevation of serotonin. Not only will this elixir, recommended in Ayurveda for restful sleep, ground buzzing energy, but it also serves as a mild laxative. With vata balancing, digestive spices, and the fiber, magnesium, potassium, iron and vitamin B6 of dates. All nutrients that support the nervous system, in-turn supporting vata dosha. Sweet dreams.
The Sleepy Time | a saffron, nutmeg bedtime elixir
servings: 1 | cook time:15 mins
Season: Fall, Winter, Spring
Qualities: Warm, Liquid, Heavy, Moist, Soft
Tastes: Sweet, Pungent, Astringent, Bitter
What you need: a small pot
- 1/2 cup of full-fat cow’s milk* or nut milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cardamon pod (opened)
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated)
- small pinch of saffron (optional)
- 1/2 to 1 Medjool date chopped (raisins, dried fig)*
- In a small pot bring to boil all ingredients except for saffron, then turn to low and continue to let it simmer for 10 minutes.
- Turn off the stove, and add in the saffron threads. Let steep for 5 minutes.
- Remove the cardamom pod and serve warm.
*Notes from our test kitchen:
- for this recipe, we used non-homogenized, grass-fed, raw milk.
- 1 dried fig chopped can be substituted or combined with dates or a big pinch of raisins. Figs/raisins are a better choice for kapha constitutions or for extra support with elimination.