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A Yogi's Guide to Better Sleep

Aug 15th, 2012
Staff Writer

Yogi in meditationOver half of adults in the United States are affected by a sleeping disorder known as insomnia, according to This varies person-to-person from chronic to mild insomnia, but trouble with sleep can manifest into a wealth of health issues.

Sat Bir Khalsa (assistant Harvard Medical School professor, neuroscientist at the Division of Sleep Medicine of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Kundalini Yoga instructor) suspects sleep disorders can be attributed to increased anxiety, fatigue and stress caused by a culture flying at a 21st century rocket-ship pace. He considers anyone unable to rest at night to be suffering from chronic arousal: a state of heightened energy and awareness. But after conducting research on breathing techniques (called Shabad Kriya), Khalsa believes he has come across a solution: “Treating the arousal should treat the insomnia,” he explained in his interview with

One of the oldest systems of medicine is one with close ties to yoga. Ayurvedic medicine originated several thousand years ago in India, and continues to serve people around the world, according to Medical experts like Sat Bir Khalsa and John Douillard (medical director of LifeSpa School of Ayuerveda) believe its teachings can improve sleep.

Douillard believes the time of day that one wakes and rests is vital in understanding the energy gained in a night, and felt the next morning. He recommends a bedtime before 10pm: “It’s not just the number of hours you sleep that matters, but the time of day you go to sleep as well,” the doctor said.

Ayurvedic methods might produce less immediate results when compared to psychopharmalogical options, but they get at the source of the problem and solve it all the way through; not merely masking the underlying cause. Khalsa promotes the Ayurveda-based insomnia treatment over others: “These things don’t work instantly, but over time you normalize arousal and sleep starts to get better.”