Sleep as Medicine
Sleep as medicine, also known as ‘sleep ritual’ and ‘sleep hygiene,’ is a combination of healing practices to support deep, rejuvenating sleep and is given as an entire therapeutic protocol by healers and medical doctors alike. We can see the history of this protocol weaved throughout different cultures and modalities. Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, Eclecticism, Vitalist Herbalism, Arabic and Greco-Roman medicine, Egyptian medicine and Asclepion texts prioritize sleep as a powerful way to support the body’s vital ‘life-force.’
However, many overly modernized practices in the west have forgotten the importance of this simple and ancient healing modality. Prescribing sleep practices has been lost to the convenience of over-the-counter drugs. However, with the new merging of Eastern and Western medicine, we are resurrecting and reclaiming the importance of sleep as medicine.
Sleep debt affects the cardiovascular, endocrine, nervous, and immune system. Other physiological functions affected by sleep debt include insulin resistance, hormonal changes, and inflammation. When we sleep, our body’s ability to regenerate from a cellular level is exponentiated – all our physiological and organ systems depend on rest to self-heal.
From a psychological perspective, sleep allows the subconscious mind to integrate with the conscious mind. Carl Jung speaks on the importance of sleep in the context of psycho-spiritual healing. While yogic Risi believes that this is a time when your spiritual ‘karma’ or actions from the day integrate with the ‘causal’ or unseen realms. We can utilize practices like ‘Dream Analysis’ and ’Yoga Nidra’ to deepen these supernatural states of psycho-spiritual awareness and heal our mental disease.
Optimizing Ketamine Protocols with Therapeutic Sleep Practices
When looking to optimize your ketamine protocol, sleep [along with an anti-inflammatory diet] is of the utmost importance. Sleep is the time for our entire body and its many complex systems to completely regulate, recalibrate, and regenerate. This is the time when the body, mind, and soul integrate all the important lessons you have unlocked in your psychedelic journey. The healing benefits of ketamine may be significantly reduced when sleep is not made a priority.
Ketamine primarily works on the nervous system, more specifically, the vagus nerve and the polyvagal system. When sleep debt is chronic, the body’s nervous system and autonomic response become compromised and dysregulated. This then impacts our ability to expand what therapists would call ‘the window of tolerance’ (how we regulate trauma), causing it to contract. Following a therapeutic sleep protocol will allow you to integrate what you learned in your ketamine journey, as well as sustain and exponentiate the healing benefits into the nights and days to come well beyond the treatment itself.
Therapeutic Sleep Protocols
Ayurveda (Indian medicine)
Uses the premise of the elements and their patterns of movement within the body to address disease. Ayurvedic doctors would see patients who suffer from insomnia as having excessive, Vatta aggravation (excessive dryness and cold). If a patient is experiencing Vatta aggravation, they will likely also experience secondary symptoms of anxiety and insomnia. Pacifying excess air by tonifying earth and water elements within the body will give balance and a calm and grounded sense of being, supporting deeper sleep. In this case, Ayurvedic doctors would focus on a therapeutic approach as follows:
- A combination of demulcent and warming powdered herbs in warm, raw milk in the evening
- Oiling the entire body (a practice known as Abhyanga) with sesame oil before bed
- Slowing down and sitting down to eat with presence
- Eating three meals a day
- Introducing healthy fats into the diet, like clarified ghee and raw milk
- Supporting the Agni (digestive fire) with herbs like fennel and anise
Eclectic Medicine (nature-based medicine)
Implements hydrotherapy, temperature regulation, and nature-based therapies to address disease. To support deep sleep, keep a window cracked, allowing for adequate temperature regulation (balancing metabolic rates). Eclectics also utilize hydrotherapy. Take a neutral temperature (92-97 degrees) bath 45-90 minutes before bed. Stay in the bath from 15-60 minutes. Allow the water to become cool to touch before getting out. This regulates the nervous system and slows down the metabolism.
Vitalist Herbalism (herbalism to support vitality)
For sleep, vitalists herbalists suggest a combination of sedative, nervine, apoptogenic, anxiolytic, hypnotic, analgesic, antispasmodic, and demulcent herbs based on the patient’s unique constitutional, physiological, and elemental make-up. Nervine and anxiolytic herbs can also be taken during the day to regulate anxiety. The vitalist herbalist will also look at the body’s entire system and prescribe herbs accordingly. ‘This herb for that symptom’ method is not the vitalist’s way. Finding a knowledgeable vitalist herbalist who can custom-curate medicine can help ensure you are taking herbs that support your unique body as a whole. A vitalist herbalist will also recommend lifestyle changes to support this vital life-force:
- Begin to ‘pulse’ dose herbal medicine beginning a few hours before bedtime
- Eat dense protein at the height of the Sun
- Turn off all false lights and use candles at night
- Be in nature minimum of 30 minutes a day
- Workout preferably at the height of the Sun
- Have a nighttime ritual such as journaling to signal to your body it is time to deescalate
While other nutrient deficiencies also play a huge role in slept debt, such as vitamin B, essential fatty acids, and essential-mineral depletion, the single most important supplement for sleep may be magnesium glycerinate. Therapeutic doses are recommended at 700mg/day for one moon cycle- 28 days. Magnesium is the most common nutritional deficiency due to poor soil quality. Implementing this supplement and herbs into your nighttime routine in combination with chamomile, GABA, and CBD relaxes the nervous and musculature system.
Sleep Debt Recovery
Recovery from sleep debt requires three days of 9.5 or more hours of sleep. While longer and more extended hours of sleep debt may be needed for chronic cases. A combination of the above-mentioned protocols will help with your sleep struggles.
Ask your physician before implementing any of the above recommended herbs and supplements.