You give me a place to sit or lie down—whether it is in a tight seat on a plane or in a dentist’s chair—and I can sleep. Falling asleep on command is my talent, but it was not always that way.
All through my childhood years, the night was a scary time for me. Not because I was afraid of the dark but because I struggled to fall asleep. At times, my distended painful tummy kept me awake. Other times, it was just a general unease. As I moved into my late teen years, things changed a little. Falling asleep became easier, but the slightest noise or light would make my melatonin give up on me. My mother, the meditator she was, suggested that I just dip into my breath and surrender to sleep. At that point, the suggestion brought more annoyance than rest.
Fifteen years ago, when I became pregnant with my daughter, Suhani, I was told that sleep and pregnancy are not best friends. Already a poor sleeper, this made me nervous, and I decided to follow my mother’s suggestion to dip into my breath. The result was tranquilizing. All these years later, I can still put myself into a sleep state in a matter of seconds just by focusing on my breath. It almost feels like I am floating on water or completely surrendering to gravity.
As an Ayurvedic practitioner, I know sleep is as essential as food. My mantra is that good sleep is like going for a great healing session and coming back—all while chilling in your bed. When I am well rested, I can feel it. I am more aware and more present.
I sleep best on days when I have skipped caffeine, had a good workout, and checked all the boxes on my to-do list. Here is a peek at my wind-down routine on a recent night at home with my daughters in New York City.
6:32 p.m.: The girls have finished dinner. This is my cue to wrap up the day. I turn on the hot water kettle and play an evening ragas playlist (classical Indian music) on Spotify.
6:46 p.m.: I pour a cup of hot water over my favorite Organic India Tulsi Rose tea. I pour one cup for Suhani as well. I arrange the two chairs to face the window and put the cups of tea down on my living room side table.
6:53 p.m.: I look at the East River and the little building lights all the way across the river in Queens. Autumn has brought an early sunset. I notice the Triborough Bridge. I also have some awareness of the music that’s playing in the background. I slow down. The lights are dim. This has to be the best part of my day. Every day. Suhani joins me and sits on the other chair. It’s story time. She’s the one telling me the stories (a 15-year-old has a lot of stories). Today the genre is “drama.”
7:41 p.m.: Tea time is done. There are a couple of dishes in the sink from dinner. I contemplate whether I should do them. Nah, I pass. I call out to Sanjali, my 10-year-old.
7:47 p.m.: I change out of my day clothes and take my new electric toothbrush, apply some Red Dabur toothpaste, and brush away. I use Shatadhauta ghruta (a type of ghee) as my cleanser and wash my face with Mandara face wash. I smear some RANAVAT Radiant Rani Saffron Oil on my face. I put on my pure cotton paisley pajamas. I like how they smell, and they always remind me of home. I call out to Sanjali again.
8:12 p.m.: I hear my phone ring. It’s my sister calling from Japan. I am tempted to ask her to call another day, but this is the third time she’s tried to get in touch with me. I try not to feel rushed. I gently pace around in my living room as I talk to her. She hangs up soon, as she has to get on with her day.
8:35 p.m.: I call out to Sanjali yet again. She is ready in her pajamas, all brushed and shiny. The girls have been co-sleeping with me ever since the start of the pandemic. I wouldn”t have it any other way.
8:43 p.m.: I turn on the air-conditioning. Sanjali sleeps in the middle of our king-size bed. I get in on her right side. We snuggle and chat. The lamp is too bright in front of our eyes (melatonin doesn’t stand a chance), so I turn it off. I lie down; she wants a story, but I am not in the mood. I ask her questions as I caress her hair and back. I pull out my lavender essential oil and use some on her pillow. The room is cooling down now.
8:56 p.m.: I feel pressured for her to be asleep since it’s a school night. I ask her to pray in bed. She sits up and starts chanting in slow motion. I want to ask her to speed up. My energy changes. Sanjali asks for water (her standard request to delay bedtime). My tone is telling of my annoyance. I bring her water; she sips it. This time I don’t get into bed. I lean over and kiss her good night. Phew!
9:08 p.m.: I pull out my kindle from my bag and lie down on my day bed. I will start reading my new download, Deep Survival, tonight. But the phone seems too inviting. Maybe I should see what I am missing out on, the mental chatter begins…
9:30 p.m.: I’ve spent over 20 minutes on the phone now. Nothing useful. I turn on my Kindle and start to read.
9:50 p.m.: It is time to get into bed. Suhani is still at her desk, catching up on high school work. I ask her if she needs anything and then kiss her good night.
9:53 p.m.: I use the restroom and gently run my wooden comb through my hair. I am eager to be in bed. I skip the journaling. I use lavender essential oil on my wrist. It’s time to dip into my blissful breath…