Im sure that I’m not the only one who gets that familiar sinking feeling after looking at the clock to find you’re still awake at 3am. Whether its stress, anxiety or just an over-active mind, sometimes it can seem impossible to get a full nights sleep without spending a few hours entrenched in a staring battle with your ceiling. Don’t worry though, a solution is at hand!
If you’re having serious problems with insomnia, its certainly worth speaking to your doctor to help you find the underlying cause.
Common Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Not only is lavender a beautiful, fragrant flower, its also a ubiquitous sedative, found in a variety of cosmetics from: massage oils and lotions to deodorants and shower gels. Indigenous to the Mediterranean region, you’ll find that the common more common varieties are actually very simple to grow throughout the world, and if grown in ideal conditions, will bloom pretty aggressively.
The perfect conditions vary pretty heavily between species, but you’ll generally want to water your lavender pretty infrequently. Try to pick a relatively sandy, well-draining soil to stop water from pooling and eventually rotting the roots and let the soil a finger-joints length below the get dry to the touch between each watering to avoid the risk of fungal infections or root rot. As you may have guessed from where it is natively found, lavender also likes a lot of sun; if you can get your plant at least 5-6 hours of bright, direct sunlight, you should see some great results.
When harvesting, dont be afraid to take big chunks off; your plant will love you for pruning it, and actually grow back larger than before. Try to cut around 3-4 inches above the soil level, ensuring that you dont trim off this years growth.
To dry your lavender out, hang it upside down in reasonably small sections (it dries faster this way). A great tip I found, was to wrap it in elastic bands rather than tying it, as the rubber will contract when the stems get narrower preventing the flowers from slipping out halfway through your drying process.
If you have an airing cupboard, then youve got the perfect storage environment already, but any warm, dry area will be fine. Once dry, remove the stems and keep the flowers.
Now that you have all of this gorgeous-smelling lavender, the only thing left to do is use it. A great way to get the beneficial qualities without the acquired taste, is to throw a few sprigs in your bath while the hot water is running. To avoid it clogging up your plug-hole and getting all up your nose when youre having a relaxing bath, try investing in a tea strainer; theyre very inexpensive can be found pretty easily in stores like Holland Barrett or Boots.
Hops (Humulus lupulus)
At first glance, this one might sound a little off, but hops really do work, as several pickers have learned the hard way. The phenomenon, known as hops-pickers fatigue, would leave workers in a state of sedation, which left employers confused at why people were found asleep in the fields or stumbling around in a delirious stupor.
Hops are one of the main ingredients in beer, and largely responsible for the relaxing effects of a few pints after a long week at work. The active tranquillising agent is a volatile compound known as amylene hydrate, which is released in to the air when the clusters of flowers (strobiles) are agitated.
I cant really recommend going out and picking hops whenever you cant sleep, but making your own pillow is the next best thing. Youll want to find the best quality flowers, and your best bet is checking out local home-brewery suppliers; shopping off-line will give you the chance to inspect them yourself, so it might be worth the few extra pounds.
To make the pillow, dry them out by hanging them by the stem in a warm, dry environment out of bright, direct sunlight for around 10 days. While this is happening, youll need some sort of material to store them in; Id suggest using a washing machine mesh bag, which allows secure fastening to prevent you waking up with a mouth full of hops. Put it inside of your actual pillow and replace every month.
Also, its worth noting that although the hops plant is botanically related to cannabis through the cannabaceae family, it doesnt contain any THC (Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and you wont be getting high from doing this any time soon.