The Quest For More Sleep: How Herbs Can Help

As a mom, I hover over and around good sleep. Always tuned in for that cry or whisper
in the night, for any possibility of impending disaster that requires me to be always semi alert and ready to jump up in a moment’s notice. Parents totally understand this state –
you look asleep, you’re in bed… but you’re always just that little bit awake and never in
a deep sleep. It was this way before I had kids too, which thankfully primed me for the
lack-of-rest state I live in today. I worked many years in emergency services and my job
required long shifts.

And sleep? It became a far off… well, dream.

I always convinced myself that even though I got less than enough sleep, I was productive. I seemed to find the time to do what I needed to or wanted… but in the last
few weeks I committed to a challenge, which included getting more sleep, and I realized
something… I have been lying to myself. Now that I am home more with the kids, and
working my schedule around pursuing my dreams, setting my own hours, and showing
up every day for my goals, I realize that I haven’t gotten any more accomplished with
less sleep than those who make sleep a priority (those folks that commit to a solid 8 hours a night). And if I am totally honest, I’ve accomplished less and been waaaay more
cranky along the way. And this is because I am so damn tired all the time 😉

So that’s it. It’s time to sleep. There are so many studies about sleep and lots of
contradictory information about how much we need, that it can be hard to navigate what is right and what isn’t. But one thing I do know first hand is the negative consequences of sleep deprivation are real. We all need sleep. I need to make it a healthy habit, not an I’ll-catch-up-some-day-dream.

So how do we get it – naturally – when our lives (and our minds) never slow down?
In my house and yard there are always piles of herbs drying, steeping, or just waiting for
use. Recently, given that challenge to get more sleep, I decided to use some of my
favourites to make an herbal sleep pillow. Sleep pillows, or sachets, are filled with herbs
that promote relaxation and induce sleep. They help you to slumber soundly and
encourage positive dreams depending on the herbs you choose.

Now this practice isn’t new – dating back centuries there are many historical accounts of
herbal dream pillows used to ward off evil spirits, prevent bad dreams, and bring visions
of the future. Today, herbalists prescribe dream pillows to induce peaceful, comfortable
sleep, and to bring vivid, imaginative dreams. In my commitment to more sleep (and my
love of some beautiful smelling herbs) this is a great way to promote a more restful fortywinks.

From my garden, the herbs I love to include in these pillows are:
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) – a strong aromatic nervine; the flowers are used for
soothing, relaxation, and to help ease any headaches, anxiety and stress.
Catnip (Nepeta cataria) – although catnip intoxicates my cat, in us humans it is a calming
herb that soothes both the digestive tract and nerves, for relaxing and deep sleep.
Rose petals (Rosa sp.) – for warmth and love, and lets be honest their incredible scent.
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) – also a nervine tonic, the leaves or roots of this herb will
help you remember your dreams.
Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis) – an aromatic, stimulant, and nervine, use this plant’s leaves and twigs. This herb promotes deep sleep and can keep bad dreams away (use just a little though).
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) – an aromatic, sedative, nervine and tonic, use both
the flowers and leaves of this herb to promote relaxation and calming. My kids love the
light apple scent of this plant’s flowers.
Hops (Humulus lupus) – the clusters of flowers are used in this sedative, hypnotic and
nervine herb. Long used for relaxation and peaceful sleep.
Lemon balm (Melissa offinicalis)– use the leaves to relieve stress and anxiety, helps with
headaches and insomnia.

I enlisted the kids to help (and make their own pillows!). We used a small cotton fabric
for the outside and a muslin bag for the inside that we found at a local craft store
(depending on how crafty you are, you could easily sew your own). Next we mixed a
combination of the dried herbs that we wanted in our pillows, making sure we didn’t add too much of a strong smelling or stimulating one like rosemary. Then we simply tied the inner muslin bag with a string (as we plan to reuse them once the herbs lose their scent or when we want to change the blend). For the outer cotton sleeve, I left mine simply folded over but did sew a few stitches in the kids’ pillows to keep them
from possibly spilling out. Once complete, we tucked these incredible smelling sachets
inside our pillowcases and looked forward to bedtime!

It’s been a week now of making a concentrated effort to get to bed earlier, leaving the
electronics out of the bedroom, and using my herbal sleep pillow – and the effects are
noticeable. There is nothing better than tucking into bed with the heavenly scent of those
herbs carrying me off to sleep. Try this natural sleep aid and see if you don’t love it too!

Have you ever used herbs to help you sleep? Tell me which ones and how!

**All of the herbs mentioned above are safe choices for adults and kids alike. There
are some herbs that should not be used in sleep pillows, consult with a herbalist if
you wish to use other herbs not mentioned here.**

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