Updated: Jun 23
Here, you will not find an answer. Here you will find a guide toward your own answer.
If you turned up here on a quest for a pure and potent resolution, you have taken a wrong turn. As goes the thumbprint uniqueness of each human, the hunt for a cure-all herb is fruitless; there will never be one singular 'herb for sleep' or 'herb for this and that', we are just too beautifully singular.
And so, this compendium is knowledge to power, not a notary of answers.
To soothe sleeplessness, we need to know a little more about the sleeplessness; about the person, the sleep that is missing, the life that is missing the sleep, in order to move forth into healing.
Where can you start?
You can start by identifying your position amongst the three common reasons for sleep slipping our grasp. Of the three below; what archetype of sleeplessness do you find yourself living? Are you a combination? An outlier perhaps? This is about clarity. When we wish to alchemize our reality, we must come to a firm understanding of the patterns we are alchemizing before attempting to untangle.
Get clear on the imbalance. Cultivate a balance. The medicine is often in the opposition.
1) A HEAVY MIND
Ruminations, anxieties, stuck song-lines; the mind that holds you in the real world.
Night has a way of dissolving lifes structures and revealing the cogs of the snaking naked mind. This is to say that if your sleep is slipping under a sticking mind then the problem really begins in the waking hours, the hours where the mind indulges in its patterns. Night is simply the pulling back of the skin; the revealing of the under-workings of the mind.
This is an archetype where the medicine of relaxant nervines and adaptogens stand out. This medicine should be peppered throughout the day in pulse doses to 'drain the brain' before it even comes time to sleep.
The main goal here is to create an environment whereby when night inevitably peels back the layers and reveals the mind, there is nothing to see but serenity. Preventative medicine in other words.
Who are our relaxant nervine and adaptogen allies in sleep?
-Chamomile. For the mild and numb anxious thoughts. Background and dull.
-Hops. For the almost debilitating and unstoppable thoughts.
-Passionflower. For the frazzled and fried mind. Like a blown fuse-box.
-Skullcap. For the up-in-space and ungroundable thoughts. Like the skull has been left open.
What else can we do for an anxious mind?
-The taste of bitter is well known and loved in herbal medicine for its ability to catalyse digestion. As-above-so-below this works equally as well for the digestion of thoughts. Consider tasting a bitter thing on your tongue to aid in the digestion of thoughts.
-Cold and cooling herbs and sensations direct the body into a parasympathetic state of softness. Consider a cold foot bath, cold fresh water and cold herbs like passionflower or skullcap.
2) PHYSICAL PAIN/ TENSION
This is the sleep that won't come because the pain in the body keeps the mind in the body.
Again, the laying down of the night; the drawing back of all falsities. If you have been experiencing pain in your body throughout the day and allowing the movement and rhythm of life awake to mask its intensity, then the nakedness of nightfall will certainly amplify the
This is where we can call upon hypnotics and sedatives: the knock you out and over the physical medicines. Naturally, taking measures to reduce pain during the day is also required but we can come to these as our 'emergency' options.
Who are our hypnotic and sedative allies?
-Californian poppy. For the pain that is accompanied by a pained mind.
-Wild lettuce. For the pain that is all encompassing and all embodying.
-Valerian. For the background hovering pain. Take care here as 1/10 people will experience a stimulatory effect with valerian.
The sleep that slips from hormonal and lifestyle influences. The late-night blue-light and imbalanced melatonin, the late-night meal and imbalanced insulin, the last meal that was too early and imbalanced cortisol, the rogue and underlying vitamin deficiencies, the too-late-in-the-day caffeine consumption...
Simply, this archetype is more lifestyle changes than herbal medicine intervention though
in stand-alone cases one could try the hypnotic and sedative herbs of category two to try to over-ride the system but really this is about waiting for the hormones to be denatured by the liver: about sleep hygiene.
Some small basics on sleep hygiene;
-Try to eat the last meal within 2-4hrs of sleeping. Less than 2hrs and the body will be awake digesting, more than 4hrs and the body will be depleted of glycogen and in a state of stress.
-Reduce blue-light consumption as this negatively impacts melatonin.
-Stop caffeine consumption after midday since the denaturing of caffeine takes approximately 6-10 hours.
-Allow the mind to enter the night. Stop work. Stop chores. Stop the day.
-Ensure you are adequately nourished with vitamins and minerals and calories so that the body is capable of rejuvenating and rebuilding during the night.
Did you find yourself amongst these archetypes? Did you catch a small idea of the patterns playing out within your own life and the ways you might untangle them? What one thing here might you apply to your own sleeplessness?
Herbalist and Nutritionist S.N.H.S dip.