A few weeks back I was settling for my standard attempt at sleep.
We’d done most of our nightly rituals, and I was in a pretty standard state for me – fairly solid bodily exhaustion, with brain whirring on about everything from plans for apocalypse options to tea flavours to all the larger projects on the to-do lists that I needed to make headway with.
A thread streaked through the chaos, something about “one of these days I need something to help me sleep.”
This was probably provoked, at least in part, by a conversation with a couple of the wonderful humans in the Twitterverse about sleep, and about various herbs that can assist. I was offering some advice, based on both my knowledge and my experience with testing things on myself, and it had started a thought pot simmering in the back of my head.
It decided to finish in those last few moments when I’d started the “attempt to sleep” program, but before the thing had finished running.
It began with “there’s a sleep herb that may not intensify our dreams” and threw in “and passionflower has been so lovely” and “ow is part of why not sleep” and… just started nattering on about what herbs we should put together for a sleep tea tuned for our particular issues.
From experience with the inside of my own head, I knew that if I did not get up and deal with this now, I would end up floating up out of unconsciousness randomly over the course of the night, possibly audibly muttering about plant matter, and would end up with a night of even less useful sleep than usual.
So I extricated myself from the pillow nest, and wandered off to where the blending happens, grumbling a bit because I hurt and I was tired.
In selecting the herbs for this tea, I was aiming for a couple specific things.
The first was to create a blend that would either leave my dreams alone, or would back them off a bit. My difficulties with PTSD1 started a little before I hit double digits, and even with decades learning to live with it and mitigate it, my dreams can still be fairly terrible. Whether they are recaps of actual life experience or worst case scenario films created to help me make plans for every possible life option – they are always a full sensory experience – vivid and full of life.2
Hops and Valerian, two of the most popular “help you sleep” herbs somehow manage to make this problem even worse.3 What makes Valerian especially fun is that, like most modern sedatives, it has a tendency to lock me into sleep. No suddenly waking from a nightmare. I just exist in that space until the effects wear off. This is sometimes useful for ideas for tabletop RPGs or creative scribbling – but not frequently enough for it to be something I would ever court intentionally.
I should probably state that Hops and Valerian are brilliant for many people I have worked with, including others who deal with PTSD – my reactions to them are relatively non-standard.
The second goal was to have enough pain and tension relief in there to ease down the effects of my physical issues on my sleep. It is really hard to reach a deeply restful state when everything is made of pain to start with, especially when you can accidentally injure yourself while unconscious.
When Mister Tea came inside from Dulce’s final outside trip for the day, he indicated his confusion as to the fact that I was up again.
I muttered something – and shockingly, was apparently coherent enough for him to say something along the lines of, “Ah. Your brain is doing the your brain thing. Hope it works.”
I put together a test run, using the various herbs I’d decided on, and waited impatiently for the tea to steep.
Mister Tea had the brilliant idea of sticking it in one of our thermal travel mugs with a touch of honey, so that I could take it back to the pillow nest with me. (I think this was provoked, in part, by the fact that it was one of those evenings where it was practically painful to watch me trying to do the standing and moving things.)
So we set up the thermal mug, and I trundled back to the pillow nest, ensconcing myself in layers of blanket, cuddled up with my Mister Tea bear, and the tea.
It tasted nice.
It also calmed the inside of my head. It was still kind of noisy in there, but there were fewer things clamouring for attention, and the ones that were still clamouring were… in another room? There was still noise, but it was further back in my mind, and far easier to resist paying attention to.
It was actually a struggle to finish that first cup, as I fought against the efficacy of the tea. (I didn’t feel it would be a proper test unless I’d had a standard “dose.”)
I woke up the next morning feeling quite odd. I also didn’t remember any dreams.
Over the course of the morning, I realized that the odd feeling had to do with feeling more rested than I had in a long time. Probably years. Probably many years.
“Oh… Is this closer to what normal people feel like after sleep? Wow. That must be amazing. No wonder they actually seek it out.”
My “sleep is always a bad idea because EDS” was, unfortunately, quite a bit more intense, on initial wakeup – because I’d slept so deeply I hadn’t moved much in my sleep. Sort of a catch-22 with EDS, if you move too much, you risk subluxing something – but move too little, and if it was a bad position to start with you are in for a special morning where you exist with a contingent of your own personal pain faeries liberally sprinkling you with dust.
Interestingly, while more intense to begin with, it also cleared faster than usual. Probably because I had actually gotten some of the deep restorative sleep that is such an alien concept to me.4
I was practically giddy about the results. However, I also knew that a singular set of results does not make an appropriate dataset, and that it would need further testing before I could call the blend good and done.
Over the course of the next week or so, I continued testing it.5
The results were always positive, though the level of positive varied. There were still nights I dreamed – though the percentage of “good” vs “bad” shifted in a good direction. There were still nights I woke up multiple times over the course of the night, but as those were generally nights I hadn’t finished the tea and I had my trusty thermal mug – I would drink a little more, and it made the fight to go BACK to sleep easier.6
There have been several mornings where I have woken up curled up around both the Mister Tea bear and the thermal mug, which is an indication as to how my subconscious (and my inner child) feels about this tea.
I do not use it every night, sometimes because the exhaustion that is standard issue for my life catches up with me too quickly to do so, and sometimes because I agree with Stephen King’s Glen Bateman about dreams serving a sort of eliminatory function for the subconscious – 7but it is definitely a wonderful tool to have on hand for attempting to manage my issues. Both mental and physical.
The naming of this tea was an extended process. The suggestions started almost immediately, and while there were a number of good ones, it took a while for something to sink in properly.
One of the people who regularly pops in and offers inspiration (both on names and on flavour sets) suggested “Even Dreams are Sleeping” which spun around inside my head until it became “Even Dreams Must Sleep.”
As the quieting of my dreams was a spectacular boon given by this tea, that was the name we chose.
Now for the basics:
Organic Ingredients: Hawthorn Berries, Scullcap, Passionflower, Meadowsweet, Lavender
Batch Size: 2.6 ounces – or almost 74 grams – and will make at least 40 servings of tea.
Options: Loose Tea (Sample, Bag, Tin, LatchTin*), Teabags (Single, Sample, Bag, LatchTin*)
*The LatchTins are only available in our personal shop. With the teabag choice, there will be overflow, as they do not all fit in the tin. We send that overflow in a vacuum sealed bag. We do the same with the refill options.
- PTSS? That particular condition has gone through so many names and designations…
- Or death. Actually, often death, now that I think about it. Torture shows up with fair frequency, too. Amusingly, sometimes the torture that happens in my dreams turns out to be my subconscious trying to explain something I’ve done to myself while sleeping…
- This is one of the many reasons why friends have been teasing me about how I’m allergic to relaxation and sleep for years.
- To give you an idea – generally my fitness tracker shows deep sleep as a single digit number, and a low one, at that. That first night the number had two digits – and actually approached the “this is how much you need” numbers. Every time I have had the tea before sleep, I have actually achieved a noticeable amount of deep sleep – which is something akin to miraculous, given the data from the tracker since I started using it.
- I changed up aspects of the before sleep routine, to see how it performed under a variety of different circumstances. There was even a night where events conspired to put me in a state just this side of flashback before sleep, and it still help on that night, too. I was actually almost grateful this happened randomly, as I had been considering attempting to provoke something along those lines, to see whether or not the tea would still be effective.
- I haven’t been able to alter my “allowed sleep window” – but when I drink the tea, I spend less of that window fighting to sleep and more of it actually sleeping.
- The quote is from ‘The Stand’ – “Exactly. There are all sorts of dream interpretations. Freud’s being the most notorious, but I have always believed that they serve a simple eliminatory function, and not much more – that dreams are the psyche’s way of taking a good dump every now and then. And that people who don’t dream – or don’t dream in a way that they can remember when they wake up – are mentally constipated in some way. After all, the only practical compensation for having a nightmare is waking up and realizing that it was just a dream.” I do think there is more to dreams than this, but this is certainly a sizable part of what I think they are for.