Sleep is underrated. In our overly Yang culture (i.e., characterized by the active male principle, according to Chinese philosophy), many of us live lives crammed with activity, all year round. And our activity level seems only to increase in the summer months, with the long days and warm temperatures. It’s true that we need a bit less sleep in summer than in winter, but regardless of the season, sleep is as necessary to our existence as air or water. Regular periods of rest–Yin (i.e., associated with the more earthy female principle) compared to the active Yang–balance out our existence, just as cool balances heat, dark balances light, and water balances fire.
1. Sleep cycles/seasonal changes: No rhythm is as universal as that of night and day. Up here at northern latitudes, we experience wider variation in daytime length and temperature, but even at the equator, dawn eternally goes down to day and then to night, over and over. We humans are not separate from the natural world, and for best health, we should attune ourselves to the earth’s rhythms.
2. Sleep herbs: Sometimes we need a little help settling down at night. After a fun-filled day of hiking, gardening, rafting, or work, it can be hard to calm ourselves when the sun is still high in the sky at 8 p.m. The flowers are here to help us: try a simple cup of chamomile tea. You’ll find dried chamomile flowers in the spices section of the Co-op’s bulk foods aisles. And for you gardeners, try growing your own. Simply harvest the flowers, set them out to dry, and then scoop them into a jar to keep them fresh to brew as needed.
3. Sleep places: Want a little change from the house? Try a backyard campout. My son spent a week this summer at Paradise Ridge Challenge Course; there he learned much about life out of doors, including how to make a lean-to out of branches and a tarp. For camps fancy or simple, you’ll find all kinds of equipment for making a cozy bed al fresco at Hyperspud or TriState.
4. Sleep essential oils: Lavender is lovely. Add a few drops to your bath and have a soak before bed, or add some to a sachet to put on your pillow. You can find lavender locally grown at Flúirse Feirm in Pullman, or at the Enchanted Paths Lavender farm in Palouse.
5. Other sleep aids: Make a ritual of quieting down at the end of the day: turn off your electronics after dinner. Close the drapes on your bedroom windows. Listen to quiet music. Some people find meditation or gentle stretching relaxing for mind and body.
The best part of a good night’s sleep for me is waking in the morning feeling rested and re-energized. When the yin has fed the yang, we return to balance and we wake ready to explore another glorious summer day on the Palouse.