Not long ago, in an article entitled “Fight or Feed,” I wrote about the importance of diet to one’s physical health. I suggested that generally, every morsel of food or drink we ingest helps or hinders our physical health, and that in fact we are what we eat.
I also wrote that my children grew up believing that sleep is delicious. I cannot say where that intuitive declaration came from – a feeling perhaps, or an experienced appetite for peace and restorative healing that I knew could be sated by sleep.
Until relatively recently, when our nest emptied, I was entirely too busy with motherhood and the business of business, to spend sufficient time reflecting on the lifestyle cultures and habits – good and bad – that I passed on to our children.
Food gardening and writing about food gardening has provided me many gifts, not the least of which is time for quiet contemplation, reflection and a pseudo-scientific form of neurogenesis that bypasses conventional wisdom.
All that means really is that food gardening on a larger scale has afforded the time, the calm, the quiet and the connection to nature necessary for proof of concept. Creating our urban permaculture gardens generally, and food gardening specifically, has proven to me that the fundamentals of health and wellness today are as simple as they have always been.
Eat well, sleep well, live and love well within the context of a healthy ecosystem, more-or-less sums it all up. Though to what extent we might be able to achieve all of this depends on so many variables inside and outside of our control. Easier said than done to be sure, but it can be done, at least incrementally.
We can, for example, place fundamental importance on eating clean and sleeping deeply. Improving just those two areas of our lives can help improve all other areas, increase our health-span, and demonstrate to our children that respect for mind, body and nature are non-negotiable.
A healthy and modest home-made meal followed by some low-tech wind-down time, a cup of sleepy herbal tea and an early bedtime can be our proof of concept – all that we need to reap the benefits of truly delicious and restorative sleep. Perhaps that can happen just once a week or even once a month. What matters is that it happens at all.
I used to think it wasn’t that simple, that life is too busy, that there isn’t enough time or opportunity to care deeply about sleep. But I was wrong. We make it happen to whatever degree we are able within the context of our lives and economy, and we ask for help. We ask friends, neighbours, family, and the universe quite frankly, to show us how. It is innate, and it comes naturally if we let it.
It can start simply, with a cup of tea – sleepy tea grown at home in whatever space you have.
For us, it is beautiful calming chamomile, lavender, wild rose, lemon balm, mint and fennel – harvested by hand, then tied, air dried and crumbled into an empty jam jar. It’s served cold in the summer, to inspire napping in the shade, and warm in the winter to ritualize an early bedtime.
Indeed sleep is delicious, but an increasing body of research confirms that sleep is life-extending and nutritious. Adequate, good quality sleep, together with regular exercise, a healthy mindset and a diet low in refined starch and sugar, can beneficially influence the expression of our genes and contribute to the extension of a happy, vital, self-directed life.
Happy gardening. Sleep well.
Laura Marie Neubert is a West Vancouver-based urban permaculture designer. Follow her on Instagram @upfrontandbeautiful, learn more about permaculture by visiting her Upfront & Beautiful website or email your questions to her here.
For a taste of permaculture, click on the YouTube link below: