by Ben McCampbell
hen you can’t get to sleep, do you resort to the age-old practice of counting sheep? Do you take a warm bath? Do you start reading a dull book and find it open on your stomach in the morning? Do you still wake up tired? Persistent lack of quality sleep can have serious consequences. Insomniacs are four times more likely to be diagnosed with depression and more likely to have a serious illness. They are also more prone to accidents at home, on the job, and on the road. And they’re more likely to miss work and be less productive when they are at work. People have had trouble sleeping for thousands of years. The ancient Greeks and Romans came up with some interesting sleep aids, including mixing the bark of the mandrake plant with wine; an ancient physician named Dioscorides called it anesthesia. You probably don’t want to sleep that soundly. The seeds of the henbane plant also produced a deep, coma-like sleep. And you think getting up in the morning nowadays is hard! The Greeks also used opium, which despite its addictive nature, is a very effective sleep aid. In fact, the Greek god of sleep, Hypnos (no kidding), was usually shown holding a poppy flower. Ancient peoples also drank lettuce juice, and when all else failed in their quest for sweet slumber, they found that enough wine could send the most hopeless insomniac off to bed. Some things just don’t ever change.
The trouble with chloral hydrate is that some insomniacs would combine it with alcohol and never wake up. Sir Charles Locock was trying to come up with a drug to treat epilepsy in 1857, but instead got bromide, a sedative which was widely prescribed in the 19th and 20th centuries. The epileptics weren’t helped much, but the sleep-deprived rejoiced, even though bromides come with a variety of side effects, including clonic seizures (wild involuntary movements), loss of reflexes, loss of voluntary movement and muscle coordination, and delirium, to name a few. Not a pleasant state in which to wake up, no matter how well you slept. Barbiturates came next; they were the mostprescribed sleep aid in the early 20th century. Besides being dangerously addictive, barbiturates could be deadly when combined with alcohol, which enhanced their effects. Marilyn Monroe and Continued on page 18
Other herbal sleep aids include…the very popular chamomile tea, which will also calm an upset stomach and boost your immune system.
In 1832 a German chemist named Justus von Liebig created chloral hydrate, which induces sleep quickly. It became known as “knockout drops” or “Mickeys.” (Remember in the old crime movies the bad guy was always “slipping a Mickey” into someone’s drink? Now you know what it was.)
an apple a day may 2014
The May 2014 issue of An Apple a Day magazine.