Sleepy plants grow in the garden

As part of our 'How we used to sleep' project this year, we've been working with a group from Carter House in Congleton, to design and create a sleep bed full of soporific plants. We've been growing plants such as marjoram, lavender, bergamot and apothecary rose on the west side of the hall since Spring. These types of plants can help bring on restful sleep or treat sleep problems and were popular in Tudor times.

A typical 16th century kitchen garden would have been similar to an allotment. There would have been space devoted to the growing of vegetables, medicinal herbs, ingredients for cosmetics, personal hygiene, household cleaning and for scent and decoration. 

The tudors were keen to grow ‘cooling’ plants. The theory was that when you slept your body digested food. Better sleep = better digestion and therefore better health.

This principle involved the idea that your stomach was a like a cooking pot. When you went to bed your body would generate heat which would boil the food in the stomach, releasing vapours which would drift up to your brain.

When the vapours reached your brain they would cool and condense, moistening and therefore refreshing the brain and mind before spreading throughout the body to deliver nutritional benefits and regeneration. Cooling ingredients aided this process as they helped cool these vapours which would then disperse around the body.