Have you ever lain in bed at night and wondered about how many things had to be invented and marketed in order for you to be able to get a good night’s sleep?
We’ve come a long way from curling up at the back of cave and covering ourselves with animal fur! And yet, physiologically speaking, our bodies need the same items for a good night’s sleep as they did hundreds of thousands of years ago. We’ve just become better at acquiring them - and thank goodness for that!
The history of a good night’s sleep
Most people tend to think of comfortable sleeping arrangements by using Western civilisation standards. In New Zealand and the Pacific Ocean area, we are lucky enough to be exposed to how other cultures like to sleep.
When humans left their caves and began to look for alternate sleeping arrangements, they were shaped by the environment and materials around they found around them.
- If there were wild animals around, thorn tree branches would be cut down to form a barrier and a fire would be kept burning all night. Instant security and warmth: 2 key features needed to get a good night’s sleep.
- If there were rodents or other disturbing creepy-crawlies around, the sleeping platforms would be raised up on sticks or cowhide stretched out between the hut posts to create a kind of flattened hammock. They would double up as somewhere to sit during the day.
- While on the subject of hammocks, Columbus came back from the Bahamas saying the people there slept inside nets made from twisted cord strung between two palm trees. Sailors realised that by using hammocks on board, it was the perfect way not to roll out of bed whenever the ship swayed.
- In Eastern Asian communities, where it was traditional to sleep and integrate diurnal interactions in the same space, laying down a mattress at night, and rolling it up and storing it away during the day, made perfect sense.
Sleep innovations that rocked the world
Every quiz show that ever aired has always made a point of naming the mosquito as the creature that has killed the most people throughout history - more than any war or illness. Aboriginal tribes would craft bowls out of palm leaf fibres and place them over sleeping babies. Even when it was not fully understood what caused people to die in their millions, the painful bite, itching, and oh-so irritating high pitched whine mosquitoes bring with them is enough for mosquito nets to make it onto our list of top peaceful sleep innovations. For more on how the dreaded midge or mozzie has driven folks insane over the years, read D.H. Lawrence on the subject.
If you are one of the lucky few who have never overindulged and then spent the night tossing, turning, and...burping, then be sure to keep it that way. Acid reflux and heartburn are the number one cause of a restless night in bed for the more mature demographics. But thanks to the innovation of antacids, it is possible to coat your stomach lining long enough to drift off and digest whatever set off the indigestion. Ancient healers throughout history used coral powders (which contain essential calcium carbonates) and ginger to soothe the burn. If you’re stuck without an antacid and get heartburn, try lying on your left side and drinking water to dilute the stomach acid. If the problem persists, please make an appointment with your medical practitioner to check for GERD.
Not everyone enjoys the cloying sweetness of a warm mug of cocoa before bed in winter, and besides, cocoa contains caffeine too! It’s a well-known fact that most of us would crawl over sharp stones to get to a cup of coffee in the morning, but a lot of people want a coffee after dinner in the evenings too, especially if we are dining out. Many don’t know this, but caffeine has a physiological effect on the body very quickly; reaching peak levels in the bloodstream within sixty minutes. Caffeine has a half-life of three to five hours – more than enough time to mess with your sleep pattern. Thanks to whoever invented decaff, we can drink coffee in the evenings and then head off straight to bed.
White noise machines
If you find yourself disturbed by barking dogs, creaking furniture, and snoring partners, it’s time to get yourself a white noise machine. The ancient part of our brains that just won’t quit – even when we’re asleep –simply love the sound of rainfall, jungle sounds, and night birdsong. It lets the medulla oblongata know that everything’s okay and it can relax and give you a good night’s sleep.
Sleep research and innovations
After extensive studies conducted by researchers at John Hopkins Medical, it was concluded that insomnia is not a night time disorder: it’s a 24-hour chronic problem when the brain is always switched on. The good news is that insomnia studies link the condition to high intelligence and sensitivity. The bad news is that many patients believe they have to resort to medicines to combat it.
Here are some better long term insomnia solutions and innovations that have no side effects:
- Ambient temperature
- Rising and going to bed at the same time each day
- Banning electronic devices
- Night-time routines, such as writing in a journal, listening to a meditative podcast, etc.
And, of course, it’s completely natural and extremely beneficial to ground yourself with a weighted blanket. Instant relaxation, destressing properties, improved sleep, and increased serotonin production are just some of the positive sleep improvements associated with using this good night’s sleep innovation.
Sleep is important, and we should never stop trying to innovate warm and wonderful ways to acquire it whenever we need it!