April 2015

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Screen Shot 2015-06-20 at 10.26.48When talking about sleep, you will often come across tryptophan, serotonin and melatonin.
Tryptophan is an essential amino-acid which we have to get from food. It helps make serotonin, which, in turn, can be converted into melatonin. Melatonin helps us sleep.
Tryptophan is found especially in chocolate, oats, milk, yoghurt, cottage cheese, red meat, eggs, fish, poultry, dates, seeds, bananas, peanuts and chickpeas. They work best if consumed on an empty stomach, and accompanied by foods containing little protein but lots of carbohydrates. [1]

Though food is important, even essential, there can be other reasons why you are not sleeping well.
* unrest or tension
* changes in your life
* side-effect of medication
* so-called ‘blue’ light: tv, computers, mobiles [2].

Of course it’s best to adress the cause directly, but often it is not possible to change things, or not as quickly as you like.
Here are some websites which may be helpful, followed by a list of ‘tricks’ I have collected during an insomniac life.


* Avoid stimulants like caffeine, nicotine or alcohol, heavy or spicy food.
* Eat more fruits and vegetables, especially those with high contents of B vitamins.
* Calcium and magnesium have a tranquilizing effect that may help. Found in seeds, nuts, roots and green leafy vegetables.
* If you’re going to eat a snack 1-2 hours before bed, take a small carb-based snack that includes protein and fat. Like whole grain bread with a little almond butter.
* Avoid tyramine-containing foods, which stimulate the brain, close to bedtime: like bacon, ham, sugar, sausages, spinach, tomatoes, yeast, nuts, potatoes, aged cheeses, chocolate! ferments, marinades and wine.
* If you are hypoglycemic you must eat some protein or fat in the evening.  Otherwise, blood sugar fluctuations in the middle of the night may wake you up.
* Eat a larger lunch rather than stuffing yourself with a big dinner late in the evening.
* Raspberries contain raspberry ketone, which leads to a faster metabolism, and, in some cases, insomnia.


* Regular exercise can help improve sleep quality if not done too close to bedtime.
* It’s best to sleep in complete darkness.
* Tell yourself you’re not allowed to sleep.
* Swaddle yourself – tuck yourself in tightly, to create a sense of security.
* Stretch; meditate; relax [3]. Read a nice book or listen to a suitable tape.
* Foot and ear reflexology. You can practise this on yourself, even while lying in bed.
* 1-2 tsp cider vinegar (organic is best), 1-2 tsp honey and 250 ml water which is warm enough to melt it. Drink before going to bed. [5]
* Nutmeg, valerian, chamomile, jasmine, lavender and hop can all make you sleepy. I have a little container by my bed with a hankie which is steeped in lavender. If I worry about sleeping, I take out the hankie and put it under my nose.
* Some people claim they must go to bed late to fall asleep. However, if you stay up past a certain time, you stimulate your sympathetic nervous system to keep awake, which then prevents you from going to sleep when you finally go to bed.
* If you keep thinking of important things when you’re in bed, keep a pad and paper to make notes, so you won’t be thinking of them all night. If you keep thinking of unimportant things, try focusing on your breath, or simple forms of meditation [3].

Purple sprouting broccoli, chard, cabbage, leeks, spring onions, spinach, watercress, loose-leaved lettuce, radish, sorrel, spring greens.

Direct: lettuce, rocket, radish, beet, broad beans, summer cabbage, calabrese, kohlrabi, parsnips, peas, spinach (beet), spring onions, chard, early carrots, autumn cauli, salsify, scorzonera, celeriac, celery. Late April: courgettes, french beans, pumpkins.
Plant: summer cabbage, onion sets, potatoes, summer cabbage.
Sow to transplant: leeks, brussels, sprouting broccoli, autumn cauli, kale, tomatoes (indoors).
Garden Organic is an excellent source of information in general; they also sell seeds and whatever else you may need: see www.gardenorganic.org.


For what to do with the purple sprouting broccoli, still doing well, see http://pennysrecipes.com/4062/how-to-cook-purple-sprouting-broccoli.

2 tbsp olive oil, 4 lamb or pork chops, 2 garlic cloves, crushed, a generous pinch of chilli, 140g shredded spring greens, 410g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed.
Cook the chops in the usual way, but use a deep frying pan that’s big enough to fit the greens later. Remove from the pan and keep hot on a warmed plate or in a low oven. To wilt the greens, tip garlic and chilli into the same pan and cook for about 30 secs until sizzling but not browned, then pour in 5 tblsp water and stir in the greens. Simmer for 4-5 mins until they wilt. If you like your greens well done, let them go on for a bit longer. Stir in the chickpeas and juices from the pork and continue stirring until everything’s hot. Serve greens topped with the chops and any juices.

2 fillets white fish* about 200g each, 1-2 tbsp soy sauce, 2 grated garlic cloves, a bit of ginger root grated, or some powder, vegetable oil, 200-300g shredded spring greens.
Coat the fish in the soy, garlic and ginger. Leave for at least 10 mins to give more flavour. Heat oil, add fish and marinade. Sizzle for 3 mins on each side, until the fish is almost cooked. Throw in the greens and a bit of water and let everything simmer for 5 mins (or longer), until the greens have wilted. Serve with rice or noodles.
*The following white fish are from sustainable sources: dab, pouting, coley, megrim, grouper, flounder, gurnard, whiting, bream. Avoid cod, halibut, plaice, hake and whitebait; for sole and seabass it depends on how they are caught (see http://www.fishonline.org).

Very nice and so simple to prepare:
200g pasta, 250g purple sprouting broccoli, 100g Stilton or Exmoor cheese broken into small pieces, juice and grated zest of  ½-1 lemon, 50g toasted pine nuts, 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, pepper.
Bring a very large pan of water to the boil, add a pinch of salt. Add pasta to the pan and cook for 10-12 mins, or until just cooked. Meanwhile, cut up the broccoli in small pieces and simmer in a bit of boiling water for 4-5 minutes, until just tender. Drain pasta and broccoli: return both to the pan along with cheese, lemon juice, zest, pine nuts and oil. Season with black pepper, place over low heat and stir. Spoon into bowls and eat at once, with a salad.

ROAST NECK of LAMB (serves 2-3)
400-500g boneless neck of lamb, 2 sliced onions cut into thin wedges, 4 diced cloves garlic, ½ tsp dried oregano, thyme and/or any herbs you have handy, 1 tblsp olive oil, salt, pepper.
Preheat oven 150°C although you can also cook it on top if you prefer. Cut lamb into 3cm chunks. Place in pan with onions, sprinkle with garlic and herbs, add lemon juice, olive oil seasoning: mix. Cook/roast for 2 hours.

450g broccoli, oil, soy sauce/tamari, 1½ tblsp sesame seeds, 1 clove garlic.
Dry-roast sesame seeds. Cook broccoli for 3 mins. Saute garlic for 1 min., add drained broccoli. Keep stirring for 2-3 mins. Add soy and sesame, serve.

4x80g goat’s cheese log slices, 100g hazelnuts, 2 tblsp cider vinegar, (1 tblsp honey), 120g butter, salt, freshly ground black pepper, thyme, leaves removed
For the dressing: chop nuts in half, melt butter slowly, add nuts and cook gently until golden brown, approx. 5 mins. Remove pan from heat, stir in vinegar (and honey). Season with salt and pepper, set aside.
Make a separate frying pan very hot. Brush cheese slices (not the pan) with a little oil, and fry quickly on each side for no more than a minute until they’re singed, sealed and caramelised. Transfer cheese to serving plates, spoon over the warm dressing and sprinkle with thyme. Very nice with for instance (potatoes and) broccoli.

I often prepare my (lamb) mince like this.
Heat butter till the foam is just starting to withdraw. Fry onion and meat, add some finely cut rosemary and paprika powder, salt, maybe a bit of chilli or cayenne. Garlic if you like it. Stir regularly, cook till done. Nice with cabbage.

1k floury potatoes, 6 tblsp unsalted butter, 1 onion, finely chopped, 6 minced anchovy fillets, 120ml  milk, 3 tblsp heavy cream, salt, freshly ground black pepper, 3 tblsp chopped chives or spring onions.
Cut potatoes into chunks and cook covered, until very tender. Melt 4 tblsp of the butter. Add onion and saute, stirring, until softened. Add anchovies, stir thoroughly. Add milk and cream, season and bring to a simmer. Add potatoes, stir, heat and mash the lot. Add chives/spring onions and remaining 2 tblsp butter, serve hot. Have with cooked or sautéed greens.


“Insomnia is not bad in itself. You can lie awake at night and think; the quality of the insomnia depends entirely on what you decide to think of. Can you decide to think? Yes, you can. You can put your mind to anything most of the time. You can sit peacefully in front of a blank television set, just watching nothing: and sooner or later you can make your own programme much better than the mass product.
I lay awake, looking at the darkness, listening to the silence, prefiguring the future, picking out of the past the scraps I had overlooked, those rejected events which now came to the foreground, large and important, so that the weight of destiny no longer bore on the current problems of my life, whatever they were at the time (for who lives without problems every day? Why waste the nights on them?).”
Muriel Spark, A Far Cry from Kensington.

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[1] www.med-health.net/Foods-High-In-Tryptophan.html
[2] Blue light, as well as the excitement coming from computer, television and mobiles, robs your body of melatonin. See
To prevent this, you can wear blueblocker glasses. Search on the internet: Uvex Skyper seem cheapest in the US, Optima Low Vision in the UK. See also https://sleepybliss.com/products/sleep-aids/blue-light-blocking-glasses/ and http://www.paleohacks.com/light/cheap-goggles-for-blocking-out-blue-light-588
[3] for ways to relax and simple meditation, see the Thought for July 2014, in the dropdown menu on the right hand side of this page.
[4] http://goodnurture.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/reflexology-for-insomnia-and-better.html
[5] This recipe is also said to help for rheumatism/arthritis. And using local honey might help with allergies – I’ve heard that having 1 tsp of local honey for a year gets rid of hayfever. As I don’t have that I can’t vouch for it: and noone I know has had the patience or interest to try it!




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