Sleep. It’s one of our most basic needs. It’s also one of the things that most people don’t get enough of. With early mornings, late nights, busy schedules, and all of the stress, anxiety, and discomfort that life can dish out, getting enough rest is tough. Committing to a consistent bedtime, limiting technological distraction, and integrating pre-bed rituals into your routine can all help you get a good night’s sleep, but one of my favorite techniques that’s been effective for me is to use an aromatherapy herbal dream pillow made with ingredients from my garden. The herbal blend is specifically chosen to release a fragrance that will promote calm and send you off to dreamland.
My Long Journey to a Restful Sleep
Sleep is a wonderful, magical, healing, and often unappreciated luxury. When you sleep your body rebuilds itself, applies what it has learned from the day, builds muscles, repairs brain cells, and boosts immunity. If there’s one thing that you can do to care for yourself, it is get a good night’s sleep. It’s the most natural thing in the world, and yet good restful sleep can be so hard to capture.
I have a complicated relationship with sleep. Part of me feels that I’ve lost so much of my life to sleep and the other part is grateful for how much healing comes from it. Due to sudden illness, I slept for the better part of two years. That’s not hyperbole. I would go to bed in the early evening, sleep all night, wake up in the morning, then move down to the couch and sleep for the day.
For the first year, that was my whole life. As I moved into the second year, there was more waking time, gradually. I was so sick of being indoors and being in bed and yet I was unable to do anything else. I believe that my body was so run down from whatever it was fighting that it essentially rebooted.
After that crippling fatigue started to wear off, I had a whole other sensation to deal with: the chronic pain of fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is often described as a never-ending cycle of fatigue and pain. The pain was so bad that it was hard to sleep at night, and without a good night’s sleep the fibromyalgia would be worse the next day.
It was crazy making. And I knew I had to do something about it. I went to sleep studies. I tried medical apparatuses and pharmaceuticals. While the drugs helped with sleeplessness and pain, they came with many more unpleasant side effects.
I looked at my sleep habits and tried to do everything that I could to make sure I found a way to develop proper sleep. For me, that meant forcing myself to do some sort of activity every day, no matter how exhausted I was. That’s how I started gardening. Getting outside in the fresh air and engaging with nature was just what I needed.
I cut out all caffeine and other stimulants to make sure that I was setting myself up for rest. I went to bed at the same time every night and woke up at the same time every morning. I also set up a proper sleeping environment in my room with a comfortable bed, appropriate temperature, herb tea, aromatherapy, and herb-filled dream pillows to help create an atmosphere of relaxation.
Now that I have practiced these sleep habits regularly, I sleep like a dream. I go to bed at the same time every night, drift into a deep and healing sleep and wake up the next day refreshed and happy.
Today, I want to share a little bit of the peace that sleep has brought me by showing you how to make your own dream pillow stuffed with relaxing herbs.
It feels wonderful to snuggle up to a bit of my garden at night. You don’t need a garden to make these dream pillows, though. All of the ingredients are readily available as dried herbs at local and online shops. I’ve linked to some in the materials list to make it super easy for you to access everything you need.
What is a Dream Pillow?
Dream pillows have been around for hundreds of years (since at least the sixteenth century, probably earlier). They were once used commonly by doctors as a way to heal patients with all sorts of infirmities. They’ve also been used historically to ward off evil spirits and induce dream visions.
Dream pillows, also called “sleep pillows” or “comfort pillows” are not the same as eye pillows. Eye pillows are weighted with dried beans, flax, or popcorn and often scented with dried lavender and lavender essential oil. The weight of these provides pressure on your eyes and a relaxation experience in addition to the aromatherapy. See how to make them here.
Dream pillows have no beans or weighted elements in them nor do they contain any essential oils. They’re simply filled with an assortment of dried herbs. To use a dream pillow, place it inside your pillowcase. You can gently crush the herbs to release the smell if you would like a little more aromatherapy. Otherwise the herbs will offer a gentle, pleasant aroma that helps you drift off to sleep.
You’ve probably heard that scent is deeply connected to memory and emotion. This is because the part of the brain that processes smells, the limbic system, is the same part that processes memory and emotion. There are certain aromas that can’t help but remind us of a certain time or feeling that we associate with that particular fragrance. This can work to our advantage at bedtime, because we can use scent to influence our dreams and gently push our brains towards pleasant subject matter, away from anxiety and stress.
The combination of herbs I used for this dream pillow is meant to promote relaxation and help you sleep deeply, but you can certainly customize your dream pillow with different dried herbs and flowers according to what kind of aromatherapy you’re looking for.
If you use a dream pillow consistently, it can help you sleep in unfamiliar places (if you’re travelling, for example). The scent will remind you of your own bed and lull you to sleep faster, wherever you are.
Herbal Ingredients in Dream Pillows
Freshly dried herbs from the garden contain a lot of fragrance. Take the steps to harvest them at the right time in the garden and dry them properly. Their potency and aroma fades over time so the most fragrant dream pillows come from the freshest dried herbs.
There are many herbs that are useful for helping you fall asleep. The basis for this recipe is hops. Hops is very good at helping you relax and have a restful sleep. I’ve also mixed in dried chamomile, lavender, roses, and a variety of mints all from my garden. I know that these are all organic, fresh, and dried properly so they have the perfect amount of aromatherapy for me at night.
How to Make a Dream Pillow
I’ll admit that I’m not an experienced sewer. I have found that even though I’m very creative and love fabrics, I would much rather be sowing than sewing. But I do have a lovely sewing machine and I can do a few basic things on it. If you’re experienced with sewing, I’m sure you can take this simple tutorial for how to make dream pillows and turn it into something absolutely stunning. If you’re a beginner and are more interested in herbs than sewing, then these instructions are going to work out just perfectly for you too.
Making a dream pillow is as simple as cutting two equal sized pieces of fabric, and either with a sewing machine or by hand, sewing them into a pillow filled with dried herbs. You can really make this any size you want, but my favorite size is a thin, long pillow that can slip right along the side at the end of my pillowcase. I’ll provide the dimensions for that, but please know that you can make smaller square pillows, round pillows, heart-shaped pillows, whatever you fancy.
- Two pieces of fabric measuring 12 inches long by 4 and 1/2 inches wide
- Four parts dried hop heads, leaves and stems removed
- One part dried chamomile flowers
- One part dried lavender buds
- One part dried rose petals
- One part mixed dried mint leaves
- Sewing machine or needle and thread
- Cut the fabric pieces to size and place one on top of the other with the right sides together.
- Sew the two long sides together to create a tube.
- Turn the tube inside out (so the right sides of the fabric are on the outside now) and fold an inch of the open ends inside the tube. Iron the folded ends flat.
- Using a sewing machine or by hand with a needle and thread, stitch one of the ends closed (it doesn’t matter which one).
- I used a decorative leaf stitch that was programmed on my sewing machine. If I’m being honest, these decorative stitches are pretty much the only reason I want to come in from the garden and use my sewing machine. They are adorable!
- Now, fill up the pillow starting with the dried hop heads. Using the whole heads intact will create a lot of space that you can fill in with some other herbs. Add a scoop of the other dried herbs and mix it around a little bit. Shuffle the herbs down to the closed end so that you will have a little bit of space to sew the open end shut.
7. Pin the pillow closed a little way down from the open end in order to keep the herbs in place and then use your sewing machine to do a matching decorative stitch to close the open end or hand sew a simple stitch to close the end.
If you have even less experience and sewing then me, then get yourself some seam tape and instead of sewing it closed, you can iron it closed! The seam tape acts as a glue when heated with the iron and so this becomes an easy no-sew project. Even easier, you can pop the herbs into a drawstring muslin bag and simply tie the bag shut. I do that with my lavender dryer bags and it works great.
That’s it, you’re done! I hope this project helps you find your way to a restful slumber. For more on how to develop healthy sleeping habits, read this post and try my essential oil roll-on remedy for insomnia.