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To Sleep, Perchance to Dream
To Make One Sleep

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To Make One Sleep

Judging from the large number of surviving manuscript recipes (or “receipts”) for insomnia, sleep disorders were as great a problem in early modern England as they are today. The ingredients in these recipes range from the unsurprising (poppies) to the somewhat puzzling (lettuce). However, the effectiveness of some ingredients lies in the perceived connection between physiology and the properties of the substance itself: lettuce, like sleep, was thought of as cold and wet, which is why it was believed to provoke sleep in the sleepless.

Anne (Granville) Dewes. Cookery and medicinal recipes. Manuscript, ca. 1640-1750

Mary Granville and her daughter Anne (Granville) Dewes include a recipe against insomnia in their receipt book--"To make one sleepe." The afflicted person is advised to wet two linen cloths with a mixture of strained ivy leaves and white wine vinegar, and then apply the cloths to the forehead and temples.


Another miscellany includes a recipe for “A Dormant Drink” designed to induce continuous sleep for two full days. For some reason, all of the ingredients’ names are written backwards (“yppop” for poppy, “ecittel” for lettice).


Mrs. Carlton's receipt book contains the three following recipes:

the first produces a “liquor” comprised of ingredients such as rose water, “Woemans milke,” and wine vinegar, to be applied to the forehead and temples. The second recipe is a drink made primarily of “White lettice seede” and sugar, to be followed by “a draft of posset ale” (milk curdled with ale). The third recipe consists of a warm drink of white poppy seed powder and posset ale made with violets, strawberry leaves, and “singfoyle” (cinquefoil).



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