Sleep and the Soil

Several years ago, plagued by around five dismal years of insomnia and anxiety, I finally learnt to meditate. I really hadn’t wanted to go down this route due to a multitude of preconceived ideas about what it was. These prejudices, however, evaporated when, within a few months I was sleeping again, and didn’t appear to have turned into a kaftan-wearing, joss-stick-burning, religious hippie.

But recently it all started again; three or four hours’ sleep a night, only this time, I appeared to be ‘getting away with it’. I was barely tired at any point during the day, sometimes walking around 10 miles and still feeling bouncy. Meditation didn’t ‘work’ at least not to get me back to sleep, but the years of learning to be aware of all the activity in my mind was a gift, enabling me to get rest if not sleep. Shortly before Christmas, I stopped getting away with it when the flu virus easily passed my immune defences and thus Christmas ended up being pretty much cancelled. The poor sleep pattern persisted, and was accompanied by a crazily fluttering heartbeat. I was getting a little worried by now and as Christmas Eve gave way to Christmas Day and I was wide awake, I decided that all I could usefully do would be to meditate and ask for what I needed to know. Maybe I’m deluded, but I was glad at this point to have a belief that if information exists, then there’s no reason it can’t become available to me. Later on Christmas Day evening, as we were catching up on Countryfile … such a good weather forecast, Graham suddenly and without warning said ‘melatonin’. Ellie in the holly garden was put on hold and we started to do some research. Within moments we had the answer. Melatonin requires magnesium and I had no doubt that magnesium was at very least a big part of the answer. We found a Dr Axe video in which the presenter strongly recommended magnesium oil for insomnia, and not the one or two sprays I’d used on odd occasions, but a full 15 blasts before bedtime. That night I slept for 6 hours and the next night was better still. 2018 started with an 8 hour sleep; almost unheard of for me!

So it seems magnesium was the answer but the mystery was why I might be deficient. Graham appears not to be (he’s like an expert when it comes to sleep). I know which foods are supposedly high in magnesium and I eat lots of them frequently. We know too about anti-nutrients such as phytic acid that make some minerals less available in, for example, raw nuts so we know to soak them. We sprout beans and seeds, and we make fermented foods and drinks, all of which make the nutritional profile of many foods much more accessible. There was one thing however, I didn’t know, and that is the extent of magnesium deficiency in industrialised countries. Conservative estimates put the figure at around 70% whilst others suspect it may be closer to 100%. Magnesium, it seems has suffered the same fate as other nutrients which used to be abundant in the soil (for some reason I knew this about selenium, but not magnesium). Seemingly, there’s up to 80% less magnesium in the soil now compared with 1950s values. The culprit is intensive farming and this mineral hasn’t been added back in which is quite a statement about the understanding, or lack of it, that we have about agriculture and public health. As someone who doesn’t eat dairy, I’m frequently subjected to opinions about the overwhelming importance of calcium, and it is indeed important but whatever its source in one’s diet (dairy is just one of many), the body can’t make good use of it without adequate levels of magnesium, so how about we address this with the same evangelistic enthusiasm?

It’s been fascinating learning more about this mineral; I feel I’ve taken it for granted, always being more focussed on calcium (of course) and iron. I’ve definitely been taken by surprise and still can’t know for sure if this is a soil-related deficiency, or a poor absorption issue, but with such low levels in our soil, I suspect the former especially as I have no obvious indications of other deficiencies. It’s also been instructive to me to supplement via the skin. It’s more direct and doesn’t need to pass via the digestive system. The effects are swift and it seems that this way is a means to avoiding any overdosing as it’s self-regulating. Aren’t we amazing? Judging by my research so far, correcting the deficiency may take anything between 6 weeks and one year! For the time being, I’m grateful to be sleeping better and rectifying this deficit which, left unchecked, or masked by sleeping pills could have serious consequences. Magnificent magnesium!

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