"To sleep, perchance to dream." In one of his most famous stage plays, Hamlet, taken from one of his most famous soliloquys, William Shakespeare waxed lyrical about what blissful escape lay in the act of sleep.
Hamlet was a melancholy fellow and incurable romantic, who imagined an endless sleep to solve all his problems. Yet the relationship between dreams and sleep is a perennial theme in art, not just theatre but popular music ("All I have to do is dream"... "Sweet dreams are made of this…"), and literature (Christopher Paolini's novel To Sleep In A Sea Of Stars suggests that sleep is an illuminating gateway to a higher state).
In this context, "To sleep, perchance to get a good night's rest and feel rested and energised when you awake" is less poetic. But it's more essential to our well-being to have a healthy sleep regiment than one might be conscious of; we need to clean out the toxins that have accumulated in our brains, in order to reset ourselves for the next day ahead. Given we spend a lot of our time asleep (in theory, up to one third), it's an essential tool for physical and mental health, In a world that spins ever faster, currently accelerated by a pandemic that threatens our health, equilibrium and capacity for relaxation and creativity, more than ever we need to ensure we can sleep.
But for a variety of reasons, such as anxiety, depression, physical ailments or your internal body clock (known as your circadian rhythm, not everyone can sleep easy. Insomnia can sap not only your energy level and mood but also your health, work performance and quality of life. What are the solutions? For a decade, Jónsi, the lead singer and guitarist of the Icelandic band Sigur Rós (whose style of music, ironically, is often referred to as "dream-pop") has sought a remedy for his insomnia.
Meditation; a hot bath; yoga; melatonin; counting sheep – there are different disciplines to achieving sound and regular sleep. In Jónsi's case, he co-founded Liminal Sleep; a series of "soundbath" live events and a playlist (accessed via Bandcamp and You Tube) of undulating ambient soundtracks. "We like the fact that sleep remains defiantly mysterious; something we all do – all need to do – but can't ever get fully inside," explained the creators. "This playlist is a modest attempt to mirror the journey of a sleep cycle, with its curves, steady states and natural transitions."
But Jónsi's quest actually begun a decade ago, when he discovered CBD, or cannabidiol, the chemical compound of the hemp plant (cannabis sativa) that won't get you high but is proven to have healing properties, from reducing stress, pain, inflammation and slowing the growth of cancer cells to the ability to assist sleep.
After years of cultish interest from the public, and wariness too – anything associated with cannabis has always split opinion – CBD has exploded into the mainstream consciousness, in the form of tinctures, gummies, beauty products and even cannabidiol-infused water. Jónsi got on board early on, but he was able to fully pursue his interest in essential oils and aroma-chemicals – in the process, he's become a bit of a connoisseur of perfume, with Jónsi's signature scents on sale in Iceland's capital Reykjavík. But times have changed, and in June 2020, he became one of the partners in Vona, a new collective of artists, researchers, farmers, formulators and experts in the field of CBD. If THC is the ‘sleep, perchance to dream' component of hemp/cannabis, CBD is the ‘get a good night's rest' element; ultimately more rewarding.
In June, Vona launched its first tinctures, SLEEP and WAKE, signature CBD lines by Sigur Ros. SLEEP is formulated using premium ingredients selected to support your mind and body as you drift off into the ethereal, with a flavour profile of spiced rose and lemon.
The flavours are created via terpenes, the molecules that affect scent and taste, from concentrated herbal extracts made by soaking fresh bark, berries, roots, herbs, leaves and/or plants in alcohol or vinegar. The alcohol or vinegar pulls out the active ingredients in the plant parts, concentrating them as a liquid. Hemp has the fascinating ability to produce a range of flavours similar to other foods such as citrus, berries, hops, herbs and spices (lavender, lilac, pine and eucalyptus too). As you add CBD to your nightly ritual, you can have the reassuring feeling of nature going about its business.
Specific terpenes are known to induce a state of calm and thus aid sleep, such as myrcene, limonene, pinene and caryophyllene (with extra benefits such as reducing stress, pain and inflammation, depending on the terpene). A combination of terpenes, or chemical compounds, has been proven to have a greater effect than the sum of its parts, known as the ‘entourage effect'. There are additional benefits too, from essential vitamins and minerals, beneficial fatty acids (such as Omega-3 and Omega-6), and plant-based protein and fibre.
It's in this department that Vona's high-grade, golden 1000mg-strength SLEEP tincture excels: made from craft organic hemp, and grown from hand-picked seed rather than bought in bulk as the majority of CBD companies do. Likewise, Vona know the provenance of the filtered water used in the extraction process and how the terpenes are sourced. Like sleep itself, the effect of CBD is rooted in science, yet there is an element of art and mystery to the process. Perchance to sleep among the stars…
Hamlet, for one, could have benefitted from Vona's SLEEP. He might have enjoyed blissful dreams AND woken up feeling rested, and more able to confront his woes.