I don't believe in reincarnation — coming back as another person or a cow or some such.

I tend toward the genetic memory theory*, i.e., that when a person is hypnotized and starts speaking in past languages of past lives. I theorize it may just be one of our multimillion ancestral cells that we are made up off kicking in and running its memory tape.

I can't conceive of a God who would condemn his children to do this trip down here on terra firma more than once. I prefer to think of "My Father" as a loving, benevolent parent who will let me pass back through the door into my former home, welcome me with open arms, and conduct me to a new school room for continued learning — in a place without all the roadblocks and dangers attendant with life down here.

But if I were to come back as an animal, I would choose to be a cat — at least in the summertime. Cats get to sleep more'n most animals. And they do it in the sun. I suspicion there may be a cat up my family tree somewhere because I do dearly love to find a spot of sun to curl up and snooze in.

In these long Maine winters, though, I more identify with our black bear. Now there's one smart animal. Just find a warm cave, curl up and snooze 'til the robins come back. Sounds delicious to me.

As you've deduced by now, I'm addicted to sleep. I love to sleep. It's my favorite pastime. I've got it down to a science. I've even learned how to take a, excuse the expression, cat-nap during TV commercials.

Of course, that's getting easier now. In fact there's time now to take a whole bear-type nap during a commercial break.

Anyway, in the warm, long days of summer I have little trouble getting to sleep after lots of activity. But in the slow, lazy days of winter it can be more difficult. Grampa Roy used to have a bowl of warm milk and crackers before going to bed, warm milk long being known as a sleep aid. I used to have some with him, just because anything Grampa did, or that I could do with him, I did, too. But these days I just can't warm up to warm milk.

The ingredient in warm milk that acts as a sleep aid is L-tryptophan, a natural amino acid. L-tryptophan is sold in tablet form. Tryptophan also occurs naturally in the body, and according to sleep-disorder experts, an extra dose can help a person get to sleep, though it's not as strong as sleeping pills. (There can be serious side effects if L-tryptophan is taken in more than the recommended amount.)

Grampa and Grammie were not pill-poppers — prescription or otherwise. They got their "fixes" from natural foods, not from isolated properties in pill form. I lean toward this method. I believe that that for something to be safe and of optimum benefit, it should be taken or eaten in its natural form.

After all, science has just recently found out about L-tryptophan. Who knows what other properties are in warm milk that act in concert with L-tryptophan for the best and safest results? A symbiosis of natural properties.

As to the combination of warm milk and crackers, I came across an article years ago that said the two together created an extra sleep-inducing effect. I can't remember why.

But, I still don't care much for warm milk. However, I found in my reading and perusing of books and articles on health and healthy foods, that bananas also contain L-tryptophan. I ate bananas, when I thought of it, for their potassium, an essential mineral for our health. So, thought I, why not kill two birds with one stone and eat a banana before bed?

You know, it works! At least for me. Within a half-hour after I eat my big yellow sleeping pill, I drift off without really being aware of it — until I wake up and realize it's morning.

I do take some supplemental vitamins, like beta-carotene and niacin, but I firmly believe that it's always best to get your vitamins, amino acids, minerals, whatever, in their natural form through the foods that contain them, if possible. When properties are isolated, they often have harmful side effects — I suspicion because they have been separated from natural buffers present in the parent food or substance from which the ingredient was taken.

Aspirin, for example. The Indians used aspirin for centuries, as did the ancient Romans and Hottentots of Africa, with no side effects, by steeping the leaves of the white willow tree, using it in its natural form. They worked in concert with Mother Nature. We have only recently discovered that aspirin can have death-dealing side effects in its isolated form. Thousands died from internal hemorrhaging before we learned to be more cautious.

Anxiety or dizziness and, in severe cases, possible liver damage may result from overdoses of L-tryptophan in its isolated form. But a banana is not likely to do any damage.

So I get my "sleeping pills" in the produce section — and I sleep as easy as a cat and sound as a bear.

Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award-winning columnist, a Maine native and graduate of Belfast schools, now lives in Morrill. Her columns appear in this paper every other week.