There really is no substitute for a great nights sleep! If it’s just one or two nights then you can usually get by drinking copious amounts of coffee but more than that it can start to become a problem.
The daily stresses of life, whether that be family issues, work commitments, financial problems or even health worries can all take its toll and leave us tossing and turning all night! However there are a few things that can help and one of my favourite ways to help me relax when I can’t sleep is to use essential oils!
Using essential oils for a better nights sleep is a great natural way to help the body relax and switch off. Essential oils have been used for centuries as natural remedies to enhance health and wellbeing. The use of fragrance to affect mood has long been recognised and is now well established with the practice of aromatherapy.
In fact there is an art and science to using essential oils. Many laboratories around the world are researching and carrying out clinical trials to enhance our understanding of how they work and the best way to use them!
Please note: The contents of this article and blog should not be considered medical advice.
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What are essential oils:
Essential oils are basically highly concentrated essences derived from plants. These oils contain a plants therapeutic properties that can help restore balance to the mind body and soul.
Almost all plants contain essential oils, all with a variety of different properties and unique therapeutic benefits. In some plants oil is extracted from the seeds, peel or resin and others from the leaves, bark or flowers.
A single essential oil can contain as many as 100 chemical compounds which work together to give each oil its distinct aroma. Some compounds are more dominant than others and this will determine how the oil will affect the mind or body. For example methanol is a major component of Peppermint oil at around 40%.
Each of these compounds can be broken down further into oxygenated and hydrocarbons.
Oxygenated compounds tend to be stronger scented and last longer. Examples include alcohols, esters and ketones. Alcohol has an antibacterial property and can be found in ginger and juniper oils. Esters are antiseptic and can be found in basil and clove and ketones, which are known to rejuvenate cells and can be found in rose and camphor.
Hydrocarbons on the other hand can be found in oils such as myrrh and have a wide range of properties such as being antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, however they can spoil quickly when exposed to air.
However, essential oils should be used with caution. Depending on how they are used, not all essential oils are good for you and may even be toxic! Thujone, is one of the most toxic members of the ketone family. It can be an irritant and be neuro toxic when taken internally. Although, when inhaled can stimulate the immune system and help with respiratory distress.
How do essential oils work:
Essential oils work in 2 main ways, inhalation or absorption. The quickest way is by inhaling their aroma which has a direct effect on the brain. Oils absorbed into the skin via massage or in a bath tend to have a more holistic effect.
Our sense of smell is thought to be the strongest of all senses. Humans are thought to be able to distinguish between more than 10,000 different aromas! In fact it’s thought that those who have lost their sense of smell are more prone to developing depression and anxiety.
Studies suggest that inhaling a scent has an immediate effect on the brain. The inhaled molecules reach our receptor sites, one of which is called the limbic system or also known at the ’emotional switchboard’. This area of the brain controls our heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress levels, and hormone balance thus having a direct effect on our mood and emotions.
Essential oil molecules can also be inhaled through our nostrils into the lungs which then enter the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream these tiny molecules are carried around the body via our circulation system providing healing effects along the way.
Diluted essential oils can be absorbed into the bloodstream via the skin. The amount that is absorbed depends on many things such as the oil’s temperature and skin type and condition.
When essential oils are combined with massage the therapeutic effects can be enhanced. The act of massage in itself can produce a state of deep relaxation. When you are stressed or emotional your body is usually flooded with hormones that can keep you awake, putting you in the ‘fight or flight’ state.
When you have an aromatherapy massage, you are inhaling and absorbing the healing properties of the essential oils as well as the therapeutic benefits of massage. The relaxing effect of an aromatherapy massage can help the body systems rebalance and trigger the body to release feel good endorphins that will make you feel happier and calmer thus helping you relax and ensuring a proper nights sleep!
Warning: Do not ingest essential oils, this can be extremely dangerous and this method should only be used when specially trained physicians and pharmacists prescribe and dispense them.
7 Essential oils for a better nights sleep:
Lavender is well know for its sleep inducing benefits. A versatile and popular essential oil, lavender has a calming fragrance which can also help reduce anxiety which in turn can aid restful sleep.
Best uses to aid sleep – Room sprays, candles and as a bath soak.
Safe usage – Non-toxic and non-irritant.
Most people think of vanilla as a baking ingredient but as an essential oil it’s also a great stress reliever. Its sweet aroma can help dispel feelings of negativity and anxiety as well its uplifting properties are thought to give an aphrodisiac effect.
With its strong scent only a small amount is needed.
Best uses to aid sleep – Use in a diffuser or candle.
Safe usage – Non-toxic and non-irritant.
Camomile doesn’t just make a great herbal tea, its also a very popular essential oil. It’s usually makes an effective skin treatment but its soothing properties can also help calm irritability, nervousness and tension headaches helping to promote relaxation and restful sleep.
Best uses to aid sleep – As a bath oil or massage oil.
Safe usage – Non-toxic and non-irritant when diluted.
Rose has been a popular essential oil since antiquity and is well known for its calming, uplifting aroma. It’s mild detoxicating and antiseptic properties can also relive pain and nausea. Rose is not usually the first essential oil to think of to aid sleep, however its calming effects can take the edge of stress related conditions thus helping the body relax before sleep.
Best uses to aid sleep – As a massage oil
Safe usage – Rose absolute is non-toxic and non-irritant. However use 1% in dilutions due to high methyl eugenol content.
Fresh and floral, jasmine’s aroma is instantly uplifting hence why it’s often used as a perfume. However its uplifting scent can also help relieve tension, stress and anxiety as well as dispel feelings of negativity which we can all agree can contribute to a bad nights sleep!
Best uses to aid sleep – As a perfume or room spray.
Safe usage – Non-toxic and non-irritant.
Similar to Jasmine, Bergamot is often using in colognes. It has a fruity aroma which acts as an antidepressant by balancing mood and easing anxiety.
Best uses to aid sleep – As a massage oil
Safe usage – Non-toxic and non-irritant in dilution. Ensure you buy bergaptene free (FCF) otherwise its phot-toxic.
With its exotic floral aroma yang ylang is both uplifting and relaxing at the same time. This means increased feelings of wellbeing as well as having calming properties that can help lower blood pressure and decrease breathing rates thus reducing feelings of anxiety. Its sedating properties alongside its calming effects can also help with depression and tension.
Best uses to aid sleep – As a massage or bath oil.
Safe usage – Non-toxic and non-irritant. It has a very strong odour so use well diluted.
How to use essential oils for a better nights sleep:
There are many ways to enjoy essential oils especially if using to help you sleep better. Some of the most beneficial methods include having a long hot soak in a luxurious aromatherapy bath or an oil-infused massage.
Some of the best ways you can use essential oils for a better nights sleep include:
- Adding essential oil to a bath – Blend essential oils with a carrier oil before adding to the bath. This helps the oils dispense in the water and also moisturises the skin. I usually add 5-10 drops of essential oil with a tablespoon of coconut oil. You can also add a few drops of oil to a tablespoon of full fat milk, this helps the oil disperse evenly but without the moisturising effects. Add the oil to the bath once run to reduce the chance of the vapours evaporating in the heat.
- Steam shower – Add 5-8 drops of essential oil to a warm damp flannel and if possible hang the flannel at face level to fully enjoy the aroma. Do not use this flannel to wash skin as the oil could irritate the skin.
- Steam inhalation – Add 2-3 drops of essential oil to a bowl of hot water and place a towel over your head. With your eyes closed slowly breath deeply for around 10 minutes or until there is no more steam. Caution, do not use this method if you suffer from asthma or epilepsy.
- Use in a diffuser – First add some water to the hotplate and add then a couple of drops of essential oil. For electric diffusers use according with the manufacturers instructions.
- Make your own mist spray – Add 20-30 drops of essential oil to 2 tablespoons each of mineral water and vodka and transfer into a sterilised atomiser bottle. Use this mist spray in the bedroom to crate a calming athmosphere.
- Scented candles – There are thousands of varieties of essential oil infused candles on the market, but why not try making your own? My Lavender infused wax melts and sachets are perfect for encouraging a great nights sleep. The process of making them can also be very therapeutic.
- Have a massage – Having an essential oil infused massage is probably one of the best ways of relaxing before heading off to bed. Mix an aromatherapy blend with the following ratio’s. For sensitive or damaged skin use 2.5% essential oil with a light carrier oil such as almond, grapeseed or coconut oil. Use 5% on normal skin. If you don’t have anyone to give you a massage why not try using a 1% blend and give yourself a facial massage, just be careful around the eyes.
Safety Information when using essential oils:
- Essential oils in undiluted form are highly concentrated and intense, and can irritate your skin. DO NOT APPLY undiluted essential oil to your skin.
- Some people experience an allergic reaction to essential oils. Testing is recommended before using any new oil. You can do that by applying a few drops of diluted oil to the skin on your inner arm, covering it with a bandage, and checking for skin irritation over the next 48 hours.
- If you are unsure of what you are doing then please buy already diluted oils from your local health shop.
- Also, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider before using essential oils.
- Again: Do not ingest essential oils, this can be extremely dangerous and this method should only be used when specially trained physicians and pharmacists prescribe and dispense them.
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I love using essential oils especially when feeling a little stressed and needing a little help nodding off to sleep.
However you really do need to be careful when using essential oils as they can be very potent. Always make sure you dilute any essential oil with a carrier oil before using on the skin and make sure not to ingest. Always check in with a doctor if sleep problems persist and speak to a qualified aromatherapist if you have any questions or concerns when using aromatherapy.
Thanks for reading,