Can Aromatherapy Help You Sleep?
If you struggle with tossing and turning every night when you should be sound asleep, you have probably tried a number of remedies to help you drift off. For those that suffer from insomnia or other sleep problems, it can be a frustrating path trying to identify the underlying cause or even just find temporary relief.
Essential oils and your sleep
One option that you may not have tried is essential oils.
Essential oils are extracted from leaves, flowers, and other parts of plants and carry their unique scent. Aromatherapy has been used for thousands of years, utilizing essential oils to soothe and reduce symptoms for a number of conditions.
Many individuals that suffer from sleep problems have responded well to aromatherapy treatment.
While researchers are still unsure exactly why aromatherapy seems to alleviate sleep problems, a common theory is that when people absorb the essential oils through their skin, that the oils may activate certain chemicals in our brains that are responsible for controlling sleep.
Many people claim that using essential oils helps them relax and fall asleep quicker.
If you are interested in using essential oils to improve your quality of sleep, here are 4 scents that are recommended to help you get some more zzzz’s.
Is an extremely popular essential oil for a number of ailments, and one of the most frequently used choices for sleep aid. Lavandula angustifolia (lavender) has been shown in studies to improve the quality of sleep in just a few weeks.
In one particular study in 2015, 159 postpartum women were instructed to mix 10% of pure lavender oil with a carrier oil (in this study it was combined with sesame oil) and place four drops onto a cotton ball.
The cotton ball was then placed into a long cylindrical container and the participants took ten deep breaths from the container and then placed it on the pillow while they slept. The group using the lavender oil reported noticeably improved sleep quality compared to the group using a placebo oil.
Another recent study revealed that patients in an intensive care unit suffering from heart disease were administered 2% lavender oil for inhalation and experienced reduced anxiety and better sleep quality.
Has a grounding, earthy scent and is touted to relieve stress and anxiety by encouraging serotonin production and elevating mood.
A natural sedative, cedarwood is often recommended for helping with sleep problems. An interesting study was performed on 178 women that measured their pupil diameter after inhaling cedarwood.
The diameter measurement is used to reflect nervous system activity, and the subjects displayed an increased miosis rate, indicating the sedative effect of the oil.
Another study involving cedarwood, placed drops of the oil along with several other scents to create a specialized blend to place on participant’s pillows at night. The subjects slept longer than those that did not have the essential oil drops and they did not wake as early in the morning.
A fruity aroma derived from a Southeast Asian tropical tree, ylang-ylang essential oil produces a calming effect. It has been shown to slow the heart rate and reduce blood pressure as well as help the symptoms of depression or insomnia.
Combined with lavender and bergamot, the ylang-ylang concoction has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety in study patients.
As far as essential oils for sleep go, bergamot is one of the most recommended.
In 2016, a study was published that examined the use of an essential oil blend containing bergamot and sandalwood via a personal aromatherapy device to improve sleep quality.
65 participants were provided the device and oil blend and of those, 92% reported that they would continue to use it after the study ended as they noticed an improvement in their sleep quality.
Using Essential Oils for Sleep
There are a number of ways that you can use essential oils to help you sleep. Placing a couple of drops of a cotton ball, taking a few deep breaths, and placing it near your pillow is very effective. Other people prefer massaging onto their neck and shoulders to help them unwind.
Another common sleep remedy is having a warm bath before bed with a few drops of essential oils. Even better is using a hot tub with essential oils to help prepare your body for rest, relax your mind, and help you quickly drift to sleep.
In fact, a 15-minute soak about an hour before bedtime helps your blood pressure and heart rate decrease, achieving a resting state quicker and promoting your body temperature to drop, enabling a better night’s sleep.
Essential oils and hot tubs are a wonderful combination. In recent years, many quality hot tub manufacturers have incorporated aromatherapy into their spa features and have designed essential oil products that are safe to use in a hot tub.
Merging a relaxing soak with essential oil is known to help improve sleep can be the perfect remedy for many that have struggled with sleep issues.
Which Oils to Avoid?
Just as some essential oils help promote sleep, some are known to increase alertness, which should be avoided before bedtime. If you suffer from sleep problems, it is best to not use these four oils:
- Sandalwood: Elevated pulse and blood pressure
- Vetiver: Known to reduce slow-wave sleep time and increase the total waking time
- Sage: Increases alertness and cognitive function
- Petitgrain: Increases alertness and attentiveness
Do Essential Oils Have Side Effects?
It is important to do a small skin patch test before starting a new regimen with essential oils.
Some people may have sensitive skin which may react. It is also important to note that essential oils should always be blended with a carrier oil before applying to your skin and they should never be used in excessive amounts.
As oils are unregulated, be very careful before you ingest any unless you are sure that they are properly graded to take internally and that you have discussed with a healthcare professional first.
If you are sick of counting sheep in the middle of the night, try some of these suggested essentials oils and incorporate them into your nightly regimes such as taking a bath or hot tub soak to experience a better quality of sleep.