SLEEP & INSOMNIA
Copyright Aroma Queen 2018
Periodically through the year I find myself getting into a routine of staying up til the silly hours of the morning to watch a sport I don't necessarily understand - cycling, tennis, Olympics ... and don't get me started on Eurovision. Of course after getting myself into a new routine, it's often difficult to re-adjust to more appropriate hours. This is definitely a situation where aromatherapy can be an excellent tool.
There are many essential oils that can be incredibly useful for bringing on sleep and calm, and they can be used as easily as popping a few drops on a tissue on your pillow or tucked into the collar of your pjs, where the warmth of your body will help dissipate the scent and you'll gently breathe them in as you prepare for sleep - of course check that the oil/s you're using aren't too dark or the tissue too wet or you might end up staining your bedding - never a good look!
One of the best methods to deal with insomnia is to treat it while you're PREPARING for sleep: setting aside the period leading up to the time you head to bed, to prepare your mind for relaxing and entering a sleepy state before your head hits the pillow. Try adding 8-10 drops of essential oils to a relaxing bath before bed, or burn a sleepy blend in a DIFFUSER in your room or lounge area before bedtime to help encourage sleep. A LAMP RING diffuser can be handy before bedtime. Or an electric diffuser can be helpful for using overnight as you don't need to worry about leaving a candle lit if you should fall asleep - they're safe to leave on all night and don't consume much power. These can be found in many pharmacies and health food stores.
While you're setting up your calming space try to avoid unnecessary stimulation. Put your phone or tablet away for the night - studies have found that staring at a bright screen before bed (or worse - IN bed) can contribute to insomnia and sleeplessness. Many electronic screens emit 'blue light', which the brain interprets as daylight. The blue light actually suppresses melatonin, and results in your brain being stimulated rather than winding down for sleep.
Instead try to create a ritual where you won't be tempted to quickly check your smartphone every few minutes, and use your oils as a signal to your body that it is time to relax.
You can also take things a step further and use an essential oil or blend in MASSAGE / CARRIER OIL for a relaxing pre-bed massage. It's hard to think of a better way to go to sleep, and if you have a partner who struggles with insomnia this is a great way to try to help them. You don't have to be an expert to give a back or foot rub - just the act of gentle touch can help your partner or child relax and let go of their stresses and worries - and adding calming or relaxing oils can double the benefit.
If you don't have anyone offering to give you a rub, you can still apply a massage blend yourself - aside from relaxing oils, you can also try oils that are pain relieving or warming to soothe sore legs or back pain, which can also help set you up for sleep. If you don't have a carrier oil suitable for use with your oils you can also use a natural cream or gel to dilute them - just avoid petrochemical creams such as sorbeline, as they act as a barrier and prevent the essential oils from being absorbed by the skin. Try making up a ready-to-use blend in a pump bottle or roll-on so it's ready to grab without any fuss, on those times you really need it.
You can also make up a portable 'Sleep' blend to take anywhere - excellent for travelling or in a strange bed, or just keep by your own bedside. It's easy to make up an INHALER STICK with your favourite sleep-promoting oils, and just take a sniff whenever you need to; or put together a ROLL-ON BOTTLE using some essential oils diluted in a carrier oil, to apply to your pulse points whenever required. Even a piece of AROMA JEWELLERY such as a loose bracelet can be worn while sleeping - obviously avoid any dangly designs or pendants that can be caught or might be hazardous while you're lying down - we do NOT recommend using necklaces or jewellery for children while sleeping.
All of these methods are great for using at home, but can also be a godsend when travelling and you don't have your burner (or bath) at the ready.
WHICH ESSENTIAL OILS DO I USE?
Some of the essential oils best known to treat insomnia include:
* Ylang Ylang
While these sedative oils can be wonderfully soothing, make sure you avoid the more stimulating oils such as Bergamot, Peppermint, Grapefruit, Ginger or Rosemary or you might accidentally wake yourself up again. Also resist the temptation to overdo it and use a lot of oils: some oils that are known to be calming in small doses can have the opposite effect when used in larger amounts.
Experiment with your own personal favourite combinations, or try using a PRE-MADE OIL BLEND to remove the element of guesswork.
For adults, try our SLEEP or SLUMBER blends depending on which one appeals to your tastes, or take a look at our SLEEPY TIME blend in our Oils 4 Kids range for children, which features oils that are safer to use around children - adults can use this blend as well. (These three blends are also available as a pre-scented INHALER STICK.) Pre-made Oil blends can be used in a bath, diffuser, inhaler, diluted in a carrier / massage oil for application to the skin in a massage or roll-on bottle - any method you'd usually use with your pure essential oils. Just remember, if using aromatherapy around children use less oil than you would with an adult. See our OILS 4 KIDS page for more information.
HOW MUCH ESSENTIAL OIL DO I USE?
As a general rule, here's an idea of how much TOTAL essential oil to use for ADULTS, for some of the methods we've discussed. Visit our OILS 4 KIDS page for more information on using aromatherapy with children.
* TISSUE: 3-4 drops on a tissue by your pillow - avoid dark oils and don't use too much or it may stain
* DIFFUSER: 8-10 drops total in a vaporiser or diffuser - don't use candle powered diffusers while sleeping
* BATH: 8-10 drops in a warm bath - splash around befire entering the bath
* INHALER: Up to 12 drops in a blank plastic or aluminium inhaler stick
* JEWELLERY: a few drops on a piece of aromatherapy jewellery such as a bracelet - ensure there are no choking hazards etc
* ON THE SKIN: For application to skin (eg a massage oil or a roll-on bottle), dilute your essential oils in a carrier oil or massage oil such as jojoba or grapeseed, at a ratio of no more than 3% for the body, or 1% when used anywhere near the face. 20 drops essential oil = approx 1ml. So in a 5ml teaspoon of carrier oil you might add around 3 drops of essential oil; in a 15ml tablespoon or roll-on bottle use around 9 drops.
All essential oils must be diluted before application to skin, must NEVER be administered internally, and must always be kept out of the reach of children. Never allow children to suck on a tissue or pad that has essential oils on them as many oils are toxic. Some oils must be avoided when pregnant (see individual listings). Read our INTRO & SAFETY blog for full information on this topic.
If you've found this article useful, visit our Aroma Queen LEARN MORE page for a range of additional articles, as well as a list of recommended reading on Aromatherapy and other natural therapies.