Get a better night’s sleep using essential oils
More sleep, more sleep, please more sleep. As a Mum of two young children I constantly feel that I am trying to pay back a never-ending sleep debt and I’m sure that today in our fast-paced society I am not alone.
But as we are forced to stay in our homes, reflect, replenish and recharge, is there more you could be doing to get more sleep, or improve the quality of your sleep?
THE IMPORTANCE OF SLEEP
Sleep gives your body the opportunity to heal, rest and restore, on so many levels. One of the biggest ways to help improve the levels of our health and wellbeing is to honour the importance of your sleep, in a time where we are all trying to boost our immune systems, sleep is the one single thing everyone can work on to raise their immune resistance, and ability to maintain emotional, mental and physical health.
If you’ve ever thought that sleep doesn’t really matter all that much, think again, because it matters a great deal. A lack of good quality sleep should never be underestimated, as better sleep will most certainly result in a better you, and according to many studies leads to living a healthier and longer life! Research by the authors of the paper The Risks of Sleeping “Too Much”, surveyed 24,671 adults found that sleeping too little increases your chances of having an accident, and can have a negative impact on your cardiovascular and immune system.
Sleep can reduce stress, if your body doesn’t get enough sleep, it can react by producing an elevated level of stress hormones, sleep can keep you in a better mood and increase your ability to stay calm, controlled and reasonable amongst today’s faster paced lifestyles.
Sleep is required for memory, focus and concentration, allowing you to be more effective and productive. When you sleep well, your body is resting but your brain is busy organising and storing memories so getting more quality sleep will help you remember and process things better. I am fully aware that every day my young children are making neurological connections, their brains and minds are fast developing so without adequate sleep this process will be hampered.
Sleep can also assist in helping maintain a healthy weight by regulation of the hormones that affect our appetite. It can also lower your blood pressure as it encourages a constant state of relaxation that can generally keep it under control and reduce levels of stress and inflammation to your cardiovascular system.
Most importantly, as mentioned, sleep can boost your immune system and helps your body to fight back when under attack. When you’re asleep, your body is producing extra protein molecules that can strengthen your ability to fight infection, that’s why when you’re feeling a bit run down, if you don’t want it to turn into a full-blown illness, we are told to go to bed early and get lots of rest.
These are just a few, but there are many more reasons why sleep is so important for us. For me the biggest reason is my sanity. I find my life, trying to balance a career and small children, so much more overwhelming when I don’t get enough sleep. Then of course the physical growth, brain development and emotional health of my little ones keeps me striving for more and better quality ZZZ’s for all of us.
ESSENTIAL OILS FOR BETTER SLEEP
Now, not all of us need help in this department, you maybe that person on the tube who falls asleep and dribbles on strangers shoulders. However, if you struggle to switch off, have a racing mind the minute you get into bed, or maybe you wake up during the night unable to get back to sleep, you may need some extra help to get to sleep. If any of these do resemble your sleep habits, ensuring you remember self-care tools to improve your sleep is crucial.
As an advocate of natural remedies and with a holistic approach to health I look at sleep in the same way. There are so many alternative remedies available that can aid sleep, but my favourite tool is pure essential oils. Essential oils have been used for thousands of years for their calming and soothing properties that can help relax the body and mind.
SO, WHAT ARE ESSENTIAL OILS AND WHY AND HOW CAN THEY HELP YOU SLEEP?
Essential oils are natural compounds, chemicals taken from tree bark, seeds, leaves, tree resin, flowers, and citrus fruit rind. Essential oils are there to protect the plant, enabling them to survive, thrive and reproduce so when we use them, they embody the regenerating, protective and immune-strengthening, nurturing properties of plants. They can help to protect and boost our body’s own ability to heal itself, and act as a powerful tool to support our emotional and mental health by assisting in relieving stress, anxiety or imbalance in the body or mind.
Essential oils are made up of tiny molecules and each oil has a unique chemical composition depending on the part or type of plant. Some chemical constituents can support various bodily functions or target specific ailments and promote different benefits. E.g. Cleansing, soothing, calming, invigorating, energising or uplifting. Alcohols, Ketones and Esters are the chemical components found in certain essential oils known best for aiding sleep.
HOW DO THESE CHEMICAL COMPONENTS MAKE ESSENTIAL OILS USEFUL FOR SLEEP?
Now that I’ve bored you with the science bit, if you’re still awake, you might still be wondering, “How will these chemical properties help me sleep?”
When an essential oil contains the chemical properties discussed above and they are inhaled, they will cause the physical response, via our limbic system, the busy part of our brain responsible for regulating both our emotional lives and higher mental functions. Upon inhaling an essential oil with calming properties, the brain will process the smell, and a response and an effect will follow. In addition you then might store a positive association with that smell, this will certainly be the case when my children look back on their childhood, and the hundreds of drops of lavender they have been subjected to, that has always elicited such a positive response and supported their sleep. It was oils that really got my son, who was not a good sleeper, to finally sleep through the night at 18 months old, when they smell that smell in the future their brain should have a positive connection with that particular essential oil.
Oils are so unique, I find certain oils work for my daughter but have no effect on my son, some also have the opposite to the desired response with me when I haven’t enjoyed the smell. If you find that one essential oil doesn’t promote quality sleep like you hoped it would, I suggest trying another oil which may end up being a better fit for you.
WAYS YOU CAN INCORPORATE ESSENTIAL OILS INTO YOUR ROUTINE TO CREATE A BEDTIME RITUAL?
Inhalation: Aromatic use of essential oils is the easiest way to get the benefits, within 22 seconds the molecules will have entered our respiratory and limbic systems. Therefore before bed you can inhale an oil from your hands or diffuse next to your bed, diffusing being the most beneficial as it will continue to allow the essential oil to fill the air and you continue to get the benefits whilst you sleep. We have a diffuser in each bedroom in our house! I find it helps my body and mind to switch off, and helps me reach a deeper, dreamier sleep. The oils, for me, often create that ‘know nothing till morning, then wake up from such a deep slumber that you wonder where you are type of sleep’. You can also create your own bedtime diffuser blends by mixing a few essential oils that you feel work best for you or your family, a few recipes are listed below.
Topically: Oils can be applied to pulse points, forehead, under nose and specially to soles of feet (biggest pores and reflex points live in your feet, your toes being the reflex point to your brain so can be a great way to assist overactive thinkers and racing minds). This topical application will allow you to enjoy the benefits of the oil as it enters your bloodstream and assists to keep you in a peaceful state of rest. Part of my preparing my children for bed is to use oils, diluted with a carrier oil in a roller ball and apply to my children’s feet before bed, they find it highly ticklish and it has become like brushing their teeth, totally ingrained in their bedtime routine.
Bath time: If you want a relaxing essential oil experience for the entire body, adding essential oils and epsom salts to a warm bath can help calm and comfort the body and mind before bed (I do this when the kids seem hyperactive and over-excited).
Pillows and bedding: Another simple way to enjoy the benefits of essential oils and promote quality sleep is by applying oils to your pillows and bedding. I have extended this to a ‘monster spray’ recently combining a few drops of an essential oil and a few ounces of distilled water in a spray bottle to spritz over my children’s bedding to assist in nighttime anxiety and reduce night terrors (recipe shown in blends below).
Bedtime Meditation: With our ever-racing minds, and our daily need for mindfulness being so prevalent, practising it before bed can really help you unwind to allow for deeper rest. We can incorporate essential oils to assist with this process by:
– Inhaling a few drops from your hands before you get into bed, next take a moment to notice and feel the different parts of your body starting from your feet, working up to your head.
– Be present in your body and breathe, full belly in and full belly out for at least 2 minutes. This sends a message to your brain to move into a parasympathetic state (rest and digest).
– If you find your mind wandering, apply a relaxing essential oil to the back of your neck, your pulse points and top of your chest. Then breathe in deeply and consciously again until you are calm and sleepy!
WHICH OILS ARE BEST FOR SLEEP?
There is such a wide variety of oils and each person’s needs and rituals vary. Each oil will have a different reaction to your body and mind as for someone else. Here are the ones I regularly use:
BERGAMOT – Oil of self-acceptance. Can help promote a sense of calm and harmony when used before bedtime.
YLANG YLANG – Oil of the inner child. Helps reduce the effects of daily stress while promoting a calming environment.
LAVENDER – Oil of communication and calm. Always a winner in this house and a great starter oil to try to aid sleep, it’s gentle, effective and helps relax the mind enough to fall asleep. It’s a nightly staple in my children’s bedrooms.
VETIVER – Oil of centring. This is a tree oil that is like a SUPER DUPER knock you out natural sedative, which is great for insomniacs.
CEDARWOOD – Oil of community. Promotes a peaceful feeling that can help the mind and body unwind, good for stressful days, or for people who feel overwhelmed by life.
ROMAN CHAMOMILE – Oil of spiritual purpose. Known for its soothing, relaxing and calming benefits for the soul.
JUNIPER BERRY – Oil of the night. I have found this one great for night terrors or nightmares, those who fear the dark, or have heightened night anxiety.
SANDALWOOD – The grounding nature of Sandalwood oil makes it useful during your bedtime routine for quietening the mind.
FRANKINCENSE – The king of oils and the oil of truth. Can help induce feelings of peace, good for anxiety, letting go and assisting to reduce mental fatigue, great for the sleep-deprived, this was my go-to when I had a newborn.
Many of these also blend very well together! Here are a few recipes for essential oil diffuser blends that are perfect for bedtime that you might like to try:
Monster spray: 10 drops of Lavender, 5 drops of Juniper berry, 2 drops of Roman chamomile
Sleepy Time: 2 drops of Roman chamomile, 1 drop of Bergamot, 1 drop of Frankincense
Sleepy Snuggles: 3 drops Juniper Berry 2 drops Vetiver 2 drops Bergamot
Sleep Tight: 3 drops of cedarwood, 2 drops of Lavender
Sleeping Beauty: 2 drops Vetiver 2 drops Lavender 1 drop Frankincense
…….and other sleep hygiene basics that should not be forgotten:
- Try to avoid caffeine for 12 hours (or as many hours as you can manage) before sleep time
- Eat and exercise at a least a couple of hours before bed
- Try to have all devices turned OFF 60 minutes before sleep
- Build a routine by trying to go to bed and get up at the same time every day. The brain loves a routine. It’s been proven that your sleep is deeper when you do, and you could even end up needing less sleep because you are so well-rested.
- Read from a physical book.
- Brain dump, have a notebook by your bed, journal your thoughts and feelings from the day or plan for the next. Once it’s on paper your mind can stop worrying about it.
- Practice gratitude by taking a few moments to express gratitude for the day’s events.
- Never watch TV or work in your bedroom, and remember to air your room out to clear and clean the energy every day.
I hope this has inspired you to strive for more quality sleep on a regular basis and shows you that it isn’t just a good idea to get more sleep, it’s an essential one!
If you do need support in order to sleep, invest in some of the high-quality pure essential oils that are available on the market. Remember that quality is everything, so don’t just go for the cheapest. Check the ingredients as many of the cheaper oils may have been watered down, had toxic fillers or chemicals added, which means the benefits will be heavily diluted and you may not receive the desired outcome. Give them a go, your soul will thank you for the high vibration they bring to your life, and hopefully a more rested, revived, rejuvenated and healthier you will be the result!
Nicola Burnett is a Natural Living and Essential Oil Guru, and working Mum, inspiring and empowering people to try a more natural way of living, through the use of pure therapeutic grade essential oils. Holistic health solutions for physical, mental and emotional support. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook.