Get a better night’s sleep using essential oils
As a mum of two young children I constantly feel like I’m trying to pay back a never-ending sleep debt and I’m sure that in today’s world I’m not alone. So, what more can we do to improve our sleep quality?
Sleep is by far one of the most significant ways to raise our ability to maintain emotional, mental, and physical health.
The benefits of sleep
Memory, focus, and concentration: Sleep gives your brain time to organise and store memories so you can remember and process things better.
Cardiovascular system: Sleep helps maintain a healthy weight by regulating the hormones that affect our appetite. It can also lower your blood pressure because it encourages a constant state of relaxation which reduces levels of stress and inflammation to your cardiovascular system.
Immune system: Sleep boosts your immune system to help your body fight back when under attack. When you’re asleep, your body produces extra protein molecules which strengthens your ability to fight infection. If you’re feeling a bit run down, sleep is key to prevent a full-blown illness.
Research has shown that lack of sleep increases your chances of having an accident, and negatively affects your cardiovascular and immune system. For example, if your body doesn’t get enough sleep, it can react by producing elevated levels of stress hormones. Therefore sleep can boost your mood and increase your ability to stay calm and controlled.
Essential oils for better sleep
Not all of us need help in this department, you might be that person on the tube who falls asleep and dribbles on strangers shoulders. However, you may need some extra help to get to sleep if you struggle to switch off, have a racing mind, or are unable to get back to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night.
Ensuring you remember self-care tools to improve your sleep is crucial. There are so many alternative remedies 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 and can help relax the body and mind for a good night’s kip.
What are essential oils? Why and how can they help you sleep?
Essential oils are natural compounds. They’re chemicals taken from tree bark, seeds, leaves, tree resin, flowers, and citrus fruit rind. In nature, essential oils 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.
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, target specific ailments, and promote different benefits. Alcohols, Ketones and Esters are the chemical components found in certain essential oils that are best for aiding sleep.
How do these chemical components make essential oils useful for sleep?
If you smell an essential oil containing the chemical properties discussed above, they’ll cause a physical response, via our limbic system, which is the busy part of our brain that’s responsible for regulating our emotional lives and higher mental functions.
You might begin to store a positive association with the smell of an essential oil. This will certainly be the case for my children who’ve been subject to hundreds of lavender oil drops to support their sleep.
Oils can also be unique for different people. I find certain oils work for my daughter but have no effect on my son. If you find that an essential oil doesn’t promote quality sleep like you’d hoped, I suggest trying another oil.
Ways you can incorporate essential oils into your routine to create a bedtime ritual
Inhalation: Using essential oils aromatically is the easiest way to get the benefits. Within 22 seconds the molecules will have entered our respiratory and limbic systems. Before bed, inhale an oil from your hands or diffuse to fill the air.
I find diffusing helps my body and mind switch off, as well as achieves a deeper and dreamier sleep. You can also create your own bedtime diffuser blends by mixing the essential oils that you feel work best for you. I’ve listed a few recipes below.
Topically: Oils can be applied to pulse points such as the forehead, under nose, and soles of feet. Applying here will allow you to enjoy the benefits of the oil as it enters your bloodstream which keeps you in a peaceful state of rest.
Bath time: Add essential oils and epsom salts to a warm bath to calm and comfort the body and mind before bed.
Pillows and bedding: Apply oils to your pillows and bedding. I’ve extended this to a ‘monster spray’ by combining a few drops of essential oil and a few ounces of distilled water to spritz over my children’s bedding to assist with nighttime anxiety and reduce night terrors (see my recipe below).
How can oils be used in bedtime meditation?
Practising meditation before bed can really help you unwind for deeper rest. You can incorporate essential oils into this by:
– Inhaling a few drops of oil from your hands before you get into bed. Then, body scanning starting from your feet, working up to your head.
– Being present in your body and breathe Full belly in and full belly out for at least two minutes. This sends a message to your brain to move into a parasympathetic state (rest and digest).
– Applying a relaxing essential oil to the back of your neck, your pulse points, and the top of your chest. Then, breathing in deeply and consciously until you’re calm and sleepy.
Which oils are best for sleep?
There’s such a wide variety of oils. Each one will produce a different reaction to 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.
VETIVER – Oil of centring. This is a tree oil that is like a knock-you-out natural sedative, which is great for insomniacs.
CEDARWOOD – Oil of community. Promotes a peaceful feeling that helps the mind and body unwind. Good for stressful days or people who feel overwhelmed by life.
ROMAN CHAMOMILE – Oil of spiritual purpose. Known for its soothing, relaxing, and calming benefits.
JUNIPER BERRY – Oil of the night. I’ve found this one great for night terrors or nightmares. This is one for 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 reducing mental fatigue. Great for the sleep-deprived, this was my go-to when I had a newborn.
Essential oil recipes
Many of these also blend very well together. Here are a few recipes for essential oil diffuser blends that are perfect for bedtime:
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 shouldn’t 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 getting up at the same time every day. The brain loves a routine. It’s been proven that your sleep is deeper when you follow structure.
- Read from a physical book.
- Brain dump by having a notebook by your bed and journalling your thoughts and feelings from the day. 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 the energy every day.
If you’re keen to try essential oils invest in some of the high-quality pure essential oils. Check the ingredients as many of the cheaper oils are watered down and have toxic fillers or chemicals added, which means the benefits will be heavily diluted.
Give them a go, your soul will thank you for the high vibration they bring to your life, and hopefully you’ll see a more rested, revived, rejuvenated you as a result!
Nicola Burnett is a Natural Living and Essential Oil Guru, and working mum. She inspires and empowers people to try a more natural way of living, through the use of pure therapeutic grade essential oils