How are you sleeping these days?
Our modern fast-paced world has long had an impact on our ability to get a good night’s sleep. But it seems that the events of recent months have made it even harder for many people to sleep well.
Sleeping well is important for our health on many levels – body, mind and spirit. We need good quality sleep to boost our immune system to be able to fit off illness, as well as for our emotional and mental health. Sleep allows our body and mind to rest and repair, process the events of the day and enable us to be able to deal with day to day stresses.
When we struggle with sleep, everything gets harder. It’s harder to concentrate, harder to think straight and you are more likely to get sick. New parents will know all too well how lack of sleep can impact your ability to function! But shift workers or those with irregular working or sleep times can also suffer from the effects of sleep deprivation.
Sleep problems can manifest in different ways, including being unable to get to sleep, waking frequently during the night (with or without the ability to get back to sleep) or poor-quality sleep through the night. You may be physically tired, but unable to switch off mentally. Or mentally tired but unable to relax because you have not been sufficiently physically active during the day.
No matter what issue a client comes to me to discuss, it is notable how often sleep suffers alongside whatever other issues they may present with. So, it is also very common to find that addressing sleep issues is an important part of the treatment. After all, if you are not sleeping well, everything else is just that bit harder to deal with. Get the sleep sorted and other things can sometimes just fall into place. It is not a universal panacea – but it helps so much in many cases.
There are a number of things that you can do to improve your ability to get a good night’s sleep, and essential oils can be an important and very helpful part of that.
Here are some things that you can try -
- Establish a night-time routine. We set up great routines for sleep for babies and young children to teach them to sleep well. But as adults we often forget how helpful a routine can be.
- Set yourself a regular bedtime. The specific time is less important than having a regular time every night. Consider what time you usually need to wake up and work backwards to find a time that will enable you to get sufficient sleep. Try not to deviate from this too much – even on weekends when it can be tempting to sleep in.
- Start thinking about and getting ready for bed at least 30 minutes to an hour before you go to bed. Don’t leave it until the last minute – you need time to wind down!
- Switch off the TV and any electronic devices. Try to keep these out of the bedroom altogether if possible.
- Have a warm drink – avoid alcohol and anything with caffeine in it. Try a warm milk drink or herbal tea.
- A small snack can be helpful, but avoid heavy meals close to bedtime.
- A warm bath or shower can help you feel more relaxed. (Add some essential oils to your bath to enhance the effect – and don’t forget to mix your essential oils into a dispersant before adding them to the bath.)
- Make sure your bedroom is tidy (no distractions!) and not too warm or cold.
- Don’t watch TV in bed or browse social media. (See above re devices generally)
- Do read a book if you want to.
- Consider some self-massage – try massaging your neck and shoulders if you hold tension there. Or massage your hands and/or feet. Use a massage oil with relaxing essential oils to further enhance the effect.
- Use a diffuser or vaporiser in the room with some relaxing essential oils. You don’t need to keep the unit going all night. I often suggest turning it on for just an hour before you put out the light. Remember the essential oils will remain in the air in the room for quite some time after the unit is switched off.
- Alternatively, a little trick I use is to put a couple of drops of your chosen oil on a tissue and pop this into your pillowcase. You can also take a few deep breaths from the tissue before you tuck it away for an extra boost. I prefer this to putting essential oils directly on the pillow as it can be hard to wash out the old oil, or to switch to another oil if you want to. If you wake during the night, pull out your tissue and take a few more deep breaths to help ease you back to sleep.
Which essential oils should you use for sleep?
Some of my favourite essential oils for sleep are –
The classic oil for relaxation, Lavender is probably the most popular essential oil for sleep and the first one many people think of when it comes to sleep issues
An intensely relaxing oil, Marjoram is one of my favourites for sleep-related issues. It has a herbal aroma which is preferred by some over some of the more floral oils
With its sweet and intensely floral aroma, Ylang Ylang is calming, uplifting and ideal for those whose minds are too “busy” to sleep
With its rosy aroma, Geranium brings a sense of balance. Ideal for those
Mandarin is sweet and possibly the most relaxing of the Citrus Essential oils.
I love Bergamot for any stress-related condition. It also adds a light fresh element in blends.
Of all the Chamomiles, I like Chamomile Roman for relaxation blends for those suffering more extreme stress due to its ability to aid anxiety and to uplift the mood
Orange Sweet has a sunny sweet aroma that is perfect for relieving stress and uplifting the mood. It also adds a touch of sweetness to any blend with more deeply relaxing oils.
One of my all-time favourites is my Peace Essential Oil Blend which incorporates four of these essential oils. I created it many years ago using some of the essential oils I have long found to be the most helpful for the most people. I also find blends often work better than individual oils due to their synergistic actions.
Some other combinations that I like are –
- Lavender and Geranium
- Bergamot, Marjoram and Ylang Ylang
- Lavender and Mandarin (also the combination of oils in my Happy Kids Essential Oil Blend)
- Chamomile Roman, Marjoram and Orange Sweet
All of these essential oils can help to relax you and, used regularly, can also act as a trigger to relax as you associate the aroma with bedtime.
Always use small amounts of essential oil, especially if using more than one method (eg bath followed by a vaporiser in the bedroom) as using larger amounts can inadvertently create a more stimulating effect. Be aware of the total amount of essential oil you are being exposed to and adjust concentrations accordingly. This is especially important for children, for whom you should use only very small amounts of essential oil.
Set up your own bed-time routine using essential oils and see how your sleep improves.
And let us know your favourite sleep essential oils in the comments!