Ahhhh, sleep. Maybe I’m beginning to show my age or perhaps it’s because the brutal sleep deprivation of early parenthood is still pretty fresh in my memory but these days I value my sleep more than ever. The luxury of an 8 hour stretch of uninterrupted sleep is something I’m grateful for whenever I can get it.
As a parent of two young children I’m pretty used to having my sleep interrupted by a teething toddler or a 5 year old who’s had a bad dream but what drives me crazy are those nights when the kids are sleeping peacefully but for no particular reason I’M WIDE AWAKE!
And it seems like I’m not alone. A recent study by Aviva found that a massive 37% of adults felt they were not getting enough sleep which puts us an unhealthy top of the table out of the 13 countries listed in the research.
Luckily however, there’s a lot we can do to improve the quality of our sleep so over the next few weeks I’ll be publishing a series of articles with plenty of ideas about how you can enjoy a better night’s sleep.
For me, one of the quickest and most effective ways to deal with insomnia is to use essential oils. Many people find that stress, worry and anxiety are what keeps them awake at night so it will come as no surprise to hear that aromatherapists often suggest oils with relaxing, calming properties to help with sleep. In this article I’ll introduce you some of these oils and give you easy, practical ways that you can use them.
It's worth noting that it can take a bit of trial and error to find the best oil or blend for you so it may be worth trying out a few different oils to see how they work. I also believe in alternating oils from time to time. You could try using an oil individually or blending two or three together.
Here are a few of my favourite essential oils to use for insomnia:
Just about everyone has heard of lavender and its calming and soothing actions. This oil can be really effective for helping you to relax before getting ready to sleep.
There are many different kinds of lavender essential oil but you need to make sure you use True Lavender (known as Lavandula Officinalis or Lavandula Angustifolia) as some other forms of lavender are not quite so relaxing!
One more note – do not overdo it with lavender oil as it can actually have more of a stimulant effect in large amounts.
This is one of my favourite oils as it’s so versatile. It’s particularly well known for its relaxation properties so can be very useful for insomnia. German chamomile has very similar properties and is therefore also very effective but it is a dark blue colour so beware of colour staining on clothing or bed sheets!
Neroli is an exquisitely scented floral oil made from sweet orange blossom. Due to the manufacturing process it is not a cheap oil to buy but I find a little goes a long way. It’s a very useful oil for helping with stress, nervous tension and anxiety so if you’re being kept awake at night by constant worries or if you find yourself in emotional turmoil this oil could well be worth a try.
This oil has a very strong, earthy fragrance which isn’t to everyone’s liking but it’s my personal favourite for helping with insomnia. It has deeply relaxing properties and is a very grounding oil. I find it really effective for those nights when I just can’t seem to switch my thoughts off.
If you’re put off by the strong scent you could try blending it with a more floral oil such as lavender.
Valerian has a long history of being used for its calming and grounding properties. This is one of the more expensive essential oils but it is particularly noted for its use in helping with insomnia.
This oil can have a very strong sedative effect in some people so it’s a good idea to use with caution.
So once you've decided on your oil or blend you can think about how to use it.
For a relaxing treat I love an aromatherapy bath. Just mix 7 or 8 drops of your oil with a couple of tablespoons of whole milk, add to your bath water and enjoy!
You could also try blending your own massage oil then apply to your pulse points or use for a relaxing foot massage just before bed. For 15ml of base oil you'll need to add 6 drops of essential oil to make a 2% blend, which I usually find is enough.
Or if you want a quick and easy option just put a few drops of essential oil onto a tissue and keep it by your pillow - just make sure the undiluted essential oil doesn't come into contact with your skin.
Note: As with all use of essential oils, there are some safety precautions to consider. Essential oils are extremely strong and should NEVER be applied neat to the skin or taken internally unless advised by a fully qualified aromatherapist or health professional. If you have sensitive skin it's a good idea to perform a patch test with your chosen oils, making sure they're properly diluted in a base oil. If there's no reaction after 24 hours then you can safely use the oils.
If you are pregnant or have underlying health issues it's always a good idea to seek the advice of a qualified aromatherapist to find out which oils are suitable or even speak to a health professional for advice. Extra precautions should be used when treating the elderly or the very young. Once again, it's best to get advice on the most suitable oils to choose.
I am the founder and owner of Calme Therapies, based in High Wycombe, Bucks. I am a qualified aromatherapist, massage therapist and relaxation therapist and I specialise in working with clients suffering from stress and tension.
If you would like to find out more, make an enquiry or book a treatment please contact me.