The best essential oils for insomnia

Holistic advice for Insomnia!

According to the NHS, "Insomnia is when you have difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep for long enough to feel refreshed the next morning, even though you've had enough opportunity to sleep". Individuals vary widely in their sleep needs and practices therefore insomnia is defined by the 'quality' of your sleep and how you 'feel' after sleeping and not by the number of hours you sleep!

Most adults have experienced insomnia or sleeplessness at one time or another in their lives. It is thought that approximately a third of the UK population have periods of insomnia – it is more common in women and more likely to occur with age, and can last for days, months or even years! 

Whether occurring occasionally or consistently, insomnia is almost always related to stress, anxiety and a general inability to relax. Other triggers for the condition can include diet, disrupted sleep environment, or an underlying physical condition or mental health problem.

Aromatherapy and insomnia

Aromatherapy and massage can be extremely helpful for insomnia, with regular, 'preventative' aromatherapy treatments encouraging us to take time out to slow down and relax. There are many essential oils that can help to promote restful sleep safely and naturally, and in an enjoyable way, without the nasty side-effects of sleeping tablets. The most useful oils are Lavender, Roman Chamomile, Neroli, Petitgrain, Sweet Orange, Sweet Marjoram, Bergamot, Frankincense, Clary Sage and Benzoin. Choose the oils that you are drawn to the most as these will be the ones that your body needs the most. It is important however to vary your choice of oils, especially if you are using them for more than a week or two at a time.

My holistic 'aromatic' action plan in relation to a healthy sleep pattern includes the following:-

  • Have a selection of relaxing essential oils for use at home. The above list is not exhaustive and there are other oils that you might like to experiment with.
  • Try to have a fixed time for going to bed and getting up, make sure the bedroom is comfortable i.e. not too hot or cold and try to minimise any noise or light.
  • A soothing aromatic bath before bed is particularly beneficial to help you relax and unwind. One of my favourite combinations is 15 ml SLS Free Bath & Shower Gel with 4 drops Lavender essential oil, 4 Bergamot, 2 Neroli and 2 Roman Chamomile. Remember to add the oils after you've run the bath, so they don't evaporate before you get in, and make sure the water isn't too hot, as this can be far too stimulating.
  • If you don't want to buy individual oils we highly recommend our ready to use Sweet Dreams pure essential oil with Lavender, Chamomile, Valerian, Cedarwood and Mandarin. Simply add a few drops to your bath and away you go!
  • 1 hour before bed, vaporise 5 drops of Lavender essential oil, 5 Sweet Orange and 3 Neroli in your bedroom. You can also use our Sweet Dreams pure essential oil in your diffuser or for an even easier, quicker solution try our Sweet Dreams Spritz as a calming room spray.
  • Just before bed pop 5 drops of Lavender on a tissue and place this inside your pillow case before retiring.
  • If you are highly stressed you could massage 5 drops of Neroli Light on your neck and chest before bed, and sweet dreams will follow!
  • Book a regular aromatherapy massage if you are stressed. This will give you much-needed time-out and will also prevent your posture holding on to muscular tension that makes it more difficult to relax when you need to.
  • Have a wind down period every evening before bed, so that your brain gets a chance to “switch off”.
  • Write a diary before you go to sleep – to help you release the day, and to encourage you to relax through a set of routines that gives your mind the right signals.
  • Keep a pad and paper by your bed, so you can write down anything that you suddenly remember in the night - this will ensure that it doesn't keep whizzing around in your head and keep you awake all night long.
  • Take regular exercise – the endorphin release helps lift your spirits and it also helps flush the stress chemicals out of your blood stream.
  • Drink plenty of water! This helps prevent toxins building up in your blood stream and encourages the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol to be released as quickly as possible.
  • Drink Valerian tea or take capsules when pressure is really high.
  • Cut out or reduce your caffeine intake when your stress levels are high! Remember some of us are simply more sensitive than others, and for some even 1 strong coffee a day can still have a detrimental affect on their sleep pattern.
  • Avoid alcohol as this impairs the transport of tryptophan to the brain (a precursor of serotonin which helps to regulate our sleep cycles) and stimulates the release of adrenaline – the "fight or flight" hormone.
  • Eat lighter evening meals and don't eat too late - drinking chamomile tea can help aid digestion and relaxation.
  • Remember that food allergies could be aggravating your inability to sleep – consider Applied Kinesiology to help identify and correct any issues.
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can be a key issue – especially for women who are experiencing hormone imbalance – low oestrogen levels can cause low serotonin levels. Look at increasing Vitamin B6, Zinc, Calcium and Magnesium (especially if prone to cramps or restless leg syndrome) and Essential Fatty Acids. Whole grains, broccoli and cauliflower are especially rich in magnesium, and taking it at dinner time as an additional supplement can also help.
  • Consider other forms of natural medicine before you resort to addictive medication (although medication can be helpful in extreme cases to help re-establish a routine). Hypnotherapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Thought Field Therapy, Reiki, and Yoga/Pilates can be helpful too!

Note: If you consistently have difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep and suspect there may be an underlying health condition then you should see your GP to discuss your problem.

Joannah Metcalfe
Consultant Aromatherapist

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