It happens to the best of us. After a hectic busy day we finally get to rest our head on our pillow. Weariness washes over us only to find out that we cannot turn our mind off. Frustration sets in as we realise that we cannot fall asleep despite the fact that we are dead tired.
You might be feeling a little jealous looking at this photo. Sleeping like a baby is sometimes really difficult for most of us.
Sleep problems are fairly common. Our quality of sleep depends on numerous factors like diet and nutrition, our stress levels, various activities that overstimulate our nervous system (playing video games before bed is never a good idea) and, of course, our sleeping environment.
There are many ways to improve on our troubled rest time. One of the best practices is to create a specific betime routine that will help you relax and get some rest during a hard day's night. Why not add some aromatherapy to your nightly ritual? Some essential oils have great relaxing and sedative properties, not to mention that most of them smell wonderfully. Here's a list with ten great suggestions for a good night's sleep.
1. Bergamot (Citrus bergamia)
This essential oil is named after the Italian city of Bergamo in Lombardy. It has been used in Italian folk medicine for ages. Its powerful aroma is refreshingly sweet and a bit spicy. A favourite of the perfume industry, bergamot is also used as a flavouring in Earl Grey tea. The relaxing and sedative properties of bergamot essential oil are due to its flavonoid content. It has the ability to soothe the nervous system, alleviate tension, anxiety and the type of stress related to insomnia.
2. Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea)
Credit:"Salvia sclarea, inflorescence, Boutiers 16" by Pancrat, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.
Historically, clary sage has been highly praised as a medicinal plant for its various benefits for vision and eye health in particular. It is native to Europe, but cultivated worldwide. clary sage essential oil has a sweet, nutty-herbaceous aroma and numerous health promoting effects. It is recommended for disorders of the nervous system like depression, migranes, nervous tension and stress related problems. Clary sage can help you calm down and get a good night's sleep. It is very helpful for people who suffer from chronic stress or anxiety.
3. Jasmine (Jasminum officinale)
This is a favourite of mine. Jasmine is a pretty flower with a wonderful aroma found in many night blossoms. The essential oil of jasmine has a warm positively floral scent with tea-like undertones. Its three key properties as an expectorant, sedative and antispasmodic make it a fantastic oil for a long and restful slumber. It is ideal for calming down the body, mind and soul, while creating positive feelings. It helps with anxiety issues, stress, anger and it protects against all sorts of inflammations that might affect our mood.
4. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Lavender is a must have for your essential oil collection. It comes from a very aromatic plant with beautiful flowers of violet blue. The oil itself has a sweet floral-herbaceous aroma with woody notes. Lavender is very useful in aromatherapy since it is extremely versatile and can be combined with most other essential oils. Its calming scent make this oil an ideal tonic for the nerves and suitable for anxiety issues. It can also assist in the treatment of migraines, headaches, depression, nervous tension and emotional stress. Lavender is often recommended as an alternative treatment to insomnia because of its relaxing impact.
5. Marjoram (Origanum marjorana)
This plant of the Mediterranean regions has been used as a folk remedy for a long time. The essential oil of sweet marjoram has a warm, woody and spicy scent. It is highly recommended for insomnia due to its relaxing and sedative effects. It eases nervous tensions and hyperactivity, lowers blood pressure and helps with negative feelings like loneliness and grief. Marjoram can promote feelings of hapiness and peace, so that you are ready for bed.
6. Roman Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis)
Chamomile and its many uses have been known in Europe for roughly 2000 years. The essential oil has a warm, sweet, fruity-herbaceous aroma. In the practice of aromatherapy, it is the perfect oil for creating inner peace. It is highly effective against annoyance, anger and irritation. Chamomile is also suitable for small children who have (more often than not) trouble sleeping. Moreover, it is useful for adults who are tense, stressed and unable to relax. It is a great way to prepare for bed. Chamomile is very soothing to the skin, so you can also add it to your massage oil for an even more relaxing treatment.
7. Sandalwood (Santalum album)
Sandalwood is widely used in medicines, skin and beauty treatments and a great many industrial products. It is also highly prized and respected in many civilizations, religions and cultures around the world. The essential oil has a distinct scent: deep, soft, sweet and woody. Among its many great properties, it can assist with concentration and memory, battle stress, anxiety and restlessness.
8. Valerian (Valeriana fauriei)
Valerian was considered an 'all heal' plant during Medieval times since it has a wide range of useful properties. The essential oil is extracted by steam distillation from the root. The aroma of valerian is warm-woody, balsamic and musky. In aromatherapy, it is useful for insomnia, nervous indigestion, migrane, restlessness and tension. Moreover, valerian is widely used for improving mood and reducing anxiety. It is a very balancing oil with the ability to promote deep, restful sleep.
9. Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanoides)
Vetiver is a less known essential oil. The plant has a nice earthy and musky smell. It is ideal for cooling the body and the mind. Vetiver essential oil has the ability to sedate nervous afflictions, irritation, nervousness, mood swings, anger and restlessness. It is no wonder that in India and Sri Lanka they refer to it as 'the oil of tranquility'. Vetiver is very relaxing and a valuable oil for those suffering from stress and insomnia.
10. Ylang-Ylang (Cananga odorata var. genuina)
Credit:"Ylang Ylang" by Zo Andriamanalinarivo, licensed under CC BY 2.0
Ylang-ylang became widely known as an ingredient of thousands of cosmetic products that are constantly advertised in the media. The oil has a soft, sweet, floral-balsamic and slightly spicy aroma that blends well with other essential oils. Among its many health benefits, it is a well-known antidepressant. What's more, it can ease stress and anxiety. Ylang-ylang is sedative in nature and can promote feelings of relaxation, ensuring that you get a good night's rest.
Tips for Using Essential Oils
Always choose high quality products. To reap the benefits of aromatherapy and deal with insomnia, you should look for one hundred percent pure, therapeutic grade essential oils. Learn as much as you can about the properties of the oils you are interested in, their contraindications or possible side effects. For example, a lot of oils should not be used during pregnancy or they are not suitable for people with certain conditions.
There are many ways to incorporate aromatherapy in your bedtime ritual. Diffusion is a very common method of application. If you decide to invest in an electric or candle aromatherapy diffuser, you can create a wonderfully relaxing atmosphere in your bedroom which will help you fall asleep naturally and stay asleep through the night.
Credit:"Aromatic Candle" by Hugo.arg at the Samogitian language Wikipedia, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
Some essential oils can be used for a relaxing warm bath before bed. Just add a few drops of your blend of choice in the water. Alternatively, you can mix it with your favourite bubble bath or bath oil.
You can also add a little of your favourite relaxing essential oil in a water-based spritzer and spray a bit of the mixture on your pillow. Do not apply the oil neat on your linens because, as you can imagine, oils do leave stains.
Another very easy practice is to make your very own aromatic object. It could be something very simple like a cotton ball with two or three drops of essential oil. You can leave it on your nightstand to keep you sound asleep through the night.
Remember that with aromatherapy a little comes a long way. To have the soothing and relaxing effects you need, apply really small dosages. If you use too much of some essential oils they will make you alert and wide awake, so caution is highly advised.
You might need to try a couple of different essential oils at first to see what works best for you. Everyone is different after all. You may also try combining a few of these oils together to create your own personal blend for a good night's sleep
Finally, it is important to remember that aromatherapy can help you with the symptoms of insomnia, but you have to look deeper for the underlying causes. It is up to you to make the right choices for your life and your health and finally enjoy the rest you deserve. Sweet dreams!