Best Essential Oils for Sleep Disorders
Aromatherapy and Essential Oils to Help Sleep
Traditional Chinese medicine makes use of aromatherapy to help people sleep better. What is aromatherapy? It is the practice of using the scent of essential oils derived from plants to heal various ailments, one of which is insomnia. Aromatherapy is used to induce calm, relaxation and has been proven to help ease anxiety and alleviate mild depression. People who practice aromatherapy can use healing scents to create different mental and emotional states, including sleepiness.
If you choose scents that promote calm, you can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system found in the limbic area of your brain – the part that allows for “rest and digest.” When you are calm, your stress hormones are low or non-existent. This is what is needed to fall asleep, and to stay asleep.
By using calming scents before bed, you can also train your brain to recognize that the scent signals that it is time for sleep. The best thing about using essential oils for sleep is that they have no side effects when compared to sleeping pills; the main difference is no daytime grogginess.
Essential oils for sleep can be divided into two groups:
Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender is well-known for its relaxing properties. Numerous studies support the benefits of lavender for sleep and mild insomnia, and for reduction of stress, anxiety, and depression.
Lavender can be used as an essential oil made from the lavender flower or as a sachet made from fresh or dried Lavender flowers. Research in Europe has shown that inhaling the scent of lavender promotes relaxation and sleepiness. One study was done on 56 patients in an ICU ward. Those who inhaled Lavender slept better than those who did not.
Lavender helps decrease your blood pressure, body temperature, and heart rate, supporting natural sleep as these are all processes that naturally occur during restorative, Non-REM sleep.
Lavender oil is generally gentle enough to put directly on the skin. As with any essential oil, always check the instructions on the bottle. You can put it behind your ears, use a diffuser while you read a book and unwind or as you sleep.
This essential oil is also familiar due to its biblical references. It was one of the gifts that the three Wise Men brought to baby Jesus after His birth. Like lavender, frankincense helps prepare your body for sleep by lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature.
For stress relief, you can add frankincense to your diffuser. Another option is to add a few drops to your bath. Turn the lights down low (use red bulbs that do not emit blue light), and then enjoy the peace and relaxation that comes over you.
Frankincense also has the added benefit of being able to reduce pain, which as you know, can impede sleep. You can mix it with a carrier oil such as fractionated coconut oil or jojoba oil, for example, and apply it topically to your sore joints or muscle aches. You also have the option to diffuse it for pain relief, if you prefer. Another option is to add some of the essential oil to hot water, and then soak a towel in this hot water. Then place the hot towel on your aches and pains.
If you are temporarily experiencing poor sleep due to a cold, flu, or other respiratory condition that has you coughing most of the night, frankincense can also play a role in helping you get some much-needed z’s.
You can even make frankincense blends with other essential oils such as lavender for promotion of relaxation.
Frankincense has blood-thinning effects so speak to a healthcare practitioner, who is familiar with complementary natural medicine, before using it if you have a blood-clotting disorder or if you are on medications that may interact with it.
This oil is made from the peel of the Bergamot fruit – a citrus fruit harvested in Italy. Most citrus essential oils are stimulating or invigorating to the senses, but bergamot oil is different in that it is calming.
You may notice this essential oil is also found in some Earl Grey teas. Like all essential oils, it has many beneficial uses. When it comes to sleep, it can reduce your tension and stress, promoting relaxation while lifting your spirits and sense of well-being.
You can apply bergamot oil to aches and pain before you go to bed, as it is known as an effective pain-reliever, so you can have a better sleep. If you apply it topically, dilute it with a carrier oil. It increases photosensitivity to the sun, so you should avoid sun exposure for at least twelve hours after topical use.
You can also inhale bergamot oil by applying a few drops to your hands.
Bergamot oil can also be diffused into the air with your oil diffuser.
Clary sage has a history of use that goes back thousands of years. It is useful for both men and women as a sedative that induces sleep. You can spread some drops on your pillow or bedding, or you can add a few drops to your bath before bedtime. Research has shown that clary sage oil helps reduce one of the stress hormones, cortisol, which is how it promotes relaxation and a sedative effect.
You can also diffuse the oil or inhale it to promote a sense of well-being.
As teens and women of childbearing age know very well, the intense pain of menstrual cramps can make it very difficult to sleep. Clary sage essential oil provides a natural option to taking pain medications. Women can rub it on their abdomen, and then experience the welcome reduction in discomfort from the cramps.
Clary sage has natural estrogenic properties, and therefore it can be a wonderful natural alternative to estrogen replacement therapy in women experiencing perimenopause or those who have reached menopause. During perimenopause and menopause, estrogen levels decrease.
This results in nuisance symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety, and insomnia. In this way, this important essential oil can help balance hormone levels and help women get the much-needed sleep they require. You can mix the clary sage with a carrier oil, and then apply it topically to the back of your neck or the top of your feet a few times a day.
Another oil that has been used for thousands of years, sweet marjoram is sometimes used in culinary dishes to add flavor. It is actually a cousin of oregano. However, you should never take essential oils internally unless you have first consulted with an essential-oils specialist.
Sweet marjoram also relaxes the nervous system, reducing stress, and causing drowsiness. Some folks claim that it works even more effectively than lavender for its sedative effects. And like most essential oils, it can be used in combination with other essential oils such as lavender and bergamot, to name just a couple.
Sweet marjoram is also great for treatment of pain – joints, migraine, etc. - that is interfering with sleep. To use sweet marjoram, use it in a diffuser, or mix it with a carrier oil and apply it topically on your neck, shoulders, and temples, or use it in a warm bath, or sprinkle a few drops on your pillow and bedding to promote restful sleep.
You have undoubtedly heard of or you have had chamomile tea, which is known for its calming properties. Roman Chamomile essential oil, however, is said to be even more effective, and has the same calming effects.
This is a type of chamomile that when inhaled induces a calm and relaxed state of mind that is perfect for going to sleep. It can be used in its ground or “loose” form in a sachet or used as an essential oil. It smells like flowers.
This oil was discovered in Rome in the 15th century, and it was used by soldiers before battle. It is known for its soothing properties. It pairs well with frankincense, bergamot, and lavender, and other essential oils.
It is important to note that various forms of chamomile oil exist, but the Roman Chamomile type is most effective for reducing anxiety, depression, and insomnia. It can be used as aromatherapy in a diffuser, or you can put a few drops on your hands and inhale it. You can also put a few drops on your pillow.
If joint pain is interfering with your sleep, you can also apply this oil topically, so it will be absorbed below the skin.
This warm, woodsy-scented oil comes from the cedar tree. It has several beneficial uses that can improve your sleep. First, the grounding scent induces relaxation. Inhaling it directly from the bottle or using a diffuser, promotes the release of serotonin which, in turn, is converted into melatonin – the sleep hormone that makes you sleepy. You can even mix it with a carrier oil, and then apply it topically to your neck, temples, and forehead.
Cedarwood oil is also effective at minimizing joint pains and muscle aches. Again, you can apply it topically to your joints, or add five or more drops to your bath water. If you suffer from a sleep disorder known as “restless legs syndrome,” cedarwood essential oil use can be helpful.
When you have a cough that is interfering with sleep, you can diffuse it aromatically or you can rub some on your chest, neck, and throat. If your sinuses are plugged or you have a headache that is interfering with sleep, apply some oil on your sinuses or forehead.
If you blend your oils, Sandalwood essential oil pairs well with Cedarwood. Sandalwood has a soft, woody scent that has long been used for meditation as it enhances mental clarity, focus, and relaxation and calm. It is useful for those times when you are experiencing stress, and you need help to relax.
Sandalwood is different from lavender in that it does not make you drowsy. Like other essential oils, you can inhale it from the bottle, diffuse it in the air, add a few drops to your bath, or even add it topically (with a carrier oil mixed in). If you are feeling stressed, apply it to your wrists and temples.
As you can see, a few essential oils can be used to induce relaxation and calm needed for sleep. Some of them can also be used for pain or hormone imbalances (ex. Perimenopause) that are interfering with quality sleep.
Essential Oils to Reduce Snoring
First, you need to know that snoring can be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea. However, not everyone who snores has obstructive sleep apnea. It is a serious, life-threatening disorder that occurs during sleep due to the collapse of tissues and structures in the throat preventing air flow.
Those with sleep apnea are at increased risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack. In addition to snoring, choking and pauses in breathing may be noticed.
The key is diagnosis, and then following your physician’s advice. For example, you may need a special dental appliance that keeps your throat open as you sleep. You may even need a machine (called a CPAP – Continuous Positive Airway Pressure)) that keeps your airway open for breathing as you sleep.
Essential oils can be helpful, but they should not be used as a replacement for medical devices that have been recommended. They can be used as a complementary treatment for more restful sleep, but you must never use essential oils inside your CPAP mask and its parts (ex. the water reservoir, etc.).
This could cause problems with the integrity and operation of the device, as well as cause irritation to your mucosal membranes. Instead, if you do use a CPAP for sleep, it is advised that you use essential oils that induce sleep in your bath, in a diffuser, or by inhaling the oil’s scent before putting on the CPAP mask and retiring for the night.
If you do not have sleep apnea, but you do snore for other reasons, essential oils may be of benefit. Your partner is likely willing to try anything, as your snoring is very likely affecting his/her sleep more than your own.
Unfortunately, not a lot of research exists on the use of essential oils for snoring, but a study done in 2004 found that an essential oil spray or a gargle formulation of essential oils, resulted in improvement in snoring. The oils included lavender, thyme, peppermint, eucalyptus, marjoram, and tea tree.
Snoring can also occur periodically, as is the case when you have a cold or a flu. During these times, essential oils can be used to open your airways to make it easier to breathe and sleep. Eucalyptus, peppermint, or tea tree oils are suggested for this.
To conclude, several essential oils exist to improve your sleep, whether you need help to relax, to treat pain, or to open your breathing passages.
Just because essential oils are natural, it does not mean that you can do just anything with them. They have powerful effects. Therefore, you need to learn how each essential oil works, how to use it, whether it needs a carrier oil for dilution, and what oils can be combined for better results.
In the end, the use of essential oils is one way your body can get the sleep it needs, which will improve your overall health and well-being.