We all use aromatherapy, in its most basic form, every day. The smell of baking bread, a rosewater perfume or an aversion to bad smells is all powerful stimulators of memory and sense. In its technical application, it is an effective and soothing way to balance moods and manage energy and it is an effective way to relieve sleeplessness.
The oils provoke a variety of different responses by stimulating the olfactory organs, which are linked to the areas of the brain that control emotions, causing a series of chemical reactions effecting a physical or emotional change in the body. If you don’t appreciate a particular scent, it won’t relax you and you should try something else. Oils can be used by adding them to a bath, burning them in a diffuser or using them in a compress. For sleep problems, they can be particularly effective in the form of massage, especially if your poor sleep is due to muscle tension.
An oil burner or candle can fill a room with an ambient fragrance that can help promote a restful night’s sleep.
Always buy pure oils, rather than synthetic oils. Most essential oils require’carrier’ oil, such as olive, sunflower or almond oil, and should be mixed before use in massage as they are highly concentrated and can cause skin irritation.
Their potency means you only need a very small amount. For massage on adults, 28 ml (1 fl oz) of carrier oil should have only 12-15 drops of essential oil added. When using it in the bath, 10-12 drops of essential oil should be used. The water temperature should be sufficiently hot to ensure that the oil mixes fully with the water.
This has the dual effect of helping the oil to soak into the skin and producing an oil-enhanced steam that is breathed in – make sure the doors and windows are closed to encourage maximum inhalation. When properly stored in a cool, dark place, essential oils can last for years. Once they are combined with carrier oil, however, they will turn rancid within three months, so use them up.
The following essential oils are known to be effective for aiding a good night’s rest. In their dried form some can also be used to stuff’ sleep pillows’, which will promote rest as you sleep. Herbs such as basil and marjoram can be ingested in food dishes or made into teas.
This herb can promote calm and rest for those suffering from nervous insomnia or fatigue. It is also regarded as an aphrodisiac, which is ideal if you are feeling too tired to even contemplate sex. The flower heads and leaves can be used in cooking, so ingest their benefits with a refreshing mozzarella, tomato and basil salad.
This is regarded as an all-round panacea, and supports the central nervous system in many of its duties. From fatigue, depression and headaches, it can relieve many of the problems associated with poor sleep. Its benefits can be gained from eating it fresh, as well as in an essential oil form. Add it to salads, or stuff chicken breast with it.
Basil will grow happily on a window sill, providing you with a fresh supply always at hand to use in a salad.
This is an ancient and widely used gum resin from Africa and the Middle East that can aid meditation. Place a few drops on a piece of cotton wool or in a small dish of water near a warm radiator before you start to meditate. Inhale the fragrance deeply throughout your session.
Use geranium essential oil for renewing and reviving a tired mind. It is also a great antiseptic and insect repellent and one of the most useful and important aromatherapy oils. Use it in self-massage to fight the fatigue caused by poor sleep or stressful demands. The powerful effects of essential oils can be used to make massage and bath oils that ease away any stresses and strains.
Amazingly effective in encouraging sleep and relaxation. In studies published in the medical journal, The Lancet, lavender has been shown to be as effective as sleeping pills for the elderly. A great way to promote rest is to add a few drops to your linen spray when you are ironing your sheets. This way you can subtly infuse your whole sleep space with the scent. You can always freshen up the scent by spraying directly onto your pillow. Alternatively, put a few sprigs in the linen cupboard. Lavender has traditionally been used to provide relaxation and drowsiness, but be careful; using more than 1-2 drops can have the opposite effect.
Melissa or Lemon Balm
This has a sedative effect when the fragrance is inhaled. Originally from Southern Europe, it was spread by the Romans and it is ideal for insomnia, and sleep enemies such as depression, migraines and PMS. It is also very effective as a tea or in foods – the lemony flavor is great for soups and desserts.
A member of the orange family, the oil comes from the skin of the fruit rather than the flowers. The bromine content, which calms the nervous system, is very high, so following dinner with a couple of these for dessert will have a sedative effect on anxious people. It can also be used in the bath.
This has a powerful sedative effect and is great if you are sleeping badly owing to nervous tension or are just generally tired. lt can be used in a massage oil or oil burner, mixed with a drop of orange oil on a tissue by the bed or as a soothing drink in its dried form – a pinch of marjoram and one of dried lime flowers in hot water, half an hour before going to bed, will encourage sleep.
Some ceramic burners are used with scented tea lights instead of oils, but don’t forget to extinguish the flame before you sleep.
Originating from the flower of the orange tree, neroli oil can be used to treat depression, anxiety and insomnia, either in a relaxing bath, as a drink or just in its fruit form. Using it in hot water and steaming the skin can treat acne and poor skin conditions, which may often be exacerbated by poor sleep.
Another product from the orange tree, this is derived from the leaves, twigs and unripe fruit. It is a very effective relaxant and has similar effects to neroli. lt is especially good if you are coming off tranquillizers, which may have been prescribed to treat insomnia symptoms. Like neroli, its benefits can also be gleaned from placing an orange plant in your room.
This is particularly helpful for treating women who are suffering from insomnia due to anxiety or a nervous disposition. Whether massaging rose oil into the solar plexus, drinking a rose infusion tea or putting it in the bath, it is an easy oil to work into your routine as it has such a pretty scent. It can be used to fragrance desserts or as a salad dressing when mixed with white wine vinegar’
This has been used in Ayurvedic, Asian and Arab forms of treatment for centuries, and is very calming. Keeping sheets in a sandalwood chest can have a very relaxing effect when you put them on the bed. It is also a good aid for meditation.
The fruity, sweet scent is calming and ideal for treating not only anxiety and insomnia but also muscle pain and ageing skin.
Blend these oils for a truly restful sleep:
- 10 drops of roman chamomile
- 5 drops of clary sage
- 5 drops of bergamot.
Blend the oils well in a clean, dark-colored glass bottle. Add one to two drops to a tissue and place it inside your pillow to aid you in falling asleep. If you prefer to make a diffuser blend that you can enjoy during the hour before bedtime, make a blend with a ratio of two drops of Roman chamomile to one drop of clary sage to one drop of bergamot and add to your diffuser.
Essential rose oil is especially effective for women seeking relief from anxiety. Wonderfully versatile, it can be used in tea, massage oil or even cooking.
Used by an estimated thirty million people in Europe, homeopathy is designed to work with your body through a holistic system of healing, which works on physical and emotional symptoms. A homeopath will ask you about your lifestyle, worries and hopes as well as your physical symptoms.
To stimulate your body’s own healing process, a remedy that is tailored especially for you is prescribed. The healing begins from within your body, strengthening your health and immune system without the danger of damaging side effects.
No synthetic products are used, but you should avoid eating, drinking, smoking or using toothpaste for 20 minutes after taking a homeopathic medicine. Conventional and homeopathic medicine can be taken at the same time, but if you are unsure always consult your healthcare provider. The following treatments are most useful for sleep- related problems.
Ideal for insomnia following a tiring long journey or being in a hectic, smoky atmosphere. It is also recommended for anxiety and sleep that is disturbed by nightmares.
Helps to overcome mental and physical debility caused by a prolonged bout of grief, whatever the cause.
This can help those who have received shocking news that consequently leads to disturbed sleep. Rapid mood swings, weepiness or tiredness can also be alleviated.
Useful for sleeplessness in crying, angry and restless children, especially when they are teething or suffering from colic. Sometimes the child may demand things, then refuse them, and is hot, thirsty or irritable.
For physical restlessness and insomnia when the mind is churning up difficult thoughts and worries from the day. The alertness of the mind can result in light and interrupted unrefreshing sleep; coffea will slow down a racing mind.
It can be used to treat weakness and tiredness, especially after worry, excitement or overwork.
When the mind is over stimulated or strained, this can help calm your thoughts – anger at being unable to sleep is often one of the symptoms. It can aid in regularizing sleep and it also helps sleep patterns that are disturbed by too many stimulants, such as alcohol, coffee and stress.
Repetitive insomnia can result in a fear of going to bed, which this treatment can ease. If you suffer from menstruation-related insomnia or jolting limbs when trying to fall asleep, this remedy helps both complaints.
Use this to tackle the unpleasant experience of waking in the middle of the night fretting over problems. This sign of anxiety responds well to this treatment.
It can aid the exhaustion that follows extended physical and mental effort, and can also help with jet lag if taken before the journey.
Homeopathic treatments can be used on their own, or in unison, to help treat very specific types of insomnia and its causes, aiding in improving the quality of sleep. Ask a practitioner for advice on prescribing and combining the remedies.