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How essential oils can help with sleep

Since the coronavirus lockdown began, the hashtag #CantSleep has trended on Twitter multiple times.

It comes as no surprise that so many of us are experiencing trouble either getting to sleep, or getting a restful night free from tossing and turning, jolting awake or nightmares, given that we are experiencing disruptions to our usual routines and are probably dealing with additional sources of worry and stress.

Without daily routines – often filled to the brim with commuting, business meetings, errands, childcare and social events – it is easy to still have surplus physical or mental energy at our usual bedtimes. Routines also keep our natural rhythms in check, so our brains signal to our bodies when it is time to start winding down for sleep at a reasonable time.

Add this falling off of routine to decreased exposure to daylight, a lack of clear boundaries between spaces for work and relaxations, additional worries about health or finances and, for some, increased consumption of alcohol, caffeine and rich foods - and you have a recipe for poor sleep.

In addition to developing a healthy daily routines and minimising these barriers to restful nights where possible, you may wish to use essential oils to reap their benefits.

Essential oils – oils derived from cold-pressing or distilling natural ingredients - have been used with the aim of improving health, mood and wellbeing for thousands of years. The act of simply smelling essential oils stimulates the limbic system – the connected parts of your brain linked to emotions, heart rate, stress, hormone balance, blood pressure and breathing. As such, they can have a subtle yet holistic effect on the body, readying you for rest.

Lavender, jasmine, cedarwood, sandalwood, chamomile roman, patchouli, sweet range, ylang ylang

How to use essential oils for better sleep

Some of simplest and safest ways to use essential oils involve using them as a home fragrance. You can add a few drops to an air diffuser, or to potpourri, and place these items strategically around your home. Candles, room mists and reed diffusers are also good options. When choosing these products, be sure to check they contain essential oils rather than fragrance oils. While essential oils are made from natural materials and provide aromatherapy benefits, fragrance oils are manufactured in labs and will have no inherent benefits, instead often leading to headaches or allergy symptoms. You can read more on differentiating essential oils and fragrance oils in our previous journal entry.

As an alternative to home fragrance, you may wish to add a few drops of essential oil to a hot bath, or to the floor of your shower before turning on the hot water. Start with two drops and build from there if needed, making sure to use no more than 20 drops in any 24-hour period.

Inhaling essential oils is generally safer than applying topically (i.e. directly to your skin). If you do opt for topical uses, you should always use a carrier oil for diluting, such as jojoba or coconut oil, and carry out a patch test. Do not apply essential oils directly to skin. This last step is especially important if you have sensitive skin. Some essential oils are not advised for pregnant or breastfeeding women, young children or animals, so be sure to check beforehand.

Note that essential oils should not be ingested unless you are advised to do so by a healthcare professional, as many are toxic when taken by mouth. Moreover, many products on the market are not pure and are instead diluted with less expensive ingredients.

People ultimately respond to different essential oils in different ways, so your best bet for finding the oil to suit you is to try a few out. If you are looking for a ready-made solution, ELM RD.’s Sueños scent range contains essential oil blends designed to help with sleep, as do the Sleep essential oil blend and candle from the Heal's collection.

When used to complement a daily routine that prioritises wellbeing and includes good sleep hygiene, the right essential oils can work wonders. So, happy searching and sweet dreams!

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