Sleep Strategies Using Aromatherapy as Part of Your Rest Ritual
Lisa Murray, RDN, LD
According to my 23AndMe genetic report, I am genetically programmed to be a “poor sleeper”. While I needed no third-party validation for this truth, I never thought about being a “poor sleeper” as an inherited genetic trait!
We have been programmed to think about sleep quality in relation to; neurotransmitter balance, the amount of melatonin we produce, dietary influences, how long we watch television, and all the other personal habits we typically associate with sleep interference – but as a genetic trait, who knew?!
I will forever remain jealous of those who “sleep like a stone”, wake up in the morning refreshed, their only memory upon waking being turning off the light and hitting their pillow eight hours prior. I have come to accept that I will never achieve that kind of deep, restful sleep (except under anesthesia).
So, how can the poor sleepers of the world find restful relief?
Aside from supplements and warm hydrotherapy, another thing I find helpful is aromatherapy. Several years ago in a health food store, I saw this aromatherapy essential oil called “sleep blend”. So, I tried it, and to my surprise – it truly seemed to promote a more restful sleep! I had tried various essential oils before, and nothing seemed to do much for my sleeping issue. But this blend was different.
Because of my Ayurvedic training, the concept of essential oils promoting restful sleep was not new to me. The essential oils from certain herbs and flowers have been traditionally used in Ayurveda both topically and as aromatherapy in a variety of ways, one being to calm an overactive system. Fragrances that are warm, sweet, and heavy such as Sandalwood, Frankincense, and Ylang Ylang are most useful for this purpose. And of course, the relaxing qualities of Lavender essential oil have been known and used in Europe and the Mediterranean since ancient times.
There are a few sleep blends on the market, but the one I enjoy the most contains essential oils of Orange, Tangerine, Lavender, Chamomile, Ylang Ylang and Sandalwood. A few drops in a diffuser is relaxing, calming and so enjoyable!
Additional therapeutic strategies for sleep
With sleep being one of the most important foundations for healing and maintaining good health, it is troubling that even the CDC classifies insufficient sleep as a rampant public health problem.
Most people with sleep issues have no idea how many of their personal habits interfere with getting a good night’s sleep. Everyone can benefit from understanding how personal habits affect sleep, and how they can improve sleep quality to benefit their health. For anyone with sleep problems, therapeutic strategies should address:
- Sleep hygiene, sleep rituals
- Dietary patterns and influences (such as alcohol and caffeine)
- Physical therapies such as massage, yoga, and warm hydrotherapy
- Strategies to unburden the mind which may include journaling, meditation, or inspirational reading before sleep
- Balancing of neurotransmitters and hormones, addressing digestion and other issues with supplements and adjunctive modalities
- Addressing chronic pain, and other physical concerns such as sleep apnea
- Emotional support such as counseling
Addressing sleep bad habits in combination with aromatherapy, which has an influence on the brain through the olfactory system, can be a winning strategy for even those pre-disposed to bad sleep.