A Japanese legend says that if you can’t sleep at night, it’s because you are awake in someone else’s dream. A rather sweet thought, but in reality, insomnia sucks.
People often sleep longer than they think they do. When we wake thinking ‘I haven’t slept all night’, it may be that we have just woken up a couple of times, but we remember the aggravation it caused more than the sleep we did manage to get!
There is nothing wrong with waking in the night, for many of us it’s quite common, but if you start to feel worried about it, feel tired all day, or are not mentally alert, then you have true insomnia.
If this is the case then there are several possible causes, including pain, cramps, fatigue, diet, stress, stimulants, food intolerances, anxiety, and even some medications.
Removal of any obvious causes, if possible, is the first and most important step to moving forward. If the problem is a frequent need to pass urine throughout the night, then there might be an underlying medical problem, and it’s worth making an appointment to see your GP.
The benefits of getting enough sleep
Adequate sleep is key to any healthy lifestyle. I recently saw a program where a 106-year-old lady was asked what the key to her longevity was. Her answer was laughter, sleep and red wine! If that’s not a good mantra for life, I’m not sure what is, so here are the health benefits of getting enough sleep.
Reduce stress – If you don’t get enough sleep to meet the demands of today’s fast paced world, your body will get stressed more easily.
Improve memory – Ever noticed how easy it is to forget things when we are tired? That’s because the brain processes memories and information when we are asleep.
Fight infections – when you are asleep your body produces protein molecules that help to fight infection.
Live longer – it’s not clear why, but those who sleep better live longer and also live better.
Reduce inflammation – people who suffer with insomnia can improve their blood pressure and reduce inflammation if they treat their sleep disorder.
Perform better – studies of football players show that getting more sleep can improve their performance from increasing their sprint times, to reducing daytime fatigue and increasing their stamina.
Maintain a healthy weight – it can’t directly help with weight loss, but it can help to beat those cravings since sleep and metabolism are controlled in the same part of the brain.
Avoid depression – A good night’s sleep can help to decrease your anxiety and balance the hormones that control our moods.
The Aromatherapy Effect
Pure essential oils have been used for thousands of years as remedies to enhance our health and wellbeing. The appeal of the essential oil has endured over time and today the use of aromatherapy is common in holistic therapy.
Essential oils contain the true essence of nature and work holistically to heal and balance the mind and body. Our sense of smell is more sensitive than any of our other senses, which is why aromas can trigger strong connections, memories and alter our state of mind.
On the mind
Essential oils can be used to promote a particular state of mind, for example, stimulating oils can be used to enhance focus and concentration, whilst calming oils help us to relax and de-stress.
Enhance wellbeing and mood – they can help to lift the spirits and increase feelings of wellbeing, or can reduce stress and anxiety.
Promote relaxation – the relaxing effects of essential oils are well documented.
Improve concentration and focus – some oils clear and refresh the mind, and can even improve memory.
Balance energy – some oils can relax and stimulate, known as adaptogens. They can help the body to process stress by recharging the adrenal glands, which can be exhausted by stress hormones and in turn affect sleep.
On the body
Essential oils are natural healers. For example, oils can be anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antifungal, and anti-microbial, helping to kill off bacteria and protect us from infection and disease.
Antiseptic – many essential oils have been shown to destroy bacteria, viruses and fungi that cause infection. In a world where many strains of bacteria are now becoming resistant to antibiotics, essentials oils are a viable alternative.
Relieve pain and reduce inflammation – they often used as a mild anaesthesia that can relive localised pain. This makes them useful in soothing muscles and joint pain, tension headaches and sprains.
Cleansing action – when we are functioning at optimal levels, our lungs, liver, kidneys, skin and digestive system all work together to eliminate toxins from the body. Factors such as stress, poor diet and lack of sleep can affect this process. Essential oils with detoxifying properties can help to cleanse and support the body.
Boost immunity – essential oils promote wellness by strengthening our immune system and increasing production of our white blood cells, used to fight infection.
Influence hormones – essential oils can regulate the hormones and smooth out imbalances.
Essential oil Blends for Insomnia
The essential oil blends below are listed for a specific use, but alternatively you can use the same blend in your bath, a foot bath, or mixed with a scent free cream as a massage lotion. People often find using a room diffuser in the bedroom is helpful for inducing relaxation and sleep.
Just a quick note before we continue; people can have different responses to essential oils, so do experiment with the oils, but bear in mind some can be stimulating rather than relaxing if the dose is too high! Also, pregnant women should avoid clary sage.
Calming Bath blend for insomnia
Lavender 7 drops
Ylang ylang 8 drops
Clary sage 2 drops
Blend the essential oils together, then use 3-4 drops in your warm bath diluted in a small amount of carrier oil (a tablespoon of almond oil, coconut oil, grapeseed oil or full-fat milk are all suitable). Add the remainder to a small glass bottle or jar, and it will keep for up to 3 weeks.
De-stressing Clary Sage massage
Almond oil 2 tbsp
Clary sage 5 drops
Frankincense 5 drops
Geranium 5 drops
Combine all the ingredients in a bowel, then transfer to a small glass bottle for storage. Massage a small amount over the solar plexus (the upper abdomen just below the rib cage), or the soles of the feet before bed.
Ylang ylang bedtime spray
Ylang ylang 6 drops
Rose 6 drops
Vetiver 2 drops
Chamomile roman 1 drop
Mix the essential oils with 2 tablespoons of cold water, and pour into a sterilized bottle with an atomizer. Shake well, and spritz your room before bedtime. Avoid spraying directly onto fabric.
Add the essential oils blends to your bath, spray the room before bedtime, massage onto your solar plexus as you take some slow deep breaths, or massage onto your feet to harness the power of Reflexology.
The scents will calm the body, reduce stress and balance the body and mind.
A perfect recipe for a good night’s sleep.
An inability to sleep is not a disease, but rather a symptom, indicating our difficulty in initiating and maintaining sleep. You may find it hard to drift off, keep waking up in the night, wake up early, or not be able to sleep. Many people have insomnia and might not even be aware of it, but it can lead to headaches, fatigue, anxiety and depression.
Sleep is vital for the body to rest and recuperate. It's natural to feel sleepless once in a while, but if it becomes a habit, then you have a bigger problem, and that's where my Sleep Well, Feel Well series can help you. Learn more
Not all essential oils are made equal, or pure. Manufactured scents used in many of today’s cosmetics, personal care products and perfumes can cause irritation and allergies.
If you wish to purchase good quality and organic essential oils, a room differ, pre-blended oils, and/or pillow mist spray, you can do so using the following link