Let's face it, the world is a better place after a good night's sleep. When you are well rested, your ability to function at work and in life is greater – tenfold. But what happens if you or someone you know is having trouble sleeping?
Creating a calming, nourishing and wholesome sleep ritual every evening to nurture your body and soul is the key to getting into a good sleep routine. If you've exhausted your options, it may be time to consider aromatherapy.
Aromatherapy is the use of aromatic plants in the form of essential oils and waters, to help support and enhance health, both physically and emotionally. Essential oils are extracted from the plants and are a very concentrated form of the healing compounds of the plant – the oils capture the "essence" of the plant during the extraction process.
We spoke with Elisabeth Lemieux from Eco. Modern Essentials, one of the leading suppliers for oils for health and well-being, to help us explore how essential oils help sleep and which scents are the most powerful.
How can essential oils help you sleep?
Essential oils contain properties that can help ease us into a restful sleep and alleviate the physical symptoms that make it difficult to rest. Sedative essential oils calm us and promote feelings of tranquility.
According to Elisabeth, there are many reasons why we may not be sleeping well – and essential oils can help.
"Different essential oils can help with particular conditions. Sleeplessness linked to anxiety, grief, depression and stress can be improved with neurotonic essential oils. Physical symptoms such as pain and muscle cramping can be improved with analgesics and antispasmodic oils. Digestive essential oils can help us sleep by calming down an upset tummy and decongestant oils can help clear blocked sinuses."
So which scents are the most powerful?
Essential oils for stress and anxiety
Most of us will experience stress-related sleeplessness at some stage. Our hectic lives can lead to feeling overwhelmed and anxious, keeping us awake at night. If counting sheep doesn't work, it's time to try one of the many oils available.
Elisabeth recommends the following scents for stress and anxiety relief: lavender, rose, ylang ylang, bergamot, German chamomile and sage, "but there are others that can address specific issues such as mood swings, hormones and emotions, as well as health problems that can cause stress and anxiety."
Here is a comprehensive guide to the top essential oils for stress and anxiety.
Essential oils for snoring
Do you have a partner who snores like a steam train? As well as affecting the quality of their sleep, they're most likely keeping you awake as well! Snoring can also be an indicator of sleep apnea, a serious condition diagnosed by a medical professional where your breathing stops and starts while you are sleeping.
If you are experiencing problems with your respiratory system, Elisabeth suggests looking for an essential oil with expectorant and sedative properties "which help clear the lungs and promote free breathing. These include eucalyptus, peppermint, clary sage and pine."
Are essential oils safe for babies and children?
We all know that a sleeping baby or toddler is the holy grail of parenthood, and there are some great options that are safe for young ones – as long as you take certain precautions.
Some essential oils are considered too strong for use on baby's skin and can be a little overwhelming on their developing systems. The best options for babies are calming and soothing scents like lavender and neroli, whilst mandarin can help to relieve toddler tantrums at bedtime.
Essential oils are not recommended for use on babies and children without first diluting them (keep on reading to find out how to use essential oils safely). For children, use a low dilution of 1% – that's 1 drop of essential oil per teaspoon of carrier oil, such as coconut or grapeseed oil – into a diffuser, and diffuse for about 30 minutes prior to bedtime.
Experimenting with different scents can be fun for children and they will no doubt make it abundantly clear which oils they like best. However, it's important to learn how to apply essential oils safely, as children can be particularly sensitive to aromas.
Elisabeth recommends sticking to the gentler essential oil scents such as lavender, rose, mandarin, sandalwood, chamomile, spearmint, lemon, orange, lemon myrtle and neroli. "Chamomile and mandarin in particular can help to calm angry outbursts at bedtime and soothe a sore tummy."
How to use essential oils safely
It is best to avoid using concentrated essential oils directly onto the skin to avoid irritation. Carrier oils – fattier, base oils – are often used in combination with essential oils to help dilute them before use in aromatherapy.
If using essential oils for massage, add about 15 drops for adults, or 6 drops for children, to 30mls of a carrier oil such as sweet almond, coconut or olive oil.
A quick and easy way to add aromatherapy into your sleep routine is to use a spray bottle. Add 100mls of water and up to 16 drops of essential oil and spray it around the bedroom. Alternatively, you can add the essential oils to a diffuser or burner together with a carrier oil.