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Beating Insomnia Naturally
For as long as I can remember, I have had trouble falling asleep and if you are reading this, I’ll bet you do to. The National Sleep Foundation considers 10-20 minutes a normal amount of time to fall asleep. My norm is closer to 1-2 hours. Sometimes I fall asleep alright, but then wake up really early and can’t get back to sleep.
Sound familiar? I am not alone, in fact insomnia affects up to one-third of adults. For some, it is temporary, brought on by a period of stress or by warm weather. For others it is an ongoing problem.
Not enough sleep can make you irritable, unable to focus, gain weight, and more. Prescription sleep medicines can lead to dependency on them and sometimes bizarre side effects. Whether for short term or long term insomnia, natural solutions are worth exploring.
There are a wide variety of drug free approaches for battling insomnia. Some simple ideas include:
• Avoid screen time for 1 hour before bedtime
• Avoid alcohol or caffeine in the evening
• Exercise regularly, and not within 2 hours of bedtime
• Practice meditation or deep breathing as you are trying to fall asleep
• Try progressive muscle relaxation
Essential oils for Insomnia
In aromatherapy, several oils are thought to promote sleep, in fact some such as Clary Sage should never be used before or while driving due to its sedating qualities.
The most famous essential oil for insomnia is Lavender, followed closely by Chamomile.
But, there are many great choices for improving sleep. The chart below represents the oils that I have found in my research to by the most frequently recommended as being helpful for insomnia. The chart is divided into base, middle and top notes to help you create your own blends.
Tip–> Keep track of your essential oil blends in my Aromatherapy Blending Journal. Includes 40 tables like this one:
Blend Ideas for Insomnia
Here are some blends to try:
2 drops Lavender + 2 drops Marjoram
2 drops Lavender + 3 drops Mandarin + 1 drops Frankincense
3 drops Mandarin, + 1 drop Patchouli + 2 drops Ylang ylang
2 drops Lavender + 2 drops Clary Sage + 2 drops Ylang ylang
3 drops Mandarin + 2 drops Lavender + 1 drop Sandalwood
For your kids:
3 drops Lavender + 1 drop Chamomile
2 drops Mandarin + 1 drop Lavender
How do essential oils work for Insomnia?
Essential oils that are recommended for insomnia usually work by reducing stress, anxiety and generally promoting feelings of calm. Clary Sage contains thujone, which can help to relax muscles.
Many oils have sedative properties, including Bergamot, Cedarwood, Chamomile, Clary Sage, Frankincense, Jasmine, Lavender, Melissa, Neroli, Patchouli, Vetiver and Ylang ylang. There are many more, but these are some of the more popular oils that can be sedating.
Sometimes it’s difficult to fall asleep because we can’t quiet our brain (this is me!). Oils that are useful for calming the mind include mandarin, vetiver, roman chamomile and lavender. You can find most of these in Plant Therapy’s Calming the Child blend, which is also KidSafe.
How to use essential oils for insomnia
There are several methods to use essential oils for insomnia. The simplest is to apply a few drops to a tissue or cotton ball and place it near your pillow or on your nightstand.
You can also use a simple passive diffuser such as a diffuser pendant or terracotta disc on your nightstand. If you are a side sleeper (with your hands up near your head) an essential oil bracelet may do the trick
Never use an oil burner with a candle while sleeping!
Another inexpensive method is to keep a nasal inhaler on your night table. When you are having trouble falling asleep you can just reach over and take a whiff.
Jane Buckle, in Clinical Aromatherapy, suggests an inhalation patch, which can be worn on the chest. It allows you to breath essential oils, but does not allow them to penetrate to your skin. A premade sleep blend is available at JodiBaglien.com or Wyndmere carries single oil patches like lavender and mandarin. Blank inhalation patches are also available, manufactured by Bioesstech.com.
Other options include a fan diffuser or ultrasonic diffuser. Fan diffusers may have the additional benefit of creating a little white noise. Ultrasonic diffusers with timer settings would be ideal such as the Hubmar Classic or the H2EO, both of which have low, medium and high odor intensity settings, and both of which feature intermittent cycles. Other diffusers, such as those that have timer settings will automatically shut off after a period of time.
Interestingly, there are different types of insomnia. Most of us think of insomnia as not being able to fall asleep, but waking too early can be a problem too. A diffuser with an intermittent cycle throughout the night may help early wakers.
Intermittent cycles are also beneficial because aromatherapy works better in moderation than in excess–diffusing scent all night may be too much and some oils that are generally relaxants can become stimulating in excess. Be sure to use a diffuser with a long interval (should be several minutes between cycles, not seconds). The Plant Therapy AromaFuse has 30 minute on/off cycles.
As always, you want to make sure the oils you use are safe for your age and medical status. You also want to make sure that you don’t use oils in excess, which may lead to stimulation instead of relaxation.
Research your oils before you use them, and don’t give up if the first oil you try doesn’t work for you. We all respond differently and sometimes it takes a little experimentation to find what works best for us.
Another important point to remember is to be considerate of anyone else sleeping in the room. The oils you use should be safe for them as well, and consider that they may not like the same scents as you. This is why for me, a nasal inhaler at bedside is the best way to inhale oils for insomnia if you have a partner as it can be capped. The same applies if you have pets sleeping in your room. Cats in particular have trouble metabolizing many essential oils. Make sure your pets are able to leave the room.
Insomnia is a common problem and there are many ways to address it naturally. Essential oils can be a helpful strategy for relieving insomnia. If you have a favorite way of using essential oils for insomnia, please share with us using the comments below.
Disclaimer: Of course, as with all advice you find on the web, don’t let anything I say or recommend take the place of the advice of your doctor.
First published 6/16/2015 Last updated 2/12/2019
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