Smell can be an extremely powerful sense that affects everything from our tastes to our moods to physical attraction. As a result, it should come as no surprise that smell can also play a role in our sleep.
When smell is employed therapeutically, it is called aromatherapy, and one way of trying to apply this type of alternative medicine is by using essential oils to assist with sleep. Many people are drawn to aromatherapy because it does not require taking pills or medications and because it generally has few if any side effects.
How Can Essential Oils Help With a Good Night’s Sleep?
There are two main ways that essential oils may be able to help improve sleep. First, they can be used to enhance the sleep environment. Second, they can help clear the airways and reduce congestion to make breathing easier.
Essential Oils for Calming
By creating pleasant smells, essential oils can have a profound calming influence. This can help to relax both the mind and body and help someone prepare for sleep. When combined with other aspects of a good sleep environment such as reduced lighting, a comfortable mattress, and limited noise, all of the senses can work together to promote sleep. Over time, by regularly using essential oils around bedtime, it can also create an association between those smells and sleep, which can put the power of habit and routine to work to assist with your sleep.
Examples of some of the essential oils that are considered to have effects that promote calming and relaxation include:
- Roman chamomile
- Clary sage
- Ylang ylang
Some people may have reactions to these smells, and in some cases there can be side effects associated with these essential oils. For this reason, make sure to check into any possible secondary effects and to confirm that you respond well to the smell before beginning to use these frequently or in larger amounts.
Essential Oils to Reduce Congestion
Essential oils can help to decrease congestion and clear the airways. Anyone who has tried to sleep with a head cold knows that breathing freely can play a big role in comfortably and rapidly dozing off for the night. In addition, reducing congestion and clearing the airways can help to prevent snoring. Some people with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a condition marked by temporary halts of breathing at night because of a blocked airway, find aromatherapy to be useful although it is rarely a substitute for other treatments for OSA. As with calming essential oils, using these regularly before bed can also help build a bedtime routine that feeds into a general process of good sleep hygiene.
Some types of essential oils that may be helpful in reducing congestion and combating snoring include:
How Do You Use Essential Oils For Sleep?
Essential oils can be purchased in many health or natural products stores or online. Once you’ve purchased the oils, there are several different ways that you can use them.
- Diffuser: a diffuser uses sticks placed in the oil to slowly and more gently spread the smell in a room. This is one of the most popular ways of using essential oils.
- Spritzer: for spritzing, you dilute the essential oils and use a spray bottle to very lightly mist the room.
- Drops on the body: like a perfume or cologne, you can put small drops of essential oils on the wrists or neck. It’s important to use a light touch with this and in some cases to dilute the oils.
- Hot baths: you can mix a few drops of essential oils in with a hot bath. This can enhance both relaxation and allow for improved breathing thanks to the steam from the bath.
- Facial steaming: this process involves putting a few drops of essential oils into a pot with boiling water. You then carefully place your head over the steam and tent a towel over your head to help hold in some of that scented steam.
With all of these approaches, it helps to breathe deeply to take in the aromatherapy. Breathing deeply is also calming in and of itself.
To get the best and safest results, look for products that are 100% oil and ideally of therapeutic grade. Many customers also prefer 100% organic essential oils to ensure no chemicals are involved.
If you plan to use essential oils with children, it is a good idea to first consult with their pediatrician. Another good policy is to never use undiluted essential oils with children and always use a carrier oil to reduce the concentration if you plan to apply it to their skin. Always watch carefully for any skin or other reactions if you choose to use essential oils with children.