Essential Oils for Relaxing and Sleep
Everyone has rough days. It’s just part of life. However, within the fast-paced world we’ve created for ourselves, we are seeing more people diagnosed with stress-induced disorders than ever before. Sadly, it’s even become prevalent in young children. Turning to prescription medications to reduce stress-related symptoms is not always the answer. They often have additional side effects that your body doesn’t need. Many people, doctors included, are turning to alternative, all-natural remedies, such as essential oils for relaxing and sleep for assistance. There is evidence to suggest that these are safer, more effective ways to address anxiety and other stress-related issues.
Stress may be defined as the “conscious or unconscious psychological feeling or physical situation which comes as a result of physical and/or mental ‘positive or negative pressure’ to overwhelm adaptive capacities”. It’s a feeling of pressure on the body and mind from experiencing any unpleasant emotion.
Stress results in wear and tear on the body. It is not a normative concept, and many people suffer damaging or detrimental effects on the body due to it. Let’s clear something up: Stress in small, manageable amounts is often desired and even healthy or beneficial in many situations. For example, it can help improve athletic performance and help the body acclimate to a new environment.
In contrast, excessive levels of stress can be detrimental to the body and increase the risk of severe life-threatening conditions such as stroke, heart attack, ulcers, dwarfism, and mental illness.
Stress is not something to be left untouched and unrecognized. It requires intervention of some sort.
Stress disorders occur when a person’s coping mechanisms are not able, for one reason or another, to deal with the level of stress presented. The stress itself can cause individuals to become physically and mentally ill. The operation of the immune system becomes compromised and simple ailments such catching the common cold increase. Stress also causes insomnia or impaired sleep and may be associated with many other serious health issues such as:
- Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome
- Heart disease
- Depression and anxiety
- Gastrointestinal problems
Why Relaxing our Body and Mind is so Beneficial
When you’re stressed, your body reacts. The blood vessels constrict, your pulse increases, and your blood pressure rises. Your breath becomes faster and shallower of its own volition while your bloodstream becomes flooded with the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. On a positive note, it warns you. And loudly. There are a number of serious stress-related problems for which the human body gives warning signs well in advance. Taking heed of them is a major method of prevention.
Research has shown concrete evidence that stress management techniques such as using essential oils for relaxing and sleep are beneficial in reducing stress levels.
Relaxation techniques are used to reduce the emotional and physical aspects of stress that manifest in the body. They also help to eliminate the stressful thoughts that may have caused them to begin with. If you can relax your breathing and reduce your muscle tension, your mind will relax as well.
There are only two reasons why we become stressed out:
- We perceive a situation to be dangerous, difficult, or painful.
- We don’t believe we possess the resources to cope with a dangerous, difficult, or painful situation.
The key is to trick our brain into thinking everything is okay. What are the best ways to do this?
Choosing the correct relaxation technique is very important. It is essential that each person choose what works for them, possibly using a combination of sources if needed.
- Essential Oils for Relaxing and Sleep. Essential oils are the natural extractions of flowers, leaves, bark, or plant roots that may help relieve or positively impact a variety of health issues. They may be great tools for natural stress reduction and sleep inducement.
- Adrenal Breathing encourages gentle, rhythmic breathing from the diaphragm. When stressed, the body tends to revert to a state where breathing is automatically shallow or quick. By using adrenal breathing techniques we simulate a relaxed state using more oxygen that our body naturally reacts to. It then begins to enter a calmer state. Shallow breathing should be avoided as it can worsen anxiety.
- Visualization. This gives your mind a mini-vacation because you drift into another realm. If choosing a beach scene, hear the waves crash, smell the ocean air, taste the salt, and feel the sand between your toes.
- Meditation. Meditation is a mental exercise that brings your mind to a peaceful state. It may take different forms, ranging from concentrating on your breathing, repeating mantras, prayer, or yoga, all with the end goal to quiet the mind and keep it free from stress by means of contemplation and reflection.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation. This particular exercise sees you tensing and relaxing each major muscle group one at a time. The contrast experienced by the muscles between the tension and relaxation may leave your body in a total state of relaxation.
Keep in mind these techniques take time to implement in your daily routine and need to be developed and practiced just as is the case with any other newly learned skill. With regular use, these routines may become more effective in the regulation of stress.
How Sleep Can Help
The importance of sleep for your overall well-being cannot be stressed enough. It may be one of the key components for dealing with stress. Relaxing the mind enough in order to get between 7-9 hours’ sleep is thus important, as a sleep deficiency may lead to a number of health problems. The sleep-stress relationship is two-fold. On the one hand, stress may affect sleeping patterns, while on the other hand, insufficient sleep may cause stress. No matter the cause, a disrupted sleep pattern has a negative effect on the body. Using essential oils for relaxing and sleep is a safe, natural way of ensuring your body is well rested. Research shows lavender may increase the alpha brain waves connected to relaxation and deep sleep.
Diving Deeper into Essential Oils
Essential oils have been around for thousands of years. Documents show they have been used to treat various ailments in China, India, and Southern Europe since ancient times. References are also made to essential oils in both the Bible and Egyptian tombs dating back over 2,000 years.
Interestingly, essential oils are not really oils at all. They lack the fatty acids to be properly classified as such. They are, in fact, extremely potent concentrations of plant components. For example, it takes 4000 pounds of the Bulgarian Rose plant to produce one pound of oil. If the entire world decided to go on an essential oil kick, we’d be in big trouble, as we’d be going through these oils faster than we could produce them. There is, therefore, a reason why a good, quality essential oil can be a bit pricey.
There are essential oils for relaxing and sleep and nearly every health condition that exists. Many people keep a good stash of oils in their medicine cabinet in addition to or instead of the standard, over the counters supplies such as ibuprofen as well as indigestion, antifungal, and antibacterial medications and creams. Using these oils is not advised for those who are not educated in their properties and use. They can cause both internal and external harm if not properly diluted or overused.
Essential Oils for Relaxing and Sleep
The following essential oils are the top choices across the board for promoting relaxation and sleep. Always make sure you are using a pure, organic oil that has not been diluted with chemicals or additional additives.
- Lavender oil. Well known for its calming and soothing abilities, lavender oil is said to restore the nervous system, bring inner peace, promote sleep, and fight restlessness, irritability, and panic attacks. It has also been used to calm a nervous stomach and help with overall tension.
- Rose oil. A rose is more than just a beautiful flower. Rose oil is considered the queen of oils when it comes to dealing with stress and anxiety.
- Bergamot. This calming oil is used to treat depression, insomnia, and agitation. Clinical studies show positive results when using the oil as it may reduce your heart rate, blood pressure, and stress.
- Chamomile. Chamomile is both calming and soothing, both when taken internally and through aromatherapy treatments. It is considered a medicinal oil that can be used for many ailments but is specifically known for its ability to relax and promote sleep in users with the added benefit of decreasing irritability, overthinking, anxiety and worry.
- Ylang Ylang. Regarded a moderately strong sedative, Ylang Ylang may calm the nervous system. It is also believed to promote optimism and happiness while soothing the fears that often cause anxiety.
- Red Mandarin. The sweet, floral, citrus fragrance of Red Mandarin essential oil is said to have such a calming effect on the body and mind that it is often spoken of as the “children’s oil” or the “happy oil”. It’s great for anxiety, helping with sleep issues, and inducing a generally happy, joyful, state of mind.
- Sandalwood. If you have a lot on your mind or suffer from muscle cramping and tension prohibiting you from relaxation and sleep, you may want to try woodsy, sweet-smelling sandalwood. It is believed to promote clarity, a meditative state, and to help relieve chronic insomnia. Besides having a great scent, sandalwood may have a positive impact on your overall well-being and mental health, as well as a number of other benefits with regards to healing.
Tips for Using Essential Oils
There are a number of ways in which to use essential oils for relaxing and sleep in order to harness the most out of them within the AFS setting.
- Avoid deep inhalation of the oil. Take gentle, shallow inhalations instead. This method may quickly calm anxiety. Those in the advanced stages of AFS may not be able to tolerate any essential oil. Do not force yourself to inhale. Stop if you feel nervous, dizzy, more fatigued, or experience any unpleasant symptoms.
- Use the oils in the shower. Cover the drain with a cloth for a few moments and allow the entire body to be immersed in essential oil steam. Start with a small dosage and adjust according to your tolerance.
- Carry some with you at all times. Carry a sample or put a couple of drops on your scarf. Even tucking a cotton pad into your shirt or bra to have the scent with you throughout the day may help keep you calm and relaxed.
- Immerse yourself fully. Mix approximately 7-8 drops of your chosen essential oils for relaxing and sleep (as tolerated) and 3 teaspoons of a carrier oil. Massage the oil mixture into your whole body, allowing two to three days of rest before each application.
- Fill your space with healing scents. Add 25 drops of any essential oil for relaxing and sleep to an oil diffuser or oil burner. The scent will infuse your sleep or workspace.
How Sufferers of Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome can Benefit from Essential Oils for Relaxing and Sleeping
Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) is a stress-induced condition. It is gaining exposure in the medical community as its negative effect on the body is becoming more apparent. It is a debilitating condition that causes much suffering but often goes undiagnosed and untreated. This may have a negative impact on quality of life. Many sufferers find relief by incorporating the proper diet and certain stress management techniques.
One effective Adrenal support that has emerged is through the use of essential oils. Within the body, we find a matrix known as ECM or the Extracellular Matrix. It is a network of non-living tissues that provide support to the body’s cellular system. It not only plays a role in structural support, but also cell adhesion, migration, and proliferation. Every cell in the human body is nourished by the Matrix. For optimal health, and the treatment of AFS, the ECM must be free of pollutants and toxins. Essential oils are a great method for achieving this. The oils can penetrate a biofilm excreted by infectious organisms and deliver a variety of much-needed anti-infectious and medicinal supplements. Some essential oils are more effective and may have a higher efficiency level then popular antibiotics.
Patients often continue to feel ill or fatigued with a continued loss of endurance and a diminished sense of vitality that goes undiagnosed and untreated due to a lack of knowledge of the ECM congestion and pollution problem. Sadly, the infections and toxic state of AFS sufferers can go on for decades due to problems with the ECM. The current detection model is not sensitive enough to detect it, and some healthcare practitioners don’t recognize it.
There are many reasons why essential oils may work for AF sufferers:
- When used topically, they penetrate the surface of the skin and have quick access to cell membranes. From there, they quickly disperse throughout the bloodstream and tissues, working almost instantaneously. They may penetrate to the parts of our nervous system that control our emotions and moods and may help with anxiety, anger, and stress.
- Many essential oils have anti-inflammatory properties and may benefit AFS sufferers.
- Essential oils may offer pain relief.
- Some oils have antimicrobial properties that may fight bacteria better than conventional antibiotics with little to no negative side effects.
Before beginning any new home remedy treatments, including essential oils, it is always best to consult with your primary care provider or nutrition specialist. Be cautious when using essential oils for relaxing and sleep for medicinal purposes because they could be very potent or toxic if not used correctly. If used topically, it is always best to first do a test on a small area of skin before full immersion in a shower or when using as a body rub. Sufferers of many stress-related conditions such as Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome may have extremely sensitive systems and could be more prone to experiencing adverse side effects from new products. Introduce essential oils one at a time and in small quantities to determine whether the chosen oil is indeed compatible with you.
© Copyright 2018 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
Dr. Lam’s Key Question
Why do essential oils for relaxing and sleep work so well?
Essential oils for relaxing and sleep work so well because they are easily and quickly absorbed through the skin. They have quick access to your cell membranes, cross the brain-blood barrier, and may access the body’s mood-regulating center.