Daylight Savings 2023: 5 Ways To Use Essential Oils To Help You Sleep
It’s that time of year again when we spring forward and lose an hour of sleep. While it might be nice to have more sunlight, the time change can wreak havoc on our circadian rhythms and, so too, our ability to sleep.
Let’s take a look at how your sense of smell and essential oils can support better sleep.
SENSE OF SMELL AND SLEEP
Our sense of smell can be a great ally in wellbeing. But, you should understand that there’s a good and a bad time to utilize this wonderful sense.
The truth is that your sense of smell is not a reliable source for keeping you asleep at night. In fact, science has shown us that the most helpful sense during our time of sleep is our sense of hearing. It was a 2004 study conducted by Brown University which discovered that while sound can disrupt sleep, scents cannot. People cannot rely on their sense of smell to awaken them to the danger of fire.
So, what does that mean for aromatherapeutic support?
Well, another interesting study, also conducted by Brown University researchers, found that a person’s ability to smell may vary throughout the day based on their circadian rhythm. They found that, on average, the peak of smell sensitivity was at the beginning of our “biological night”, or about 9 p.m.
Researcher, Dr. Rachel Herz speculates that this could be for evolutionary reasons. It might be to ensure the greatest sense of satiety during the important end of day meal, it might be a way of increasing mating desire, or maybe it’s a way of scanning for nearby threats before bedding down for the night.
SUPPORT BEFORE SLEEP, NOT DURING
Since we’ve learned that our peak smell sensitivity is right before we go to sleep and not during sleep, it’s a wonderful time to most effectively integrate essential oils into your nighttime routine.
Here are 5 ways to use essential oils to support better sleep:
Indulge in a massage - about one hour before bed, massage sore areas like your neck and shoulders, as well as sore legs and feet. The massage will help to regulate your body temperature, improve your circulation, relieve anxiety, and ease muscle tension.
Try this: use a carrier oil such as jojoba wax (my favorite and used by massage therapists), vegetable oil or olive oil and mix in a 2% blend of warming essential oils such as Ginger (Zingiber officinale), Black Pepper (Piper nigrum), and Juniper Berry (Juniperus communis). The oils provide movement and help release tension in fatigued muscles.
End of Day Journaling - often the source of our inability to sleep is the amount of “noise” we have in our head from the day. One way to help release the tension in the mind is to “download” the information that’s clogging our brain. Journaling can be a great way to release a myriad of thoughts and help transfer them to paper.
I recommend “free-thinking” journaling, meaning write in free form, just letting the thoughts flow onto the page. Here an essential oil blend can be a great companion, with the aroma helping to focus the mind and encouraging thoughts to flow more easily onto the page.
Ask yourself: what were my 5 favorite parts of the day and then write down anything that did not go as you had hoped that day. For the challenges, write down an alternative ending. This helps visualize a different outcome and calms the mind.
Try this: put a drop of essential oil on a cotton ball, or use a diffuser, and place it near you as you write. I recommend focusing and calming essential oils such as Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ct camphor), Frankincense (Boswellia carterii) or Australian Sandalwood (Santalum album) at the end of the day to help you relax and open the mind.
3. Diffuse a blend of essential oils in the bedroom - winding down after a long day is vital to helping you fall asleep. Essential oils can play a supportive role in creating a calming environment for you to fall asleep.
Try this: 15 minutes before going to sleep, prepare the bedroom by diffusing your favorite calming essential oil blend such as Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia), Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis) and Cedarwood (Juniperus virginiana). Leave the room and close the door behind you. Now simply allow the scent to fill the space. When you’re ready to go to bed, turn off the diffuser and you’ll have a sleep sanctuary in which to fall asleep.
4. Make a warm foot bath while you read a book or watch TV - it might seem like I would recommend that you take a soak in the tub, but, in fact, Japanese researchers have found that you don’t have to dip all of you in the hot water, to get the benefits of a bath. Just dipping your knees and toes in hot water has the same effect. Read the study here.
Try this: essential oils can be a great aid in helping to soothe muscles, including feet. Consider a blend of essential oils that provide relief for sore muscles such as Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia), German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and Frankincense (Boswellia carterii). However, remember to add a dispersant to the essential oil blend, as oil and water don’t mix and the oils can cause skin irritation.
5. Meditate - 10 minutes before you go to bed, take the opportunity to sit quietly with no distractions. Meditating is a wonderful way to focus the mind, to bring more clarity and emotional calm. While simply closing your eyes and focusing on the body is a wonderful way to practice mindfulness, an alternative approach can be using scent as your guide.
Try this: find a quiet place to sit. Place a drop of your favorite scent (essential oil, perfume, spice, herb, etc.) in front of you. Now close your eyes and focus on the scent. Notice how it evolves over time. Track in your mind how it comes in and goes out of your awareness. Try connecting it to something familiar, a joyful experience you had. Feel that in your body. Continue “listening” to the scent for 5 minutes.
You can also read about how to reduce stress through mindful aromatherapy here.
Sleep is critical to our health and well-being, and incorporating essential oils can be an excellent way to help you get a good night’s sleep when the clocks change.