Aromatherapy works in a subtle way. Essential oils excite specific sensory nerve cells to induce unique neurotransmitter, hormone or enzyme responses. Experts tell us that some essential oils increase the availability of serotonin, dopamine, GABA and melatonin – all critical to better sleep.
A couple of drops of one or more of these essential oils into a small dish or basin (a diffuser) are aromatherapy in practice. This way a plant’s volatile constituents are spread into the air. In addition, essential oils may be applied onto the skin (temples and neck) within massage oil, or alternatively poured into bath water. Skin testing is recommended. It goes without saying, never apply essential oils close to eyes, nose, ears, genitals or lips, or internally by mouth. Using essential oils when doing yoga or relaxation creates a calming environment and immediately brings your senses and mind onto a different place.
Flowers and leaves from the raw herb can also be inserted into pillows and sachets. Dried garden herbs are perfect for this purpose. You can easily make small eye pillows and use with relaxation and/or meditation practices (wonderful support). A small herb pillow can also be placed under the neck while sleeping.
Aromatherapy shouldn’t be seen as a ‘trick’ to remove poor sleep. It’s more a way to find relaxation and enjoy resting. The ability to enjoy resting will eventually induce better sleep and alter the way we connect to sleeping.
Most well-known essential oils
Lavender is well known for its sedative properties. Lavender oil makes for a good diffusion, massage and bath. Lavender flowers are also commonly used in sachets and pillows. Tip: Lavender essential oil can also be added to launder water when washing sheets!
Neroli oil is extracted from the white flowers of the bitter orange tree. Neroli oil well known as an aromatic sedative. Neroli oil is often used in combination with other sedative essential oils.
Basil oil comes from the steam-distillation of basil. Basil oil affects the central nervous system and reduces stress and anxiety. Basil oil and its relative holy basil (tulsi) have been commonly used for stress-related insomnia, headaches and chronic fatigue.
Petitgrain is an essential oil distilled from the leaves, twigs and unripe fruit of the orange tree. It has been noted for its sedative, relaxing, tranquilizing and hypnotic effects. Just a few drops into a massage oil or bath do the trick.
Melissa is widely known as lemon balm or bee balm and is known as an aromatic sedative. Its volatile oils come from its lemony leaves. Melissa has been used as tonic for tension, headaches, depression and insomnia.
Rose oil is known to lower body temperature via central nervous system. Rose oil can be applied to the skin with massage.
Chamomile is effective in lowering core body temperature as well having therefore a sedative effect. Chamomile oil can be applied to the skin with massage or may be applied as a compress to the abdomen before bedtime.
Other essential oils documented for their relaxing and sleep-inducing effects include cedar, marjoram, cypress, frankincense, geranium, sage, sandalwood ylang-ylang and jasmine.