Whether you have temporary difficulties falling asleep or suffer from long-term insomnia, aromatherapy offers natural help towards better sleep. Sleeplessness may be caused by long-term stress or temporary worries, a busy mind, too much coffee, a bad mattress or external noise. The cause should always be treated. But, whatever the cause, essential oils can help you to fall asleep easier and sleep more deeply.
The easiest way to use essential oils at home is in an aromatherapy bath in the evening. Add around 6 drops of one of the following essential oils or a combination of up to 3 of the oils (but always total of 6 drops) into a bath.
Essential Oils for Insomnia
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia/Lavandula vera/Lavandula officinalis) is a relaxing, calming, sedative oil and one of the best oils for insomnia. It is safe for almost everyone (although avoid it during the first trimester of pregnancy, especially if you have a history of miscarriage, as it can bring on a delayed period). Lavender relaxes the body and calms the mind, and it can be used on its own but makes nice blends with many other oils. You can also burn Lavender in an oil burner or a diffuser in the bedroom.
Roman Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis) soothes the nerves and calms the mind. Together with lavender, it is one of the safest oils in aromatherapy and it is also used in children’s creams including creams for nappy rash. For children’s baths, always dilute the oil well into a base oil and use less than you would for an adult.
Neroli, also called Orange Blossom (Citrus aurantium), is a good oil for insomnia, especially if the cause is anxiety or stress. Neroli is expensive, but you only need very little of it. A drop or two in a blend is enough, and Neroli blends well together with Lavender, Chamomile, and many other oils. Neroli is safe to use throughout pregnancy, but pregnant women are recommended to dilute essential oils to 1% instead of the usual 3% (this means 1 drop of essential oil into 5 ml or 1 teaspoonful of base oil, such as sweet almond or jojoba).
Petitgrain comes from the orange tree, but whereas Neroli oil is distilled from the orange blossoms, Petitgrain comes from the leaves and the twigs. Its properties are similar to those of Neroli, but it is cheaper and has a fresher scent than the deeply floral Neroli.
Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea) is a very relaxing oil. However, many aromatherapy books warn against using it if you have had any alcohol because the combination may induce nightmares. I haven’t experimented, but it’s worth bearing this in mind. Don’t use Clary sage during pregnancy because it can bring on a period and induce heavy bleeding. It blends well with Lavender, and the combination is incredibly relaxing.
You don’t have to be insomniac to enjoy aromatherapy baths. All these oils can be used for a relaxing evening bath to calm the body and the mind before going to sleep, especially during times of stress. If you use the oils for a long period of time, it is a good idea to to vary the essential oils every couple of weeks. Other relaxing oils for a de-stressing evening bath include Marjoram (Origanum majorana), Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata), Vetivert (Vetiveria zizanoides), Benzoin (Styrax benzoin) and Frankincense (Boswellia carteri). One oil to avoid if you suffer from insomnia is Peppermint (Mentha piperita), a very stimulating oil that can keep you awake at night.
Sources: Patricia Davis: Aromatherapy, an A-Z (Random House, UK, 2004)