Did you know that anxiety is often connected to sleeping problems?
The more you worry, the more difficult it is to get a good night sleep. As a result of sleep deprivation, your anxiety gets worse.
If you can relate, don’t worry because you’re not alone.
In fact, according to The Philips 2020 Global Sleep Survey, only 45% of Australians are happy with the amount and quality of sleep they get.
Meanwhile, a study by Beyond Blue has found that, in any given year, 2 million Australians experience anxiety.
These are disturbing figures, and if you're experiencing one or both of them, it can be extremely frustrating and negatively impact your quality of life.
But if you aren’t up for pharmaceutical solutions to these, there are—fortunately—natural options to go for.
One great natural alternative solution for sleep and anxiety are essential oils.
And on this blog, we’re going to dive into how essential oils can help promote restful sleep and provide anxiety relief.
But first, we need to…
Understand Essential Oils
At their most basic, essential oils are any number of compounds drawn from plants.
Although they are often said to be necessary for a happy life, the “essential” in the name comes from the fact that the extracted oils capture the plant’s scent and flavour—they’re essence, essentially.
The best of these oils are extracted via natural, safe methods like steam/water distillation or cold pressing. When the compounds are extracted, they’re mixed with a safe carrier oil to make them usable.
If you want to learn more about Essential Oils, you may want to read our blog on The Benefits of Essential Oils: Everything You Need to Know.
How to Use Essential Oils
There are three ways to benefit from essential oils: Aromatically, Topically and Internally.
The most common of these is aromatically, where they’re diffused via a diffuser and then inhaled.
When you inhale the essential oil's scent, it triggers your limbic system in the brain, which is tied with emotions, behaviours, long-term memory, and general feelings of well-being.
Thus, using the correct EOs can help ease your anxiety and promote restful sleep simply by inhaling them.
The next is topically, wherein a pure essential oil is mixed with a carrier oil in an appropriate ratio and applied directly into the skin.
It is one of the quickest and easiest ways to experience the body benefits of essential oils, especially if you're targeting a specific part of the body.
Lastly, and probably the most controversial use of essential oil is internally.
Though many swear by the benefits they get when adding a few drops of their favourite essential oils to their food and drinks, it is best to exercise caution if you decide to consume essential oil.
This last method is best done under the guidance of a trained professional since essential oils are potent and concentrated substances that should be used with caution.
Can Essential Oils Help Sleep and Anxiety?
Much of the effectiveness of relaxation oils depends really on the person using them.
That is, if you use it consistently and then match their use with a bit of rest and relaxation, then you’re likely to enjoy better results than if you were just to use it once and then get on with a very stressful day.
You see, you can’t constantly expose yourself to stressors and expect that you’ll feel better.
That’s the truth even with pharmacological solutions, really—and it’s the same way with essential oils.
So be consistent and be kind to yourself, as well.
What Are the Best Essential Oils for Sleep and Relaxation?
This is perhaps one of the most popular essential oils around—and not just essential oils for sleep and anxiety.
It’s drawn from a purple flowering shrub and is the one essential oil most commonly studied by scientists.
This helps with sleep and anxiety by calming your nervous system.
It does so via innate chemical compounds called linalool and linalyl acetate found in the extracted essence of lavender.
The most common effects include lowering your heart rate, temperature, and blood pressure—all of which are part of body processes when you go to sleep.
As you might expect from a truly popular essential oil, there are several ways that lavender can be used.
Insomniacs can breathe in steam infused with lavender, for one. While some diffuse lavender at night and report restful sleep in the morning.
On the other hand, others spread a small quantity about their temples or on the chest to calm them throughout the day.
Whichever your preference, it’s one of the most potent essential oils for sleep and anxiety that you should ideally carry with you wherever you go so you can use it as needed.
This essential oil is drawn from a citrus plant native to North America with an earthy smell and hints of fruity.
Because of its unique scent, it’s not a scent that everyone loves, so make sure you sample it before stocking up.
But here’s what’s surprising with this essential oil: when prepared properly and safely, it can be ingested in extract form or even as a juice. However, these are specifically prepared and sold, so don't try ingesting the essential oil itself.
Don’t worry, because there are other, better ways to use bergamot as is.
The best is as an aromatherapy oil.
Included as part of steam treatment or in a diffused, bergamot has been found to lower blood pressure and improve feelings of well-being.
For this reason, bergamot is also often recommended as a sleep aid.
A study of healthy women who used a mix of bergamot with sandalwood found that sleep quality improved in 64% of the participants. Positive results have also been found in aromatherapy sessions that used a blend of bergamot with lavender and ylang-ylang.
Ylang-Ylang might sound unfamiliar, but it’s actually the main component of Chanel No. 5!
So, if you’ve used this classy perfume before, it’s a fairly familiar scent.
It’s wonderfully floral and blends very well with other scents.
In terms of its effectiveness, Ylang-Ylang was found to have antioxidant properties and anti-anxiety properties.
In particular, ylang-ylang works directly on the hippocampus of your brain, where it lowers your blood pressure while also increasing your alertness and attentiveness.
So if you’re looking for natural means to keep away harmful and worrying thoughts, this is the essential oil for you.
On the other hand, ylang-ylang is also effective at aiding your body to slowly power down after a long day—especially when inhaled via a diffuser. It might not be as quick as, say, lavender, but it does boost the quality of your sleep overall.
There are two types of chamomile plants which potentially gives two different benefits.
What’s relevant to us is the Roman variant that is particularly effective at reducing anxiety.
You probably already know of chamomile tea, often served to those who want a good night’s rest.
But using its essential oil for aromatherapy is perhaps the best way to experience the soothing effects of chamomile—particularly if you go for a blend of Roman chamomile, lavender, and neroli.
This blend reduces anxiety symptoms that keep you up at night.
Other combinations have been studied and found to be effective when part of a sleep hygiene routine.
For example, lavender and chamomile oils have been used by nurses to reduce stress and anxiety during their long, arduous shifts.
Meanwhile, pregnant women can try a pure Roman chamomile aromatherapy session as studies have found this particularly effective.
Note that you can just as easily bring around chamomile oil in a necklace roller or portable bottle to apply to your temples when you need a pick-me-up.
As the name implies, cedarwood has a very woodsy scent—more so than bergamot—so that needs to be considered when it comes to preference.
But despite its scent, it has a strong sedative effect because of a chemical in its composition called cedrol.
This sedative effect has undergone particularly strong scientific study.
Inhaling cedarwood—whether from a diffuser, steam or from a direct application—improves the quality of your sleep because it activates the parasympathetic nervous system tied with relaxation.
It's so well-studied that the recommended usage is for 20 nights straight to see results.
Besides sleep quality, cedarwood also increases sleep quantity—making for longer restful hours and less early morning awakening.
Among all relaxation oils, cedarwood is the most versatile and appears to be effective on women of all age groups.
The anti-anxiety effects seem mostly tied to this very potent sedative effect.
So just be aware of this potent effect when taking cedarwood during your busy hours.
To wrap this up, if you’re looking for a natural way to unwind and have a better sleep, give a few of these essential oils a try. They could be exactly what you need to restore your mind and body to a state of calm and rest.