I’m a person who relies on rituals and routine. For better or worse, creating rituals keeps me calm in times of anxiety and allows me to maintain organisation and control. As soon as I start to feel my routine going out of whack – during a busy week with lots of evening activity, or over holiday season, for example – I begin to feel anxious and unlike myself, with the only remedy being to return to my status quo as quickly as possible.
With that in mind, you can imagine my unease at suddenly being unable to sleep through the night a few months ago. As someone who had previously been very regimented when it came to bedtime, and had never had trouble sleeping, I was incredibly disheartened when I began to routinely wake up in the early hours of the morning and be unable to fall back to sleep. Every night, I’d wake up sometime between 2am and 4am, wide awake with the burden of my 6am alarm looming. Concentrating at work became a lot more difficult and nightfall made me feel fearful and upset. It was absolutely awful – if you suffer with insomnia, you’ll know why.
I wanted to find a medical reason for my sudden bout of insomnia, but when my blood test came back normal, I knew I had to face up to the fact that this was more symptomatic of anxiety than anything else. It started with my cat waking me up in the night, and soon became a vicious cycle of fearing waking up leading to actually waking up. Bella’s nighttime antics had never been a problem before, so I knew that I just needed to get myself out of the horrible habit of worrying about her interrupting my sleep. But how? The natural, homeopathic route appealed to me to begin with. Roll your eyes if you will, and I certainly understand the necessity and effectiveness of “proper” medical practice. However, knowing my penchant for routine and ritual, I wanted to give something a try in the hopes of at least encountering a placebo effect if nothing else. So began my first foray into the world of essential oils.
Balm Balm – a brand owned by natural beauty retailer LoveLula – offer an impressive range of essential oils which very much appealed to me. All of their oils are 100% organic and come in beautiful, simple packaging. After doing some research on which oils might work best for troubled sleeping, I picked up 10 ml bottles of Lavender* and Clary Sage*, along with a 100 ml bottle of cold-pressed Sweet Almond base oil* for mixing.
Online research led me to experiment with the oils in a few different ways. Firstly, I tried mixing 10 ml of the Sweet Almond base oil with a few drops of Clary Sage and massaging the mixture into my feet and legs before bedtime. This was slightly messy (it needn’t be, I suppose, if you use proper containers for mixing) and not very practical as I don’t shower at night. However, Clary Sage – which carries an earthy, spicy aroma – is known to possess narcotic properties, so I was interested in incorporating this essential oil into my nighttime routine some other way.
To that end, I’ve been sprinkling a few drops of Clary Sage on each side of my pillow every night, so that if I wake up, I can turn over and breathe in a comforting aroma I associate with calm and sleep. This method has helped; the more I’ve worked on not freaking out when I wake up in the middle of the night, the more I’ve been able to stay calm and breathe in a familiar smell before gently falling back to sleep.
Lavender is a classically calming scent, which many associate with restfulness and sleep. I’ve been adding a few drops of this oil to my bedroom candles before lighting (be careful with this, though – the packaging does state that the oils are flammable and should be kept away from naked flames). I’d like to look into making a DIY eco-friendly diffuser at some point to which I would add a few drops of Lavender essential oil; you could also simply add some to a small bowl of water or carrier oil, or of course to an evening bath.
As much as I would love to say that these essential oils, lovely as they are, cured my episode of insomnia, they didn’t. Eventually, I had to give sleeping tablets a go; I knew they would help reset my body clock so that I’d stop waking up at stupid o’clock, and they did. Sleeping tablets are not a long term solution for troubled sleeping, and after less than a month of use I could already feel the effects wearing off as my body became accustomed to them. Most over the counter brands (the ones that I saw at least) contain lactose too, which is obviously not ideal for me as a vegan, or anyone with an intolerance. If you are having trouble sleeping, I would recommend visiting your doctor to discuss what might be causing it and considering a short-term course of sleeping pills to help correct your pattern and clear up the crippling anxiety of not knowing how your night will pan out.
Now that my sleeping issues are, thankfully, behind me, I’ve continued to incorporate essential oils into my nightly routine. They make me feel calm, centred and appeal to that woman in me who craves ritual and order, and to have a certain level of control over her sleep, and her life.
Have you used essential oils to aid sleep, or for other health reasons?
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*This post was not sponsored, but I did not have to pay for these products