As a result of friends having conditions that affect sleep such as fibromyalgia, EDS and just noticing how many people I know post on Facebook about having problems with sleep I would estimate that at least a quarter of the population struggle with this issue on a regular basis even if not all the time.
What a recent thread posted in one of the specialist groups for these conditions has really reinforced for me is that there is no one size fits all solution.
Exercise helps for some but leaves others stimulated and unable to sleep. Lavender essential oil helps some but others find it too stimulating. (This may be down to the particular essential oil used – Lavender grown at low altitudes is much more stimulating than that grown at high altitudes.) Melatonin helps many to sleep, is non-addictive but some with fibromyalgia get intense pain within half an hour of taking it. (When I posted this in the group I referred to earlier yesterday one of the replies was, “I don’t have a fibro diagnosis but I get this with melatonin.” Other medications for sleep such as amitryptiline and benzodiazipines (often called sleeping tablets) work for some but have a paradoxical effect for others.
Some find coffee helps them sleep! (Not sure it helps me but it certainly doesn’t stop me.)
Massage helps many to sleep better but not all. If part of a stress reduction programme it may well not be effective till after a number of sessions. Many sleep better after sex though again it can have the opposite effect especially if guilt is involved.
What does this mean for those who struggle with sleep and what does it mean for me as a massage and aromatherapy practitioner?
Firstly it means I have to listen to my clients. I need to pay attention to what has helped them in the past if anything and what has either not helped or made things worse. I would estimate that there are at least twenty different essential oils that can help with sleep but as with prescribed medication finding out which one is best can be a lottery.
I need to know if there is something causing the sleep problems, physical or emotional pain are both common causes of insomnia. Any treatment that does not address the causes is unlikely to provide much help. However lack of sleep may take away the ability of someone to do the emotional work needed to resolve issues.
So what are my go to oils for insomnia?
Chamomile, High altitude Lavender and Frankincense are the first three that come to mind. If depression is involved, I would likely add sweet orange to the blend. Myrrh like Frankincense is an important oil for those who are unable to stop thoughts racing around in their head. Grapefruit oil is good for those dealing with guilt and self blame as is Bergamot though the latter is more stimulating and better used during the day rather than just before going to bed and on the pillow. Another oil that can help tackle over-thinking is benzoin.It should be noted that over-thinking and repetitive thoughts can be caused by insomnia as well as causing it so interrupting this viscous circle is often key. This makes vetiver another good oil to think about.
For healing of emotional wounds, Rose oil is important and I have known a number of clients where this has made a real difference.
While I have mentioned ten oils that can help there are many more and some of the more stimulating oils such as ginger and rosemary can have a paradoxical effect in some so may be worth trying especially if pain relief is something that is desired.
Used as a drop or two on a pillow all these oils are safe to use. They can also be used in massage diluted in an appropriate carrier oil. (I mostly use coconut oil for this.)
I would also not trust anyone who claims to have an instant solution. (A one off aromatherapy massage often does result in a good night’s sleep but it rarely if ever produces a long term solution that quickly but then neither do conventional medicines. (Taking tablets long term to me is not a solution but merely keeping symptoms at bay with possible problems associated with long term use. While using essential oils in the ways I describe is not going to produce problems with toxicity etc. I would always advise work to resolve any problems behind insomnia to go alongside aromatherapy treatment if this is unlikely to do it on its own.