If sleep is difficult right now due to feeling anxious about what’s going on with the Coronavirus pandemic and lockdown, why not try one or all these essential oils?
By Eva Gizowska
The sweet, heady scent of jasmine is as calming as Valium but with none of the side effects, as reported in Journal of Biological Chemistry. Researchers at the Heinrich Heine University, Dusseldorf, found that the scent of this delicate white flower has the same calming, sedative effect on the central nervous system as commonly prescribed sleeping pills and sedatives (barbiturates or propofol).
Brain scans showed that inhaling jasmine molecules enhanced the effect of gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA – an amino acid produced naturally in your brain – by more than five times. GABA promotes relaxation, reduces stress and anxiety, balances mood and helps you sleep better.
Add 2-3 drops of jasmine essential oil to 15ml of base oil such as grapeseed or jojoba, and massage it into your skin before going to bed. Try Tisserand Jasmine Absolute Ethically Harvested Pure Essential Oil (£20 for 2ml).
Frankincense has been used since biblical times as part of holy and ceremonial rituals. Derived from bark resin found in the Middle East, Somalia, Ethiopia and China, the woody, balsamic scent of frankincense has a deeply calming, purifying and meditative effect.
‘The scent of frankincense calms the respiratory system, relaxes the diaphragm and encourages deeper breathing,’ says Christina Salcedas, global director of education at Aromatherapy Associates.
‘It helps to alleviate anxiety and stress. If you have a tendency to wake up in the night, add a drop of frankincense to a tissue, then take a deep breath into it. This will soon help you to get back to sleep.’
The woody, sweet, aromatic scent of sandalwood is burned in Hindu and Buddhist temples for its mind-calming, meditative properties. ‘The scent of sandalwood instills a sense of peace and tranquility,’ says aromatherapist Jo Kellett at Tisserand Aromatherapy.
‘It’s very relaxing, alleviates anxiety and eases mental fatigue. It’s also restorative and emotionally grounding. If you’re having problems sleeping, sandalwood will help you to switch off from the stresses of the day. Studies have shown that it contains components (santanols) with a naturally sedative effect and that these can help to reduce anxiety and promote better sleep.’
Tisserand Sleep Better Pulse Point Roller Ball (£5.95 for 10ml) contains sandalwood plus jasmine and lavender essential oils. Also try Forest Mystic Sandalwood incense sticks (£6 for 12).
‘Most people find the sweet, dry citrus aroma of bergamot essential oil very appealing and gently uplifting,’ says Jo Kellett. ‘It’s also very good for stress and will leave you feeling more relaxed so you get a better night’s sleep. It combines beautifully with other oils, particularly lavender and chamomile, both of which are also very calming.’
Add a few drops of bergamot to an oil diffuser or a pillow spray to evoke a calming, sedative environment before going to bed.
Try Tisserand Bergamot Organic Essential Oil (£10.25 for 9ml) or for a deliciously scented, relaxing bath, try Ortigia Sicilia Bergamot Bath Oil (£36 for 200ml), which contains bergamot as well as moisturising avocado and olive oils.
This sweet, exotic, sensual smell is so good they named it twice! ‘Ylang ylang is best known for its aphrodisiac and mood-enhancing properties,’ says Christina. ‘It’s also a fantastic sleep tonic.
The scent reduces blood pressure and heart rate and eases anxiety, helping you to gently unwind physically and mentally,’ she says.
For a powerful sleep blend, combine a few drops with sandalwood and clary sage. Or, add two drops ylang ylang and two drops of vanilla essence or essential oil to 20ml of body butter or lotion, then dab on your wrists, shoulders and upper chest area,’ suggests Christina.
Aromatherapy Associates Lotion (£21 for 300ml), contains shea butter, ylang ylang and vanilla. Also try lighting a Neom Organics Sensuous Candle to calm and relax (from £32).
The purple flowers of the clary sage plant, grown mainly in the South of France and Italy, emit a rich, musky scent that most people find relaxing. The scent of the essential oil has been shown in studies to calm the nervous system and reduce blood pressure, heart rate and levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.
In one study (reported in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2012) it was shown that clary sage helped women to feel less anxious before a urological examination. So, it can make a potent sleep aid if your sleep issues are anxiety or stress related.
Use on it’s own or blend with jasmine, lavender, sandalwood and vetiver.
Try Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic Clary Sage Essential Oil (£18 for 10ml).
Did you know… Only 14 per cent of people say they always get a good night’s sleep and wake up feeling refreshed? According to research by Puressentiel.
These easy DIY recipes mean you can create your own scented sleep aids.
- Add 2 drops lavender, 2 drops jasmine and 2 drops sandalwood essential oils to 30 ml base oil such as jojoba, sweet almond or grapeseed.
- Mix well.
- Add 6-8 drops of this blend to a small spray bottle of distilled water.
- Spritz on your pillow at bedtime.
- Melt 200ml organic coconut oil over a gentle heat, just enough to soften.
- Leave for a few minutes to cool.
- Add 15 drops lavender, 10 drops bergamot and 10 drops vetiver essential oils.
- Mix well until soft and creamy.
- Transfer into a dark glass jar.
- Massage into your upper chest, over your shoulders, back of neck and soles of your feet at bedtime.
- Always dilute essential oils before applying to your skin. Blend one drop essential oil with 5ml (1 tsp) base oil.
- Store essential oils in a cool, dark place.
- Use good quality oils from a reputable supplier such as tisserand.com, nealsyardremedies.com, baldwins.co.uk, fushi.co.uk, uk.puressentiel.com, aromatherapyassociates.com.