Research shows that poor sleep has immediate negative effects on your hormones, exercise performance and brain function, but of course we all know this! How many times has a sleepless and restless night led to a dysfunctional day with fraught temper and relationships?
However, it isn’t just poor brain function and irritability that can result from lack of sleep. Did you know that it can also cause weight gain and increase disease risk in both adults and children? In contrast, good sleep can help you eat less, exercise better and be healthier, and also give improved brain function and relationships.
Over the past few decades, both sleep quality and quantity has declined. In fact, many people regularly get poor sleep because of the way life is in the 21st century. We stare at our PC, phone and other gadgets for hours at a time. These all emit blue light, which can really impede on the body’s ability to sleep. We also rush around more and try to fit more into each day. I feel myself that this is due to email. Where in the old days we used to wait for Royal Mail, now mail is instant – and we feel we need to reply instantly, and so everything in life is now becoming more ‘instant’. 5G will download videos ‘instantly’ and on it goes. We feel pressured, we feel tired, we feel anxious and stressed, because the more time we save on instant gadgets, for some reason, the less time we have to relax, because we fit more in to our day. So, if you want to optimise your health or lose weight, or feel less anxious and pressured, then getting a good night's sleep is one of the most important things you can do.
Here are a few tips on how you can achieve this.
Your body has a natural time-keeping clock known as your circadian rhythm which influences your brain, other organs and hormonal system, helping you stay awake and telling your body when it's time to sleep. Natural sunlight and/or bright light during the day helps keep your circadian rhythm healthy, so giving your body plenty of light will improve daytime energy, as well as night time sleep quality and duration. Ylang ylang essential oil can help with insomnia, and in addition to day light exposure, will improve sleep quality and duration. It can also reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. If sunlight exposure is not practical, invest in daylight bulbs for your home.
Too much light in the evenings impacts your circadian rhythm, and reduces the melatonin hormone levels, tricking your brain into thinking it is still daytime, so use yellow light bulbs at low wattage in lamps for the evenings. Blue light, found in smart phones and other devices is the worst light in the evening as this also reduces melatonin and tricks the body that it is still daytime. Switch off your devices at night, and never have them in your bedroom. If you have a TV or landline phone in the room, switch it off at the wall so there are no other distracting lights near you while you sleep. Bergamot essential oil is cleansing and can reduce toxicity in the body, but it is also known to help balance your circadian rhythm, which is why this oil is included in the Wind Down and Relax brand.
Caffeine has numerous benefits and is actually good for your heart. One single espresso can enhance your focus and energy and generally keep your circulation healthy. However, if you drink coffee in the evening, because it stimulates your nervous system as well as increasing your heart rate, it may prevent your body from naturally relaxing at night. Research has found that drinking coffee up to six hours before bed significantly worsened sleep quality, because this is how long the caffeine will stay in your body.
While short power naps can be beneficial to some, long sleeps during the day can negatively affect your night time sleep. This is because it confuses your internal body clock. Using Wing Down and Relax Bath Soak, with ylang ylang, bergamot and lavender before bedtime can reduce your need to sleep during the day by encouraging a deeper, less anxious sleep at night.
Your circadian rhythm functions on a set clock, aligning itself with sunrise and sunset, so being consistent with your bedtime and rising time can significantly improve your mood. When the clocks are moved an hour in spring and autumn, this is know to disrupt most of the population for a few weeks, where circadian rhythm has to realign and retrain. Using trusted natural essential oils in a body lotion can really help your clock to readjust.
Several supplements can induce relaxation and help you sleep, so contact your local pharmacist for their advice. Valerian root is a common supplement that is often recommended and works well in conjunction with the Penny Price Wind Down and Relax Range.
Drinking alcohol at night can negatively affect your sleep and hormones (decreasing your melatonin levels). It can also increase snoring and disrupt your sleep pattern as your liver tries to cleanse overnight, giving hot sweats.
A messy and cluttered bedroom will produce a messy and cluttered mind, which is not conducive to great sleep. Make sure your bedroom is as clean and tidy as it can be, at an ambient temperature (not too hot), and your bed is properly made. Take care to make the bedroom as dark as possible and as noise-proof as possible. If you live by a busy road with streetlamps, consider black-out blinds and earplugs. Drop 2 drops of lavender oil on the corner of your pillowcase and relax before going to sleep, either by mediation or reading.
If you still find it difficult to sleep, investigate Feng Shui techniques of arranging your bedroom furniture for the best flow of energy through the room.
Late-night eating can impact both sleep quality and the natural release of melatonin. Having said that, the food you eat last thing could play a role. Carbohydrate-rich evening meals tend to induce deeper sleep. This could be because carbohydrates take a long time to digest, and therefore keep you feeling comfortably satisfied for longer.
Meditation, visualisation and relaxation techniques before going to bed can calm the mind and body and prepare the body for sleep. This will also still the mind of the day’s worries and anxieties, leading to a better night’s sleep. Using a vaporiser in the bedroom with 5 drops of our Nurture Rest pure essential oil blend can calm the mind, dull anxieties and prepare body and mind for relaxation and rest.
Massage is relaxing to the muscular, circulatory and nervous systems, so if there is someone who can massage you in the evening, even if it is just the feet or the shoulders, let them! It will really help to sedate the nerves ready for bed. If you are alone, try massaging your feet and hands – every little helps. You can try Nurture Peace massage oil, by Penny Price Aromatherapy as this is a ready-made massage oil to induce calm and peace.
A relaxing bath or shower is a really popular way to better sleep. Penny Price Aromatherapy has lots of different ranges for bath and shower, and aftercare body moisture creams, but for sleep we recommend our Wind Down and Relax range, with shower gel, bath soak, body scrub and body moisture cream, all in hand tubes. The lavender, ylang ylang and bergamot, in these rich formulations are all designed to help you to have a fabulously relaxing night’s sleep. If you don’t have time for a bath (which is the most relaxing self-help treatment for sleep), try using the Wind Down and Relax Bath Soak in a warm foot spa for 20 minutes before bed.
A mattress needs replacing every 8 years, so it is very important that when you change it you go to a professional outlet who will do a return and replace for you if you find you have chosen the wrong one. I advise that you never buy a mattress online, and that you only buy from a reputable store who will advise and allow you to lie on the display beds for as long as you like. After all, you take a lot of trouble to choose your car, and you probably change that sooner than 8 years!
Again, go a reputable store where you can actually lie down and try the pillow. Ask for advice and tell the shop assistant exactly how you sleep (side, back, curled up etc.) as this does make a difference to the type of pillow you should have. A bad pillow will give you neck tension and headaches – and you don’t go to bed to get those!
Your bedding also makes a difference. Most people sleep more comfortably in cotton sheets than in mixed fibre sheets, as cotton helps regulate body temperature and is absorbent should you perspire in the night
Exercise is one of the best science-backed ways to improve your sleep and health (not of course just before bed), so take the stairs not the lift, and walk wherever you can. Exercise does not mean punishing your body by hard regimes, it simply means to use your muscles in your everyday life as they were always meant to be used. Exercise releases good hormones such as endorphins and adrenaline, which during the day is a great thing, as once these have worn off, sleep comes more naturally. It stands to reason that if you do nothing all day, there is no reason to sleep well.
Often, essential oils get overlooked as a therapy to encourage and promote good sleep. Essential oils are fairly inexpensive and easy to introduce to a daily and nightly routine, and as there are an array of essential oils that can help you relax, mentally and physically, there are plenty to choose from. Using aromatherapy can make it easier for you to fall asleep, stay asleep and sleep more soundly.
I am going to share 4 essential oils I recommend to others and use myself to help improve sleep, relieve stress, lift mood, and boost performance. I’ll also mention the benefits these aromatic oils can have for sleep and health.
You have probably had the experience of encountering a smell that instantly evokes a strong memory or feeling. Maybe an aroma of pine reminds you of Christmas, or a sniff of perfume reminds you of your mum. This is because our sense of smell is directly wired to the limbic system in the centre of the brain – the area of memory and emotion. Cells inside the nose detect smells in our environment, and send information to the brain, via the olfactory nerve. The information about that particular smell is immediately transported to the limbic system that controls emotional reactions and memory.
That is why those memories you associate with the scent of oranges, or freshly brewed coffee happen so quickly and so strongly.
Essential oils have been used for centuries to promote relaxation and mental and physical wellness. Today, these same oils are increasingly being studied by scientists in search of a more rigorous, specific understanding of their benefits to sleep and health.
Aromatherapy is a modern term for the ancient art of using essential oils for primitive medicine and relaxation. For many years, scientists have been conducting studies into the sleep-promoting, stress-relieving, pain-reducing and mood-regulating benefits of essential oils. The good news is that aromatherapy can help sleep directly by relieving stress and anxiety, and is also very useful for depression.
True lavender that is grown at 1600 metres (more or less) is the very best essential oil to induce sleep. Being grown so high up, the plant uses the free ultra-violet rays of the sun to produce the best quality lavender (known as High Altitude Lavender) that has a very wide range of therapeutic effects. Lavender is analgesic (pain-relieving), anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic (anti-cramp) and hypotensive (balances high blood pressure). Lavender is mainly used for treating headaches, burns, and many other ailments, and it is said of this oil ‘if in doubt, use lavender’.
However, true Lavender essential oil (please be careful you are not using lavandin oil) is best known for its sleep inducing and stress-relieving properties, which are truly amazing. Our Lavender, and the lavender you need to use to induce sleep, is 50% linalool (alcohol) and 50% esters – it is grown at 1600 metres above sea level to ensure the chemistry is perfect for sleep inducement and is also distilled for up to 5 times longer than lavender oil used for perfumery to ensure that all the volatile molecules are present and active. Studies using lavender oil as a sleep aid show great improvement in sleep and also fewer trips to the loo during the night (Azri et al 2010).
Bergamot essential oil has a beautifully citrus aroma that is both soft and uplifting. The oil is simple pressed from the peel and then filtered before use, so it is truly natural and pure. Bergamot essential oil contains all the major chemical ingredients of lavender, so all the right notes, but not necessarily in the same order! Bergamot oil is made from 45-65% linalool with nerol and geraniol, 30-60% linalyl acetate, with geranyl acetate and neryl acetate. This makes the oil regenerative, anti-stress, anti-anxiety and good for helping you to go to sleep. It does surprise some that this oil, a top note, should be so relaxing, but it really is. Bergamot essential oil is uplifting, calming, digestive, comforting and extremely good for the skin particularly with eczema type skin. When Bergamot essential oil was used in a study with lavandin and ylang ylang it produced deep sleep with reduced trips to the toilet (Arzi et al 2010).
Ylang ylang is an essential oil distilled from the beautiful creamy-yellow blossoms. The distillation can take some time, and you do need to take care to buy the complete distillation rather than just a nice part of it! Our Ylang Ylang is distilled in Madagascar for a full 24 hours to obtain what is known as Ylang Ylang Complete.
Ylang ylang essential oil was traditionally used as an aphrodisiac, as an anti-anxiety medication, as a sedative and also as a relaxant. Today it is used to increase self-confidence, reduce stress and anxiety and help with hyperactivity and decreased sex drive.
Studies have reported that inhaling essential oils had a positive effect on reducing anxiety and increasing quality of sleep. The inhalation method was to blend lavender, ylang-ylang, and bergamot once daily for four weeks. This was found to lead to reduced blood pressure, pulse, subjective stress, and state anxiety levels of clients with hypertension, as well as reducing nocturnal urination, compared to the placebo and control group, which led to deeper and more satisfying sleep (Hwang, 2006).
Geranium essential oil is very common in aromatic practice and it is no surprise as to why that is. Geranium oil has a very wide healing arena, being anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, sedative, anxiety-reducing, and muscle-relaxing (Sulong, 2006). It also facilitates blood circulation and eases breathing. I use it most for skincare as it is adaptogenic – this means that the oil adapts to the type of skin it is applied to, so it can help balance dry, oily, combination, troubled, acne type skins equally well. It also helps to regenerate the skin. Kim et al., reported that geranium essential oil is one of the most effective essential oils for reducing menstrual-related anxiety and, most importantly, disturbed sleep from hot sweats, cramps and bad dreams (Kim, 2011).
Apart from its pleasantly sweet and floral aroma, geranium essential oil is excellent as an aid to help ease stress and insomnia. With a varied blend of chemistry, including alcohols, esters and aldehydes, geranium oil is able to help calm and relax, bringing on a feeling of well-being. Used in the bath before bedtime can encourage a good nights sleep, and keep you asleep for longer.
How to use these oils at home
To use these essential oils for yourself, here are a few tip and recipes:
Sleepy Vaporiser Blend
4ml Lavender True essential oil
2ml Ylang ylang essential oil
2ml Bergamot essential oil
Blend together in a 10ml amber glass bottle with dropper lid and use around 8 drops in a vaporiser a couple of hours before bed-time. You can take the vaporiser into the bedroom with you to prolong the effects.
Sleepy Bath Foam
98ml Bath Foam Base
15 drops Lavender True essential oil
15 drops Geranium essential oil
15 drops Ylang ylang essential oil
15 drops Bergamot essential oil
Mix the foam base with the essential oils in a mixing bowl, then using a funnel, transfer into a 100ml bottle with pump top. Use 2-5 pumps in each bath and soak for 20 minutes.
Sleepy Night Cream
99ml Moisture Cream Base
8 drops Lavender True essential oil
8 drops Geranium essential oil
7 drops Ylang ylang essential oil
7 drops Bergamot essential oil
Mix the cream base and essential oils in a bowl and transfer to a 100ml jar with lid when fully whipped. Use every evening after cleansing. Can also be used as a hand cream.
You can also put 2 drops of lavender on your pillow before bedtime, or use the vaporiser blend (again 2 drops is enough) to help you sleep.
If you've always struggled with sleep, it may be wise to consult with your doctor.
If you take your wellbeing and wellness seriously, as well as your quality of life, then sleep is essential. Visit www.penny-price.com for more products, email firstname.lastname@example.org for bespoke advice or call 01455 251020