In this post, I want to explain a bit about how essential oils work to help you sleep. I'm going to share the science behind scent, as well as get you to think about whether you've conditioned yourself to suffer with poor sleep. First though, we need to look at aromatherapy.
Aromatherapy is a natural treatment method that uses essential oils extracted from aromatic plants. The oils from such plants are thought to have medicinal properties and can help to influence the brain, mind, and body.
They work on a number of levels, but mostly through the skin, or through inhalation.
Lavender has traditionally been used to aid sleep, due to its history of helping to relax the body. There is a large amount of evidence to show this. This is why, at the time of writing, two out of the five Pillow Sprays I’ve designed have Lavender in them. However, it is not Lavender per se that has these beneficial effects, it is a naturally occuring component found within Lavender, and a whole range of other essential oils.
This component is called Linalool, and you will find it listed in the ingredients of many essential oils. Numerous studies have demonstrated its ability to beneficially alter our nervous systems, promoting a state of relaxation and calm: it has a sedative effect.
How does this link to sleep? Firstly there is the obvious connection that if we are more relaxed we are more likely to sleep. But also, without the benefit of something like Linalool, increased activity in the nervous system can lead to the following sleep problems:-
- We have a higher body temp when we are stressed or anxious, which is inconducive to sleep (17-18 degrees is best).
- Our heart rate is elevated, which makes the transition from light sleep to deep sleep very difficult.
- It is hard to shut down brain activity. Anxious thoughts go over and over in our mind
- Once asleep, the quality of that sleep is poor as we are in a state of ‘alert’ so we will wake often.
A couple of studies of interest include Takeda et al (2017), who investigated patients with dementia that showed sleep disturbance (problems getting to sleep, staying asleep and early waking). They found that those that had a mist of Lavender essential oil on their pillows were significantly more likely to show longer sleeping times overall, longer sustained sleeping times (ie, without waking) and less early morning waking, compared with those that didn’t.
Also, Lillehei and Halcon (2014) reviewed 15 studies that assessed the efficacy of inhalation of essential oils (mostly Lavender) to aid sleep (time getting to sleep, time spent asleep, time spent in deep sleep) and positive effects were found in all studies with no adverse effects. This shows how aromatherapy can benefit sleep without the negative effects that drugs, such as sleeping pills, can produce.
So, we can see how Linalool, found within essential oils, can be beneficial for helping to calm the sympathetic nervous system and activate the parasympathetic nervous system, making it more conducive for sleep.
But, Lavender isn’t for everyone. That’s why our range of Pillow Sprays consists of 3 blends that don’t contain any Lavender at all, but have essential oils with Linalool in them, so you still benefit from the effects traditionally associated with Lavender. Whatsmore, there are heaps of other benefits with some of these other essential oils:-
- Frankincense can be found in two of our Pillow Sprays, and our Night Oil. This has been linked to easing the mind, calming anxiety and alleviating grief – all common reasons for sleep problems.
- Rose Geranium is also featured in two of our Pillow Sprays and our Night Oil. This has been linked with calming our emotions.
And we’re still not done with the power of aromatherapy – part of the story behind www.pillowsprays.co.uk is that our company is based on the idea of Aromatherapy and Psychology coming together. Part of this link to Psychology relates to classical conditioning (learning via association).
If you spray a scent over your linen and in your room before bed, then this helps you relax, which increases the likelihood of sleeping and staying asleep. After a number of pairings of the smell of the Pillow Spray and better sleep and relaxation, it won’t be long before an association is made between the scent and sleep.
Classical conditioning is another reason why people fall into bad sleep habits, which are hard to break. For example, we may do things in bed that are not conducive to sleep, such as being on our iPad, watching TV, being on your phone, or just struggling to get to sleep – all these things then become associated with the bedroom, which creates an association of ‘this is where I struggle to sleep.’
So, the essential oils in your favourite Pillow Spray are helping you on many levels: both physically and psychologically. I offer several Sleep Tips on our Social Media - why not check them out?
All Blog posts are written by Steven Crumblehulme, the founder of Pillowsprays. Steven has a background in Cognitive Psychology and Holistic Therapies. The Pillowsprays range is a selection of products made using premium essential oils to help you sleep better, naturally.