Dr Whitney Roban is a Family, Educational, and Corporate Sleep Specialist, as well as the founder of Solve Our Sleep. Her mission is to provide the sleep education and support families, students, teachers, and employees need to not only survive, but to thrive. Dr. Roban’s training and experience as a Clinical Psychologist, paved the way to her success as a leading sleep expert. In this blog post, she explains how Aromatherapy can be used to improve our sleep quality.
The global Covid pandemic has left the world in a mental health crisis, with skyrocketing levels of anxiety and depression. As the number one cause of behavioral sleep problems is anxiety, it is no wonder that so many people are currently struggling with their sleep. As a Clinical Psychologist, as well as a Sleep Specialist, I am a huge proponent of using techniques to reduce anxiety in order to facilitate and improve sleep. One such technique that has been shown to quiet the mind and body, is the use of aromatherapy before bed.
Essential oils have been used for centuries for medicinal purposes. More recently, the scents produced from these oils are being used to promote relaxation and deeper sleep. They can be inhaled through vapour, directly applied to the skin, or ingested. The most popular essential oils used to decrease stress and anxiety, and therefore improve sleep, are lavender, chamomile, and vanilla. Lavender is the most studied of all essential oils. It holds the most promise to help people suffering from insomnia, as it has been shown to improve both sleep quantity and quality by its sedative effect, as well as lowering anxiety It has been also shown to benefit overall stress and anxiety, which could help people suffering from generalised anxiety as well as sleep anxiety. Chamomile and vanilla have also been shown to have a sedative effect, as well as promote relaxation and calm. Peppermint has specifically been used as an anti-inflammatory agent, and has the potential to clear the nose and airway, which might help with snoring and mild sleep apnea . All of these popular essential oils may also lower blood pressure, decrease pain, decrease headaches, decrease depression, and improve digestive health. Many people enjoy creating their own blend of essential oils, so that they can target many of their own specific issues that they would like to improve upon.
Aromatherapy works by utilising one of our most powerful senses, the sense of smell, to ignite a part of our emotional brain that can elicit positive emotions and behaviors. The process by which this occurs is by using the olfactory nerve in the nose to transmit signals to the limbic system of the brain, which controls our emotions. In return, this emotional component of the brain secretes neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, which induce a feeling of calm as well as help stimulate the body’s production of melatonin, which is the sleep hormone.
As aromatherapy has become so popular, there are many different ways to enjoy its positive effects on your physical health, mental health, and sleep health. You can spray your bedroom and pillow with an essential oils mist as part of your bedtime routine, put oils in a warm bath about one hour before you begin your bedtime routine, use an oil diffuser in your bedroom, or put the essential oils directly on your wrists and neck before going to sleep. As well as aromatherapy, lighting is incredibly important in the run up to your sleep habits. A lamp which emits low levels of harmful blue light is recommended alongside your arompatherapy regime. You just have to figure out what scent (or combination of scents) work best for you, and how you are most comfortable using the oils at night. There is no right or wrong way to use aromatherapy. Whatever blend and method you choose, as long as it elicits feelings of relaxation and calm in body and mind, you will reap the benefits of good health and good sleep.