Sleep has an impact on every aspect of daily life. It affects your alertness, performance, physical health and mental wellness. Recent studies have linked sleep loss and sleep disorders to a variety of health problems. These include depression, diabetes, obesity, heart disease and stroke.
Besides all of that, let’s face it, when you are tired- everything is harder - and less fun. Personally, what caught my attention was struggling to remember things. The busier I got, the less clear my thinking was.. I know myself well enough to know that there is no chance that I’ll be content backing off on my dream life and for the time being, I also have a work shift that starts at 5:30am, and occasionally requires pulling all nighters (a testimonial to cultural factors that have led to our sleep deprivation problems.) If I’m not going to slow my roll, I’ll have to make adjustments in the management of my time, to include desperately needed sleep.
When I have a problem, I start by gathering evidence to support a plan of action. I know I need sleep if I’m going to be healthy and clear headed. I don’t have time to not sleep and this has been a problem. I simply didn’t want to “waste time” being unconscious. I had more important things to do! I was (and honestly, this is a work in progress) in need of a mindset change. So, I studied until I became more convinced of the value of sleep than I was of the value of staying (or trying to) stay awake.
The first thing I discovered is how important sleep is to brain function. The more i read, the more convinced I became that i could actually be more productive if I slept more. Even is I was not perceiving the massive impact, it was there - in the chemistry, in the brain waves.
We all know what sleep deprivation feels like. if it’s something that you regularly experience, no matter when you go to bed, you’re going to be shocked by what it does to your brain–I know that I was. Scientists have found that people suffering from sleep deprivation more often had cortical shrinkage than people who got the appropriate number of hours. And your cortex is the part of your brain that’s responsible for thought and action! This reduction in the volume of the cortex increases vulnerability to depression and addiction.
Have you ever pulled an all-nighter? I have. It felt terrible, but I did it anyway out of what i thought was necessity. Health care workers, law enforcement... probably others that I am not as familiar with all have all nighters built into the requirements of the job. This is unfortunate and could actually result in tragic consequences.
Researchers found that pulling an all-nighter leads to the blood levels of proteins associated with brain injuries like concussions to increase by 20%. So, Pulling an all-nighter is comparable to head trauma! That’s terrifying. For those of you who think I’m being dramatic, we also tend to ignore the significance of concussions.
The second thing I learned was that the hours that you sleep DO matter.
Our sleep cycles in and out of 2 phases: REM sleep, in which memories and thoughts are processed, and non-REM sleep, in which restorative functions occur and hormones are released to help the body recover. As we sleep, we experience 90-minute cycles of these 2 types of sleep.
The ratio of the types of sleep, however, changes during the night – no matter what time we go to sleep.
According to My research , Between the hours of 11 pm and 3 am, most of these cycles are non-REM (restorative), and between 3 am and 7 am, most of these cycles are REM (memory processing). THOSE WHO GO TO BED LATE MISS OUT ON MANY OF THE RESTORATIVE FUNCTIONS OF NON-REM SLEEP (Robbins).
Finally, I learned more about a whole host of negative consequences all associated with reduced sleep–including an increase in inflammation in the body and an increase in the rates of cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, and obesity. Yikes!
Ok, so there is some of the bad news. Time for isome of the good news! Besides changing jobs, there are some simple habits that we can adopt to help our sleep situation.
If you are thinking that it may be time for a sleep aid... consider natural options first:
Essential Oils for Sleep!
Somewhere between 50 and 70 million Americans are currently thought to suffer from sleep disorders, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and around 4 percent of adults use prescription medication to get a good night’s rest. On average, sleeping pills will only add around 11 minutes of sleep time, according to a 2007 study from the National Institutes of Health, and will cause the user to drift off just 13 minutes sooner after getting into bed. As promised, they’re likely to help you go to sleep and stay asleep, but barely.
The best sleep aids are the ones that are not going to impede the normal body function or block our normal sleep mechanisms and interfere with a healthy sleep cycle. Certain essential oils, or highly concentrated versions of natural oils found in plants, have been shown to help improve sleep quality. These fragrant oils can be experienced in a diffuser, or by placing a few drops on your pillow at night, applied topically and some taken internally.
I am confident that there is a solution for you. Know that everyone is a little different in preference as well as physiological response. Here are just some of the essential oils that have been linked to better sleep:
Lavender is associated with lower blood pressure, heart rate, and skin temperature, all necessary ingredients for a good night’s sleep. Studies have shown that inhaling lavender can improve sleep quality, and it may help manage the recurring difficulties with sleeping. As an added bonus, lavender has been shown to reduce anxious feelings, making it a great essential oil to put on your pillow on nights when your racing mind is keeping you awake.
You might think that because bergamot is a citrus fruit (native to Italy and used in Italian holistic medicine), its essential oil would have an invigorating effect. Instead, it is known for its calming effect. Bergamot essential oil signals to your system that it is time for bed by slowing your heart rate and lowering your blood pressure. Plus, it reduces anxious feelings and stress.
This essential oil is gotten from citrus fruit, and that is the reason behind the pleasant smell it has. Bergamot has been proven to improve mood And reduce cortisol level in saliva, helping to keep you sedated. Bergamot has a wide range of medical benefits part of which is working as a sleep aid. Some of the common uses of bergamot essential oil include;
This oil is well-known for the treatment of sleep difficulties , and it comes in different species. Roman Chamomile is the most effective. Chamomile works like a sedative and relaxes the body and mind. To support sleep, ease tension, and stress, Chamomile is an excellent recommendation that will make sleeping incredibly easier. Roman Chamomile has a sweet scent that even children will enjoy. Research has also reported that it helps reduce tantrums in children and the frequency of nightmares generally. It remains unclear how chamomile essential oil has all of these effects; however, the positive effects have been well documented.
This essential oil works on a mental level and its primary function is to reduce stress and support emotional health. It is also known to improve a person’s mental well-being which can ease the stress of the mind. If you have a hyperactive mind and this overactivity of your mind makes it difficult for you to sleep, Ylang Ylang is the essential oil that you should use.
Marjoram may have even more profound effects than Chamomile and Lavender which are the most popular choices of sleeping aid. It is effective for supporting sleep, lowering the blood pressure, improve mood, calming the nervous system and ease tension and anxious feelings This is another time to mention that quality matter and you want to make sure you get the right type of marjoram which is sweet marjoram (Origanum marjorama). Sweet marjoram is the type of marjoram essential oil that works for sleep. Honestly, this is also why doTERRA oils are a great option - guess work removed in the commitment to quality.
Frankincense works on the limbic system which is the part of the brain that directly affects the nervous system. Frankincense sends calming messages to the limbic system which in turn improves mood and makes you feel less stressed. It also cures symptoms of indigestion, reduce anxious feelings , discomfort, and inflammation. Frankincense also helps reduce snoring as it can clear air passages which allows you to breathe properly while asleep. This one is different for everyone, some report feeling more clarity of mind, more awake. I find Frankincense to be very adaptogenic, if I want to diffuse it to help me sleep it is as relaxing as it is clarifying during the day when I use it for a refresher.
This essential oil is best known for hormone balance, and has some properties that help improve the mood and is an effective treatment for low or sad feelings. In comparison to lavender and chamomile, Clary Sage essential oil may be a more effective stress management - the aroma may not be as favorable. So, this may be one to apply to the feet and cover them up.
Cedarwood, Vetiver, Copaiba, as well a couple of blends- Serenity and Balance- are other popular options. So many options!
Additional Tips for a Better Night's Sleep:
How does all of that sound?
Take if from me, an authority on sleep and why it matters - only because I have tried sleeping 6 or less hours a night, and found it to be, not good. I have done my homework and discovered that while the obstacles to sleep may vary for all of us, we have these couple things in common: the need for sleep and some simple solutions as a place to start.
My intent is to raise the value of sleep and get us thinking about ways we can make a difference in our sleep deprived culture. Let's give our body the sleep it needs- not just the sleep we think it needs.
My hope is that everyone reading this will sleep a little better.
Remember that where essential oils are concerned, quality matters. It is not grocery store oils that are getting the outcomes cited in research. If you need these oils, I would be more than happy work with you in getting the essential oils you can trust to use to support your sleep and overall health!
References, to name a few:
Jockovich, M., Cosentino, D., Cosentino, L., Wears, R. L., & Seaberg, D. C. (2000). Effect of exogenous melatonin on mood and sleep efficiency in emergency medicine residents working night shifts. Academic Emergency Medicine, 7(8), 955-958.
Luik, A. I., Zuurbier, L. A., Hofman, A., Van Someren, E. J., & Tiemeier, H. (2013). Stability and fragmentation of the activity rhythm across the sleep-wake cycle: the importance of age, lifestyle, and mental health. Chronobiology international, 30(10), 1223-1230.
Walker, M. (2017). Why we sleep: Unlocking the power of sleep and dreams. Simon and Schuster.
Wellness Advocate, BSN,RN