The Meaning of Sleep
“That we are not much sicker and much madder than we are,” wrote the writer and philosopher Aldous Huxley, “is due exclusively to that most blessed and blessing of all natural graces, sleep.” Huxley wrote nearly 50 books in his lifetime, and was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature nine times, so the potency of his sleep-fueled productivity is indisputable (though that missed Nobel Prize probably kept him awake once or twice). Whatever your life goals may be, sleep is an essential ingredient in the recipe for contented happiness.
But what exactly is sleep, and why do we need it? Why can’t we just be awake all the time, and have the equivalent of twenty to thirty more years of life to fill with interesting activities (or writing even more books)? It seems logical that our minds and bodies would need rest, but… a whole (recommended) seven hours of it every single day?
Healthy Sleep, and Sleep Deprivation
Our brains cycle through REM and NREM (non-REM) stages throughout the night. We are more likely to dream during REM phases, and neuron activity can exceed that of wakefulness while we dream (which will come as no surprise to anyone who has woken from a stress dream feeling like their brains have been squeezed out like a sponge). Dreams still mystify scientists, but may serve the function of transferring short term memory to long term memory, and provide the catharsis of a kind emotional processing denied to us while we are awake. There is also evidence that sleep promotes cellular repair and the release of growth hormones, and protects our hearts by reducing cardiovascular activity and blood pressure.
As Joni Mitchell sang, “You don't know what you've got till its gone.” We tend to take sleep for granted until it’s taken from us – ask anyone with a) insomnia b) a broken heart or c) small children. Around a third of us get less than seven hours a night, and the mental and physical costs of this deprivation can be catastrophic: it can lead to serious medical conditions, including heart disease and diabetes, and can shorten life expectancy by up to 15% (that’s about 12 years of doing those nice activities we mentioned earlier).
How Aromatherapy Can Help
Studies have shown that aromatherapy can significantly improve sleep quality by promoting low-frequency brain waves, with Lavender, Damask Rose and Marjoram essential oils believed to be particularly effective. A few drops of these oils in your bathwater can give you the sleepy calm that you need before bedtime, but a diffuser in the bedroom will keep their molecules in the air for the whole night, ensuring that you wake refreshed. Start with a conservative amount – around ten drops – and find out what works best for you. Turn on your diffuser about an hour before bedtime to make sure your bedroom is suitably prepped for rest – unless you are eager to finish that next chapter of Huxley’s The Doors of Perception first!
Five Aromatherapy Diffuser Recipes for Sleep
Early start tomorrow? Right, put down that book, turn off that phone, and enjoy these five essential oil diffuser recipes for getting the sumptuous night’s sleep you deserve!
This recipe pairs up two of aromatherapy’s sleep-inducing stars, Lavender and Damask Rose essential oils, for when nothing but the best rest will do.
Still can’t sleep? Time for the Roman cavalry. Lavender and Marjoram invite the calming security of Roman Chamomile to the slumber party, for a recipe of next-level restfulness.
Many people find that the faintest hint of spice in the air really helps them let go of the day. This soothing blend of Lavender and Cardamom essential oils might be the key to helping you find your sleepy sweet spot.
Looking to just ‘rest your eyes’ for a bit after that morning of Zoom meetings and a high-carb lunch? This calming but airy blend of Lavender, Lemon and Sandalwood essential oils will give you the refreshing half hour of light rest that your busy mind craves.
Looking to explore your dreams, throw open the doors of perception, and assume dominance over the dominion of your mind? Huxley himself would have loved this exotic bedtime blend of Damask Rose, Jasmine, and Helichrysum essential oils.
CBD and Sleep
Did you know CBD can also promote a great night’s sleep? You can find out more here.