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If you toss and turn at night, you’re not alone. About 70 million Americans suffer from sleeping problems. But there are natural ways you can use to ease your way more reliably into relaxing slumber.
One of the most effective sleep aids, I have found, is to use the aroma-therapeutic scent of essential oils to gently coax a worried mind into the relaxing confines of dreamland.
Now the oil that I find most effective for inducing sleep is lavender – but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best choice for you.
However, a wide range of studies from around the world shows that lavender is calming, can help you sleep and even induces a warm emotional feeling of trust:
- A study at the School of Nursing at Dokuz Eylül University, Izmir, Turkey. shows that lavender “increased quality of sleep and reduced level of anxiety …”
- Research at the Tehran University of Medical Sciences shows that lavender can improve sleep and resolve other health issues without the use of drugs.
But the universe of available essential oils is limitless. Two other oils you can use to help you sleep better are:
Vetiver is a soporific essential oil whose strong scent may take some getting used to. However, lab tests show vetiver produces an anxiolytic effect on the brain’s neurons – calming anxious feelings.
Bergamot, made from citrus peels, also has a well-known pacifying influence. Research at the Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine in Japan shows that bergamot produces a profound effect on the nervous system. It can ease an anxious, nervous heart rate and help keep your emotional turmoil in check.
Move during the day to toss and turn less at night
Another of my favorite ways to insure a better night’s sleep is a tiring workout during the day. As you might expect, exercising and developing some good old-fashioned physical fatigue is a reliable way to eliminate insomnia.
But when it comes to inducing sleep, not all physical activity is created equal.
Research at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania shows some activities are much more effective as sleep aids than others.
This study was extensive – analyzing the sleep habits of more than 400,000 people. In the research, scientists analyzed the kind of physical activity these people were doing and then examined how much sleep they got every day.
The results showed that while moving around a lot during the day usually added up to more sleep if your exercise consisted of housework or taking care of kids, your sleep suffered, it didn’t benefit.
That doesn’t surprise me – I’ve never found housework to be soothing. Especially since, as soon as you have things under control, another family member will usually make a new mess. And chasing after kids, as any parent will tell you, can be more nerve-wracking than tranquilizing.
Anyway, the Pennsylvania research found that while walking helped produce a better night’s sleep, it wasn’t as effective as biking, gardening, running, golfing, weight-lifting, yoga/Pilates or aerobics/calisthenics.
The results of this study were surprising,” says researcher Michael Grandner. “Not only does this study show that those who get exercise simply by walking are more likely to have better sleep habits, but these effects are even stronger for more purposeful activities, such as running and yoga, and even gardening and golf.”
On days when I’m especially stressed, a cathartic workout followed by a hot bath (which is also great for sending calories down the drain) in a bathroom reeking of lavender is a dependable scenario for relaxing my turbulent emotions and sending my worries off to never, never land.
After those soothing activities, I can be sure that soon after my head hits the pillow, my conscious thoughts will also be disappearing into a misty, reassuring sleepy fog.
And I think I could slip off to sleep even more effectively if, off in the distance, in another room of the house, I could hear the sound of a vacuum cleaner being wielded by a helpful child.
But hearing those sounds would probably mean I was already dreaming.
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