Aromatherapy is commonly used to alleviate stress, but it's also useful in treating sleep disorders. Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of essential oils to comfort and heal, and it is one of the fastest growing complementary therapies in the Western world. In aromatherapy, the essential oils are used topically rather than taken internally. The essential oils are said to stimulate an area of the brain, known as the limbic system, that controls mood and emotion. Solid scientific backing for aromatherapy is lacking, but there's no doubt that many people find it a soothing complement to other self-help measures to ease tension, promote relaxation, and aid in sleep as part of their bedtime preparations. So you may want to give it a try.
To help restore restful sleep, you can try using essential oils singly or in combination. The essential oils are generally available at health food stores, although these days many drugstores also carry a variety of the oils. The most commonly recommended oil for promoting sleep is lavender, but there are several others that may have a calming effect.
Try adding a few drops of essential oil to warm water for a relaxing bath or footbath, or spritz the oil onto a handkerchief or small pillow. You can also apply a few drops to a heat diffuser near your bed to spread the scent through the room or use a specially made ring that can be placed on the lightbulb of a bedside lamp; the heat of the bulb diffuses the scent.
You might also want to try combining the relaxing benefits of aromatherapy and massage by creating your own scented massage oil. Dilute one to three drops of essential oil per teaspoon of an unscented carrier oil, such as almond or grape-seed oil. (Do not apply undiluted essential oil directly to your skin.) Since some people are more sensitive to the oils than others, start with the smallest amount, and experiment until you find the combination that works best for you.
On the next page, learn about how biofeedback works, along with the benefit of biofeedback on sleep.