Part 2 of my sleep series focused on the products you can use to improve your sleep (see here for Part 1 – tips for better sleep). But if you’re a budding aromatherapist, it can be rewarding to make your own. There are a number of ways you can combine plant and essential oils and I’ll talk you through them below, as well as suggesting some blends and some good stockists.
You can use essential oils for a fragrant, sleep-inducing bath. It’s important to remember though that essential oils are powerful creatures and shouldn’t be applied to the skin neat. You might think you’re diluting them in your bathwater but oils will just sit on the surface of the water and could easily come into contact with your skin as you get in, wallow and get out.
Before you add them, emulsify them in a little plant oil (such as cold-pressed sweet almond, sunflower, jojoba, apricot kernel or peach kernel oil). Odd as it sounds, if you don’t have any plant oils to hand you can also emulsify them in a little milk. Just add the essential oils to your chosen base in a glass or ceramic container and swirl around. I find those white ceramic ramekins are great for blending oils – I certainly use them for that far more than I do for making soufflés…
For a full bath, try 12 drops of your chosen oil (or oils in a blend) and emulsify them in 20ml of plant oil or milk. That’s a 2% solution.
For a foot soak, try 30 drops of oil in 20ml of plant oil or milk. That’s a 5% solution; slightly higher because there’s less of your body in the water.
Making an aromatherapy body blend is as easy as whipping up a bath soak. You just switch up your quantities a little.
If you’re only making enough for one application, 20–30ml should do it depending on whether you’re petite (20ml) or Amazonian (30ml). For a 2% solution, dissolve 12 drops of your oil(s) in 20ml and 18 drops in 30ml.
If you wanted to make enough for a bottle to store and use over a longer period of time, add 60 drops of your oil(s) to 100ml of base oil. Many base oils will arrive in plastic bottles, which are fine. However, once you’ve added essential oils it’s better to decant into a sterilised glass bottle as essential oils can corrode plastic. To sterilise your bottles, simply wash in high temperatures and air dry.
A blend made of plant and essential oils should last at least 6–12 weeks. If in doubt, use your nose (rancid oils are easy enough to smell) or patch test in the crook of your elbow.
To bring the smells into your bedroom, there are a number of options for you. I talked about spritzing hydrosols onto your skin or bedding in Part 2. But essential oils are also highly volatile so it’s really easy to vaporise them. You’ll be amazed at the power of just a few drops.
If you’re not nodding off already, you can light a candle and vaporise some oils in a diffuser. Put a little water in the bowl, add 3–6 drops of oil and let them evaporate off. Blow the candle out after 20 mins and don’t fall asleep before you do!
By far the simplest method for fragrancing your bedroom with essential oils though, is to add 4–6 drops to a mug of just boiled water. In the winter, when I become surgically attached to my hot water bottle, I just pour a little water from the kettle into a mug before filling my bottle. The evaporating steam of the water will carry the volatile essential oil particles in exactly the same way as it does in a burner. It might not last as long but if you’re dropping off and want a subtle scent by your bed to send you on your way, it’s perfect. Two safety tips – be careful to put the mug somewhere where you can’t knock it over in the night and don’t forget what it contains and accidentally drink it in the morning…!
Excellent sleepy oils and blends:
Essential oils renowned for their relaxing, soothing and calmative properties include:
- true lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
- frankincense (Boswellia cartierii)
- bergamot (Citrus aurantium sp.bergamia)
- sandalwood (Australian not Indian for sustainability – Santalum austrocaledonicum)
- clary sage (Salvia sclarea)
- neroli (Citrus aurantium var. amara)
- spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansi)
- roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile).
If you don’t like a particular fragrance, either avoid it or experiment with using it in a blend. I’m not a huge fan of clary sage on its own but it adds a nice depth to light florals like lavender.
You definitely want to avoid the more stimulating oils like rosemary, the mints and the zingy citruses.
Some suggested blends:
- Lavender, bergamot and clary sage (for a 2% solution in 20ml of base, try 4 drops of lavender, 5 of bergamot and 3 of clary sage)
- Lavender, neroli and spikenard (for a 2% solution in 20ml of base, try 6 drops of neroli, 3 of lavender and 3 of spikenard)
- Sandalwood, spikenard and ylang ylang (Cananga odorata) (for a 2% solution in 20ml of base, try 4 drops of sandalwood, 4 of spikenard and 4 of ylang ylang)
- Roman chamomile, bergamot and rose (Rosa damascena) (for a 2% solution in 20ml of base, try 5 drops of rose, 4 of bergamot and 3 of Roman chamomile)
True lavender is the ultimate sleep-inducing oil so if you want to experiment with your own blends start with lavender and mess around adding other things to it. Remember also that smell is a very subjective thing – do experiment with the proportion of each oil in your blend (without exceeding the maximum number of drops) until you find the fragrance that works for you.