You’ve already heard it a thousand times, but I’ll say it again: Sleep is important. Really important. Getting enough high quality rest is critical for maintaining peak cognitive function, keeping off the extra pounds and powering a healthy sex drive—which essentially means that if you’re not getting the sleep you need, your overall health and wellbeing is bound to suffer.
But understanding why sleep is important is just one part of the equation to restore—or improve—your quality of life. Understanding why your sleep is suffering is often much more difficult.
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The Cortisol Connection
For many people, poor sleep can be directly traced to high cortisol levels. Cortisol is the body’s primary stress hormone, and it’s what triggers our “fight or flight” response that can save our lives in dangerous situations. Cortisol also keeps us motivated, awake and able to respond appropriately to our environments, but in the case of this all-important hormone, too much of a good thing is definitely bad.
High cortisol can be caused by working out too much, stress, poor diet and a host of other unhealthy lifestyle factors. And when cortisol levels remain high for an extended period of time, chronic inflammation is triggered throughout the body, which then causes weight gain, anxiety, hormonal imbalances and, of course, sleep issues.
The good news is that it’s pretty easy to get inflammation under control and lower your cortisol levels naturally, and one of the best ways to do that is with essential oils. Essential oils are organic compounds extracted from the bark, flower, fruit, leaf, seed or root of a plant, and they have been used for over 5,000 years to heal a variety of health conditions and are one of the best natural “medicines” available.
Here are a few of my favorite essential oils that will help you get the sleep you need:
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If there’s one essential oil that is already well-known for promoting relaxation and restful sleep, it’s definitely lavender oil—which is why it shows up in everything from bubble bath to eye masks. Many biblical experts even believe that lavender is what Mary used to anoint the feet of Jesus in the 12th chapter of the book of John. It’s still widely used today, of course, and a study by the Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine even found that the use of lavender caused immediate improvement for men and women suffering with insomnia.
If you struggle with sleeping, I recommend diffusing it your bedroom before and during sleep, and you can also rub it directly on your neck, chest and temples.
Technically, magnesium oil isn’t even an oil. It’s a combination of magnesium chloride flakes and water that, when mixed, creates an oil-like consistency. But even though it’s not an essential oil like the others listed here, it’s still important to mention because magnesium can have a profound effect on inflammation levels and your ability to get restful sleep each night. That’s because magnesium relaxes the GABA receptors in the brain and nervous system, signaling a slow-down effect throughout the body. Magnesium is an integral part of more than 300 biochemical functions in the body, but the World Health Organization estimates that as many as 60% of American adults are deficient in this vital mineral.
You can make your own magnesium oil at home by bringing ½ cup of filtered water to a boil and then mixing in ½ cup of magnesium chloride flakes. Once cool, add the mixture to a glass spray body and spray it on your body after you shower and 30 minutes before you put on other oils or lotions.
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Frankincense is probably my all-time favorite essential oil and the one I use most often. Thanks to its ability to help relieve chronic stress and anxiety, reduce pain and inflammation, boost immunity and even fight cancer, frankincense can positively impact so many areas of health—including quality of sleep. Frankincense is best used in a diffuser or by mixing it with a carrier oil and applying to the body, in which case it impacts the limbic system of the brain, which ultimately controls the nervous system.
Frankincense can also improve circulation and reduce inflammation, while reducing heart rate and lowering feelings of stress and anxiety, thus making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. Try adding it to bath water to immediately induce feelings of peace and relaxation.
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When it comes to improving your overall emotional and mental health, there are few essential oils that work better than geranium oil. Extracted from the leaves and stems of geranium plants, this sweet smelling oil is used regularly in aromatherapy and is known to decrease anxiety and lift the mood.
Geranium oil is also a powerful anti-inflammatory, and research shows that it is safer and more effective than pharmaceutical meds. This, coupled with its natural stress-relieving and relaxation inducing properties, make geranium oil the perfect all-natural sleep aid.