I’ve had brutal bouts of insomnia for as long as I can remember. The only thing that temporarily stopped it was was breastfeeding on demand. I was so completely exhausted that I was able to wake, change and feed my baby, and immediately go back to sleep without activating that part of my brain that wants to relive every argument with every ex, stress about flushing my life savings down the drain in Guatemala, wonder if my heart is beating too fast, or worry about the future.
As a single parent, I’m not in a position to medicate myself to sleep. Of course I need to get a good night’s rest, but I also have to be alert enough to wake immediately if I hear my daughter in distress. She has only had a few bouts of vomiting in her life and twice it was in the middle of the night. As head of security in our house, I also have to be sensitive to sounds of scumbaggery at the doors or windows.
My other issue is that I can’t quit coffee. I know it is a stimulant, and I know it is a migraine trigger. It is part of my morning ritual, and to be honest, my afternoon ritual. I love grinding beans, making espresso, and frothing a bit of cashew milk. It’s just not something I’m willing to give up right now. Especially the afternoon one that I have around 2pm when I’m so sleepy I start to look around for a hammock to spend the rest of the afternoon in.
For years I’ve been diffusing essential oil blends at night to create a peaceful, zen vibe before my head even hits the pillow. I even have a kit of essential oil rollers that I always travel with, small enough to take as carry on.
Another trick is drinking a cup of chamomile tea or Sleepytime, with 2 drops of Lavender or Bergamot essential oils, and a spoonful of honey before I go to bed. Lavender and Bergamot are rich in linalool and linalyl acetate, compounds that have well-known relaxing properties. These are two oils that always go with me when I travel.
The following oils can be diffused individually or combined to create soothing blends. Some, like Lavender, Roman Chamomile, and Bergamot, can be taken internally.
Lavender: has soothing effects, supports a healthy nervous system, and promotes healthy sleep. I have this in a roller to combat anxiety attacks.
Bergamot: reduces feelings of stress, creates an uplifting and calming environment.
Roman Chamomile: help create a soothing atmosphere when diffused, can also be applied topically to the bottoms of your feet.
Cedarwood: a grounding oil that can promote emotional balance.
Vetiver: rich in sesquiterpenes, which contain grounding properties.
Marjoram: has a positive effect on the nervous system, and is used for its calming properties.
Wild Orange: is an adaptogen, meaning it can be either energizing or calming, depending on what your body needs.
Frankincense: promotes feelings of peace, relaxation, and satisfaction, and can help balance your mood.
Patchouli: is grounding and balancing for emotions.
Hawaiian Sandalwood: instills calm and relaxation, reduces tension, promotes emotional well-being, and has a meditative effect.
Phones, tablets, and computers should all be shut down long before you want to go to sleep. This article from Harvard Medical School explains why.
I’ve also read that we should turn off the tv, computer and put down our tablets or smartphones at least half an hour before bed, because they stimulate our brains too much. I just don’t seem to be able to do that. I like to put on Netflix at bedtime and relax watching something silly. What I don’t do is watch any news or anything scary that would put me on edge.
Do you have any tips for dealing with insomnia?