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89: Essential questions about essential oil and sleep

sleep Dec 16, 2023
Essential questions about essential oil and sleep

Is lavender oil helpful for sleep?  The short answer is, it could be– but perspective is needed.  Smells have long been used to evoke emotions.  In theory, the inhaled lavender scent could result in a calming effect.  With regular pairing of a calm sensation with a lavender smell, getting to sleep could be easier.  

What other essential oils may be useful for sleep?  The research on most oils marketed for sleep is not very robust.  Lavender is the most studied scent for sleep, and it may be effective as a sleep support for some people.  It should not be viewed as a treatment for sleep problems such as sleep apnea, insomnia, or restless legs syndrome.   In my experience, “research” is often leveraged when a transactional experience is pending.  Other scents, such as chamomile, frankincense, and clary sage, have even less scientific backing.  

How should these oils be used?  Which ones are safe for infants and children, pets, or during pregnancy?  Many people use essential oils by diffusing them, spraying them on sheets, or soaking a cotton ball with the scent.  Essential oils applied to the skin should be diluted in a carrier oil, such as coconut oil.   Essential oils should not be swallowed.  Lavender teas and lavender-scented lotions may also be used.  The scent should not be overpowering.  I don’t recommend essential oils during pregnancy or using them around pets and children.  Since essential oils have different effects on different people, I believe anyone with the potential to be exposed should have a voice to accept or decline.

Can lavender essential oil be used with a CPAP machine?  CPAP users who get benefit from lavender essential oil can put some of the oil on a cotton ball and place it near the filter of the CPAP machine.  I DO NOT recommend putting the oil on the CPAP filter or in the CPAP humidifier chamber.  

What should I consider when shopping for essential oils?  Price, quality, and whether the oil is synthetic or a natural preparation are all considerations.  Natural essential oils should be extracted from plants and the scientific (Latin) name, the part of the plant, and the country of origin should be available.  Ideally, the company you’re buying from should be transparent about details like the method of extraction and the chemical makeup of each oil.  Look to see if the company checks the potency and purity of its products with gas chromatography or mass spectrometry analysis.  Together, these processes are called GC-MS and the information should be readily available to you.  

Are there any brands I recommend, and why?  I would only recommend non-synthetic preparations and use in moderation.  The specific compositions of essential oils aren’t regulated or monitored by the FDA. The FDA surveys the marketing of essential oil companies to make sure they are not making claims as medications through labeling and advertising.  You can look for labeling that cites the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), but the company’s adherence to these standards can be challenging to confirm.  I have seen some products labeled “therapeutic grade,” but this doesn’t mean the oils are actually of high quality.  This term has no regulatory definition and is an example of a marketing strategy. 


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