Do you suffer from Insomnia (otherwise infamously known as “pain-somnia”)? Unfortunately, this is something that plagues so many people dealing with lupus – and chronic disease in general. You may feel as if you’re cursed and can’t get a good night’s sleep to save your life. However, there are concrete reasons for your restlessness and practical steps you can take to help you get a little more shut-eye.
Reasons for Insomnia in People with Chronic Illness
I wish it were as simple as just needing to cut out distractions and get to bed earlier – but you and I both know that’s not the case. There are a number of reasons why we struggle to get to the sleep we need including:
Medication: Many medications (not just those for lupus) change the amount and timing of hormones and neurotransmitters that are responsible for regulating your sleep cycle. If you are taking medication to manage your condition, check the packaging to see if restlessness or loss of sleep is listed as a possible side-effect. If so, some of the tips later in the article may help.
Nervous System Involvement: A large number of people with lupus count Central Nervous System (CNS) issues among the many symptoms that they fight on a daily basis. The unregulated verve activity can cause headaches, tingling, muscle twitches and more, that all conspire to make it extremely hard to rest- even when you’re dead tired.
Extreme Pain: It’s hard for the body to relax enough to drift off when you’re in intense pain. Lupus patients count unregulated pain and discomfort as one of their top symptoms and reasons that they are unable to get adequate rest.
Anxiety/Fear: For some dealing with lupus or related disorders, there is the very real fear of the potential to experience health problems or episodes and this may keep them up at night out of fear. People who have lung involvement, history of strokes or seizures, and who have had their breathing constricted, may all feel a sense of fear when they think about sleeping – because they worry about what may occur when they’re unconscious.
Depression: This is something very real in our community, with many experiencing depression. It can range from low-grade depression or being shocked and saddened when diagnosed – to full blown depression, with thoughts of harming oneself. And interestingly enough – lack of sleep dramatically increases these feelings, which is why it’s so important to get your sleep cycle in order.
These are all very different potential root causes of the same problem – insomnia. I’ll be writing more on how to combat each individual issue with a wider range of therapies, but for now, let’s look at how aromatherapy can help you combat these issues and finally get some much needed rest!
How Aromatherapy Works/Can Help
Aromatherapy is the art and science of using the pure, potent and healing essence of plants and flowers to help bring about physical, mental or emotional change – all through the sense of smell.
These amazing (and beautifully scented) pure plant oils have been proven to help regulate everything from sleep, to anxiety, to calming stomach ailments. To harness the healing and therapeutic power of aromatherapy, you can infuse this practice into your life in the following ways:
—> Aromatherapy candles provide an easy and pretty way to infuse your environment with calming, energizing or uplifting scents. However, be aware that candles (because they burn slowly and also contain a considerable amount of wax) are not the most potent form of aromatherapy – but they can definitely help in setting the mood and helping you wind down after a long day. Also – if using this method, try to stick to soy candles, because they burn cleaner (don’t give off toxins).
—> Humidifiers are a great way to moisten the air and also diffuse essential oils into your environment. You can add a few drops into the water, and depending on the blend you use – you can breathe easier (some oils help to dilate the bronchial passages), or be lulled to sleep by a nerve calming blend.
—> Oil burners allow you to place a lit tea light under a small metal or stone brazier containing essential oils. As the brazier warms, the oil is released into the air. Oil burners are a very popular means of aromatherapy.
—> Reed diffusers are one of my favorite ways to keep a room smelling beautiful and charged with healing energy. With this method, you insert bamboo or wooden reeds into a bottle or ceramic jar containing an essential oil (blended with carrier oils) mix. The oil travels up the reeds and is dispersed into the air – pure bliss.
—> Body or clothing application is another easy and quick way to set the mood using essential oils. You can apply a few drops (always diluted in a carrier oil) to your wrists, temples or forehead, allowing the scent to envelope and calm you. You can also lightly spray a mixture on sheets, pillowcases and clothing to ensure continual aromatherapy while you work or sleep.
Aromatherapy Blends that Can Help You Sleep
So – in light of the common causes for insomnia that we mentioned above (medication, nervous system involvement, chronic pain, anxiety, fear and depression), let’s look at the best essential oils to use in your aromatherapy regimen in order to counteract these issues. Keep in mind that some of these provide the double benefit of a beautiful scent, along with calming properties – however, there are some essential oils that may be more of an acquired smell, yet which are still very healing.
Anise– aids in healing respiratory illnesses. Also effective in reducing inflammation that contributes to muscle aches and rheumatoid arthritis.
Cinnamon– this oil helps is highly stimulating and counteracts mental fatigue.
Rose– promoting a general feeling of wellbeing.
Bergamot– helps reduce feelings of depression, stress and fear.
Lavender– extremely calming to the mind, helps induce sleep and ease anxiety.
Frankincense- Reduces anxiety and bronchial symptoms, brings about a sense of relaxation and aids in reducing panic attacks and feelings of stress.
Neroli– combats irritability and depression.
Ylang Ylang– helps to calm anger and frustration.
Carrot Seed– helps to clear the body from toxin overload and balances mood swings.
Rose -has antidepressant properties.
Jasmine– reduces feelings of depression and fatigue.
Orange – helps to lift depression and promotes happiness.
Peppermint – is beneficial for combating depression and general anxiety.
A few Words of Caution:
— Be careful and never applying essential oils directly to the skin, without first being diluted in carrier oils. Advise your doctor, herbalist or homeopathic practitioner that you want to begin aromatherapy, in order to ensure you have allergic or drug interaction reactions.
— When using diffusers, especially heat regulated ones, always monitor the fluid level to avoid burnout. Scorched oil can cause a rancid and offensive smell, irritate the lungs and present a fire hazard.
— Never ingest essential oils, as they are very powerful and concentrated plant essences, and some are toxic if taken internally.
— Pregnant and lactating women should always consult a medical professional before beginning aromatherapy or using essential oils. Some oils are not safe for use in pregnancy, such as Basil, Coriander, Jasmine, Marjoram, Oregano, Myrrh, Peppermint Rosemary, and Thyme.
— If you’re using blood thinners, do not cinnamon or clove oil.
— If you are known to have allergies, consult a practitioner before beginning aromatherapy, as some oils can trigger allergic reactions.
So there you have it. Aromatherapy is one of my favorite ways (among many others) to help calm my mind, let go of what’s troubling me and drift off into a deep, relaxed sleep. Have you tried aromatherapy before? In what form and how did you like it? Share in the comments below!