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Herbal Aromatherapy Case Studies for Restless Sleep

Reading through case studies is one of my favorite ways to learn from other herbalists and aromatherapists. Case studies help me to be able to see how the practitioner thinks when he/she is evaluating a client, which helps me to expand the way I think when I am listening to someone who is telling me about what's going on with them. Case studies introduce new thought patterns and ideas and help me to reason through and understand why someone chose a certain herb or essential oil to address something instead of just telling me what they chose or giving me a recipe to follow. They reinforce the idea that clients are individuals who are all different - two different people who are experiencing the same thing could possibly need completely different kinds of remedies to help bring them back into balance. Since I find case studies so valuable for my own learning, I thought I would share a couple of my case studies here with you today. All of these case studies are related to improving restless sleep.

Note: These case studies are being shared with the clients’ permission.
Their names have been changed to ensure their privacy.

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THE CLIENTS

Client Number One, Jeffrey, is a 30 year old married male in excellent health. He has no major health concerns and leads an active lifestyle, eats organic whole foods and supports his health with various holistic activities.

His sleep quality had been dwindling when he came to me. He had gone several weeks without sleeping soundly through the night. The cause of this change was unknown, but Jeffrey believed the traffic noise on his street may have been contributing to the issue, as it would sometimes wake him up in the middle of the night.

Client Number Two, Sharon, is a 27 year old married female. She had some lingering health concerns that she was working through with her team of medical professionals when she came to see me and was under a heightened level of stress. She had been experiencing a general lack of quality in her sleep, often waking up several times each night. The lack of restful sleep was affecting her state of mind and her overall health. 

Client Number Three, Chrissy, is a 21 year old female who lives with her elderly grandparents. She was in excellent health when she came to me, but had been having trouble getting to sleep in the evenings because her housemates enjoy conversing with each other at late hours and the sound was keeping her awake, which would leave her frustrated and restless, sometimes affected how she felt the next day.

All 3 clients wanted to utilize herbs and/or essential oils to help improve the quality of their sleep.

THE CHOSEN APPROACH

For Jeffrey (#1) and Chrissy (#3), I chose to use an aromatic inhaler application. (This was before I moved away from using aromatherapy inhalers.) I wanted to support the sense of relaxation and letting go that comes with preparing for bed without complicating their evening routines. Both of them were experiencing a lack of sleep affected by outside sources of noise, so my goal was to help the mind settle down for the evening regardless of sounds they had no control over. I was hoping that by combining calming and grounding oils with a hint of something sweet and uplifting, the mind would be able to relax instead of anticipating interruption in sleep, or in Chrissy’s case, the difficulty in being able to fall asleep.

For both Jeffrey (#1) and Chrissy (#3), I included the essential oils of Cedarwood (Juniperus virginiana), Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis), Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), Sandalwood (sustainably harvested Santalum paniculatum), and Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanoides) in a blend meant for inhalation. The clients were instructed to spend a few minutes relaxing before bed each evening, breathing deeply with their inhalers.

For Sharon (#2), I chose to go a different route. I wanted to add an element of self care to her evening routine that would give her an opportunity to mindfully do something that was calming for her. She enjoys applying moisturizing body butters, so I used a body butter base with herbal infused oils for her blend and included the essential oils of Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), Cedarwood (Juniperus virginiana), German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita), Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanoides) and Rose (Rosa damascena). Taking a few moments to stop and do something for herself instead of going about her busy routine and worrying about everything that needed to be done would hopefully encourage her body to transition into a more relaxed state so she could sleep a bit more soundly than she had been. The stress she was under and the anxiety she was feeling about her lack of quality sleep led me to use very calming, comforting, grounding essential oils in her blend. She was instructed to mindfully massage the butter into her arms and chest each night while she was getting ready for bed and to take time to breathe deeply while she was doing so.

RESULTS

Both Jeffrey (#1) and Chrissy (#3) haD similar experiences with their aromatic inhaler blends. After using the inhalers for a few days, they each reported, “I love the smell, but I’m not sure yet if the blend is doing anything.” I asked them each to use the blend for 7 days, then take 1 or 2 days off and not use the blend for those days to see if they noticed a difference. Both of them contacted me after the allotted period of time to report that they noticed a significant difference on the days that they didn’t use the blend. They went back to using the inhalers each night, sometimes taking a night off and later reported that they had been able to see a gradual increase in sleep quality. Both clients have since ordered refills of their blends.

I checked in with Sharon (#2) each week after she started using her blend. The first week she hesitantly said that she thought it was helping a little bit. Two and three weeks in, her reports grew increasingly positive. She eventually said that both she and her husband were using the butter and that it was their new favorite thing - that they both were experiencing great sleep whenever they used it. Her comments included such statements as, “I sleep like a baby when I use it!” and “It’s like a good drug!” (Note: The latter was said in jest. She is not a substance abuser.)

All three clients seemed to experience a gradual improvement in sleep quality with consistent use of their blends.

FURTHER TESTING

I have tested the aromatic inhaler recipe on several other clients who all report similar experiences as detailed above. My husband now uses it as well and has me make him new batches of it when his starts to wear out.

THOUGHTS

In Jeff and Chrissy’s inhalers, the Cedarwood provides a grounding, calming effect while the Sweet Orange is sweet and uplifting, bringing in a sense of lightness and facilitating a letting go of stress. The Cedarwood is warm and helps to counteract stress and the Sweet Orange also acts as a subtle sedative. The Sandalwood is rich and comforting, ushering in a sense of calm while quieting the mind. Vetiver grounds everything, acts as a CNS sedative and tells us it’s time to rest in safety. It’s often indicated in cases of restless sleep. The Lavender brings everything together with its deeply soothing, sedative properties, promoting restful sleep and calming the nervous system.

Sharon’s sleep butter included Lavender, the classic essential oil for promoting restful sleep. It soothes the muscles and relaxes the mind, acts as a CNS sedative and is deeply calming. It has anti-inflammatory properties, lending itself to calming inflammation in the mind. For example, I might be stressed about a project at work and the deadline in which I have to complete it, which causes it to become bigger (inflamed) in my mind. Lavender could be helpful for reducing that mental “inflammation” and bringing back a calm sense of peace. Cedarwood was included as a warm, soothing, comforting aroma. Sharon loves woodsy scents. It’s also grounding and supportive for her taxed immune system. The German Chamomile is calming and anti-inflammatory, especially suitable for relieving stress. It’s soothing for the nervous system and specificially supports healthy sleep patterns. Vetiver is deeply grounding, ushering in a peace of mind and a sense of calm. It has sedative and restorative properties - both excellent for sleep. Rose was included purely for its affinity for self care and love. It’s comforting, anti-inflammatory, emotionally supportive, anti-stress and is also indicated for restless sleep. It soothes tension and mental agitation and ushers in pure love energy.

What is your favorite blend, product, or ritual for supporting restful sleep? Let me know in the comments below.

Much love,
Erin


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