One of the most common issues families I work with ask about is sleep challenges. The difficulties vary from trouble relaxing enough to get to sleep at night, to staying asleep throughout the night, and/or waking up early in the morning and getting into things. This is not surprising because when one lies down at night to go to bed they can no longer easily set aside the thoughts, feelings, worries, and emotions that they push aside all day by being busy.
Perhaps you've noticed it yourself when you're trying to go to sleep at night and you start remembering all the things you meant to do that day but slipped your mind. This happens to me so often that I started putting notes in my calendar on my cell phone as a reminder for the next day. It's not exclusive to trauma either, sleep challenges are discussed as health stories on assorted news channels regularly. I just heard one discussing the "new insomnia" of waking too early. We all need sleep, without it day to day interactions are that much more challenging as we usually have less patience and are more sensitive.
Sleep is critically important to the human body. It is during sleep that your brain prepares for the next day setting new neural pathways. While we're sleeping our body is working on the day to day healing processes. The heart and blood vessels of the circulatory system do repair work while the body is asleep. Sleep also helps the body's hormone system. Inadequate sleep interferes with the hormones needed to regulate the feelings of being hungry or full. Sleep is also critical to proper immune system function. The human body was designed to sleep. It's the time the body is scheduled, if you will, to do the maintenance work we're too busy for it to do when we're awake. Without good sleeping patterns the human body starts to suffer in much the same way your prize car does when you drive 50k miles without an oil change.
Being sleep deprived makes it harder to make decisions, control emotions, problem solve, and manage change. In regards to mental health, sleep deficiency has been linked to depression, risk taking behavior, and suicide. With regards to physical health sleep deficiency has been linked to heart disease, obesity, diabetes, stroke, kidney disease and high blood pressure. In day to day living, sleep deficiency has been linked to over 100,000 car accidents which included 1,500 fatalities. Sleep is essential to survival. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sdd/why
Clinical aromatherapy is highly supportive of sleep challenges. There are a multitude of hydrosol's and essential oils that can be used to support sleep. Most essential oil users reach for lavender because they've heard "lavender is good for everything." "Lavender is the calming and relaxing oil." However, lavender is the most over used and misunderstood essential oil on the market today. Lavender is also one of the most mislabeled and adulterated oils on the market. To learn more I recommend the current issue of the International Journal of Professional Holisitic Aromatherapy (http://www.ijpha.com) and the article by Jennifer Rhind PhD, CBiol titled True Lavender, Spike Lavender and Lavandin-Genus Dynamics. (Vol. 5 Is. 3 Winter 2016)
This overuse of lavender highlights the problem with the one size fits all philosophy. It doesn't work with trauma. This is why, as a clinical aromatherapist, I custom blend specifically for each trauma client in my practice. Trauma affects each individual uniquely because trauma changes the neural pathways. When you talk to a salesperson for an essential oil MLM company they may tell you that "you have to experiment to find the right oil/blend for you." If you work with someone certified, you really don't. You can save yourself time, money, and a potentially serious health reaction by consulting with a certified holistic or certified clinical aromatherapist. I recommend one who is well versed in the unique challenges associated with developmental trauma. (shameless self-plug)
To date, I have only found one consistent aromatherapy pattern while working with trauma survivors; that inhaled lavender has a paradox effect on those affected by trauma. In my clinical aromatherapy practice, I never use lavendula angustiolia for sleep or calming, I only use it for supporting medical concerns. Looking at it from a purely chemistry perspective it doesn't make sense on paper. True English lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) with it's linalool and linalyl acetate should be calming and relaxing. However, that is not how my clients trauma brains process it. My clients trauma brains process lavendula angustifolia at bedtime like speed. It's like applying jumper cables to the brain and charging it. That's the last thing you want when you're trying to get your child to bed at night. After a full day of connected parenting, it can be hard to maintain connected principals when your child is particularly trying night after night.
To support building relationship with your child during this stressful time of day, give clinical aromatherapy a chance to support your child's sleep issues. Save yourself immense amounts of time, money, and a potentially dangerous essential oil/drug interaction by working with a certified clinical aromatherapist, especially if you or the person you're using them with has chronic health issues or is using pharmaceutical prescriptions. Essential oils are potent holistic agents with strong chemical properties. They have great potential to provide fabulous benefits when used properly. When used improperly they can be harmful. Please note: co-sleeping can be accounted for and supported.
Some of my younger clients use custom blended hydrosol sleep mist preparations. One client reports that now the whole family can sleep. A child who prior to receiving their hydrosol blend had slept through the night two times in their four years of life is now able to relax enough to sleep peacefully and return to sleep if/when they awaken during the night.
Some of my older pediatric clients use a clinical aromatherapy balm, butter or massage oil blended to help relax them at bedtime. This has the added benefit of providing a connecting activity in the application of the blend. One client reports back that the child asks for the blend when they feel it's needed, sometimes the child uses it before school as well. The child is then able to relax enough to fall asleep within 5-10 minutes of going to bed without a "barrage of questions or constant up and down". Have you seen that delay tactic at your house?
My adult clients are pretty evenly split between a clinical aromatherapy inhaler they can keep on their night stand and/or a clinical aromatherapy blend they apply topically. Inhaler fans love the ease of having something on the nightstand they can reach for in the middle of the night or early morning hours if they need it.
The key here is there is no one size fits all in aromatherapy, it's a fabulous and interesting science that has a modality to fit the needs of every individual who is receptive to it. Hydrosols are great for those who are very young, scent reactive or sensitive, older populations and those with liver disease. Custom clinical aromatherapy blends are available in the form of essential oil inhalers, balms, butters, roll-on's, diffuser blends, massage oil blends, bath salts, smelling salts and hydrosol blends. Given the importance of sleep in physical, mental, and emotional health let's get started on your custom clinical aromatherapy blend today. A good nights sleep goes a long way in helping everyone build strong connections.
©2017 Cynthia Tamlyn-CCA
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