Fall is officially here and while our Instagrams are overloaded with filtered family snaps at the apple orchard, not all parents are focused on pumpkin spice and foliage. Dude, I’m counting down to daylight savings time. Yes, we get an extra hour to snooze, but the transition isn’t so dreamy when you have toddlers and preschoolers ruling your sleep schedule. One often overlooked parenting hack at our fingertips is a very natural, and effective, tool to enhance the sleep routine for the whole family: essential oils. I use essential oils to help kids sleep better and much prefer them to melatonin use in children — I’ll explain why.
Umm, what are essential oils?
Inside many plants, deep within the bark, seeds, root, or bud, are highly concentrated chemical compounds. These are the plant’s essential elements. These compounds give a plant its scent, protect it from hazardous environmental conditions, and can even assist with pollination, among other important functions and benefits. Lucky for us humans, this plant material can be extracted through a cold-press or distillation process, which produces a very little amount of oil. While seemingly small in size, one drop of lemon essential oil holds roughly about the same potency as two whole lemons. Thus, a little goes a long way; bringing the incredible benefits of plant power into our own self-care routine.
How to Use Them
While there are many ways to use essential oils, for simplicity’s sake, I’ll only focus on two methods: diffusing and roller vials. Diffusing essential oils requires an ultrasonic diffuser (think small humidifier with scent) that uses an internal water reservoir to disperse the oil into a fine mist throughout the room that it’s in. You can also add essential oils to a glass vial with a rollerball top and roll them directly onto the skin. With this method, you should always dilute the oils with a carrier oil, like coconut or olive oil, to reduce the concentration and avoid skin sensitivity.
Our kids have taken to rolling them on to the back of the neck or upper chest. I find that it works best when you apply the oil about 20 minutes before bedtime.
Our Family’s Essential Oils for Sleep:
Most people know lavender as a scent of relaxation and spa-like indulgence. It’s high concentration of Linalool though is what makes it such a good essential oil for sleep.
2. Juniper Berry
This lesser-known oil smells like a walk in the woods. Many believe it can help assist kiddos with nightmares or night terrors, thanks to its chemical makeup of soothing monoterpenes.
Cedarwood is not only calming in nature, but we find it helps with congestion as well. We will often dilute it in coconut oil or shea butter across the chest to help sleep during cold season.
An oil in the grass family, vetiver helps with deep sleep and relaxation for busy minds. According to a 2015 study, Vetiver demonstrated anti-anxiety results similar to the drug, Diazepam. It definitely helps my kids chill out.
5. Wild Orange
While most see citrus as a source of awakening in nature, this oil is actually quite calming and a fan favorite for kids. It pairs wonderfully with Vetiver and Lavender.
This oil is considered to be a top oil for meditation, rest, and relaxation. Many people find that Frankincense’s musk is just as effective as Lavender in helping them unwind.
7. Roman Chamomile
A long-time favorite essential oil for sleep as it encourages sleepiness and a more restful sleep. Like Lavender, Roman Chamomile seems to have a positive effect on GABA receptors in the brain.
A hidden gem in the essential oil world, this essential oil can be deeply calming and helpful in relaxing the body and mind toward sleep. Copaiba is our daughter’s favorite bedtime oil in a roller vial, mixed with Lavender and Frankincense. Read more about this oil here.
A Quick Note About Safety
Plants, including essential oils, have been used for hundreds of years for health, wellness, and self-care. However, just like any herb or homeopathic remedy, they must be used properly. With tiny humans (and pets!) around, extra caution is simply prudent. Only select essential oils that are labeled as 100% pure Therapeutic Grade and know where your oils are coming from. Essential oils should always be diluted when using them on the skin and then, only after a certain age. For more information on using essential oils safely with children, I highly recommend reading this first.