With all of the sleep remedies on the market, essential oils and melatonin diffusers are two of the most popular natural remedies that often promise better sleep.
Melatonin and Essential Oils: An Overview
Melatonin is a popular over-the-counter drug used by people who have insomnia: those that have a hard time falling or staying asleep. It is a hormone that your body naturally produces that affects your sleep-wake cycle and is at its highest at night. It relaxes your body allowing you to fall asleep easier, and the levels in your bloodstream lessen as you get closer to waking in the morning. Natural melatonin levels decline as you age, which is one of the many reasons why older people can have a difficult time sleeping.
There are several forms of melatonin, the most popular of which is the over-the-counter pill. In order to help with the effects of melatonin, it is suggested that you relax in your environment as well: turn off unnecessary electronics, turn off lights if you’re not using them, and stay six feet or more from the television screen if you’re watching. It is recommended that melatonin pills be taken 30 minutes to two hours before sleep. Taking it too late can throw off your sleep rhythm, as it will not metabolize until later in your sleep cycle and can cause you to wake up groggy.
Taking melatonin has been proven to help with sleep disorders for the blind, with insomnia, jet lag, and sleep disorders in children. Taking melatonin pills too late could mess with your sleep cycle and make waking up the next day more difficult. Check before you use melatonin for sleep, especially if you have underlying health conditions.
In a report from the National Institutes of Health between 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from sleep and wakefulness disorders. Over one-third of adults in the U.S. don’t get seven hours or more of sleep a night, which is the recommended daily amount. As a result, there are hundreds of other forms of sleep aids that are also commonly used, most specifically essential oils via aromatherapy or absorption through the skin.
Essential oils have been used as a form of natural medicine for thousands of years. Aromatherapy is when essential oils are used as a therapeutic technique. Inhaling scents causes them to travel from the olfactory nerves, the sensory nerve that conveys a sense of smell, to the brain where they can impact the emotional center of the brain, known as the amygdala. Essential oils, also sometimes called plant extracts, are made by steaming or pressing the parts of a plant such as the leaves, flowers, or bark, in order to obtain the parts that carry an aroma. They are said to have several benefits, including strengthening the immune system, helping to soothe anxiety, and helping you fall asleep easier and more peacefully. When using essential oils on the skin it is suggested that you dilute them to prevent irritation with carrier oils such as coconut or extra virgin olive oil.
The research was done on how aromatherapy affects sleep disturbances in elderly people with dementia. It was found that inhalation aromatherapy helped with the symptoms of sleep disturbances they dealt with. Lavender essential oils were found to help young sleepers as well and were found to be a mild sedative that helps sleepers feel higher vigor the morning after. Lavender aromatherapy helps to raise the serum melatonin levels in the blood of older adults as well.
How to find Safe Essential Oils:
When shopping for essential oils for aromatherapy or other uses, it is important that you find and use the right ones. The container the oil comes in should be either brown or blue glass in order to prevent the highly concentrated oils from dissolving the container over time as it does with plastic. The dissolved chemicals from a plastic bottle can taint the oil and make it unsafe for use. The label should have the name of the plant in Latin along with the country it was grown in as well as information on the purity of the oil and the ingredients used. Fragrance oils are not pure essential oils and can contain harsh chemicals that are not always safe for aromatherapy. Cheap essential oils are not usually pure either and can contain similar harmful chemicals. One way to judge when buying from a company or brand is to note the prices of their oils. Different essential oils will have different price points due to seasonality, ease of growth, and popularity. Only pure essential oils should be used to ensure safety.
Clary sage is said to help with period cramps as well as anxiety and stress. Eucalyptus is said to energize and clear the mind, is used as a decongestant, and is said to be helpful for colds and the flu. Ginger is used as an anti-inflammatory, a way to relieve constipation, and as a form of pain relief. Lavender is used as a calming agent to help with anxiety and is used for small medical needs such as burns, bug bites, and skin itchiness. Lemon is used for cleaning and as an antioxidant. Peppermint is used to relieve nausea and migraines and is said to help with muscle pain. Rose, also known as “The Queen of Essential Oils” is used to help with stress and anxiety and as an aphrodisiac.
Best Essential Oils for Sleep
The Sleep Association suggests using essential oils via inhalation and application to the skin. Though some people ingest essential oils, it can be very risky and is not recommended unless you’ve been guided by a medical professional. There are several essential oils they suggest for sleep. Chamomile has been historically used as a sedative and relaxant and is one of the only essential oils commonly ingested as tea. It is not ingested in its highly concentrated oil form, rather the flowers of this plant are dried and steeped. Sandalwood and Valerian both have been shown to help with relaxation and anxiety. Peppermint and Eucalyptus are used to help clear airways when you’re sick and can help to reduce snoring.
Diffusers generally are used to diffuse essential oils as a form of aromatherapy. Melatonin diffusers are used as a sleep aid, turning a liquid containing the hormone melatonin into a mist that can be inhaled. Due to its concentrated nature, and the fact that it is absorbed through your lungs, the liquid containing melatonin is said to work quickly once inhaled.
There is not much information on how melatonin diffusers affect the lungs and body. Johns Hopkins does not suggest the use of essential oil diffusers, as they can create a negative effect than what is expected. Children less than 30 months can become agitated, and it could cause a bad reaction in someone with a fast heartbeat. People with atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, are also more likely to have an allergic reaction or skin irritation from using essential oils. Some are more likely to cause a reaction than others such as Jasmine oil, Lemongrass oil, Chamomile oil, and others.
Essential oil diffusers can affect some members of a household differently than others, so they actually advise against using them and instead suggest sticking to essential oils diluted with body oil, accessories made with absorbent materials that you use for aromatherapy by applying essential oils to them, and aroma sticks.
There are also questions about dosages. Though some melatonin diffuser brands state that a single inhalation is equal to a certain dose of melatonin, there is no way to guarantee you’re getting the full amount. There is also no way to know for certain what else you’re inhaling as well. Furthermore, doctors worry about the lung damage that inhaling things through diffusers can cause.
Vaporizers: AKA Vape Pen
Vaporizers or vape pens are cylindrical pen-shaped hand-held vaporizers commonly used to vaporize wax, herbs, or e-liquid that have artificial flavor. This is done by a small battery that heats the coil inside the cylinder turning the liquid into a vapor. Essential oil vape pens are also a new form of aromatherapy, and it is recommended that they not be inhaled by the nose but rather through the mouth and exhaled through the nose. Many melatonin diffusers actually come in a form similar to the vape pen, including the original Cloudy Melatonin Diffuser. Vitamin vape pens are also rising in popularity, but watch out for Vitamin E vapes, which are said to contain several health risks.
Melatonin Diffusers and Vaporizers
Known as the original melatonin vaporizer, the Cloudy Melatonin Diffuser comes in a form similar to the vape pen and contains Melatonin, Lavender Extract, and Chamomile. The Cloudy diffuser melatonin liquid also contains L-Theanine, propylene glycol, grape extract, and vegetable glycerin. It is not meant for inhalation or ingestion but is meant to, like other diffusers, to activate the olfactory nerve in the nose. Cloudy recommends that you bring the mist into your mouth without touching the diffuser to your lips and letting it come out of your nose without inhaling. It is drug and cruelty-free, is vegan, and contains no controlled substances. Each Cloudy Melatonin Diffuser is supposed to last about one month with about 250 uses.
Cloudy also makes a sleep spray with Lavender, Vanilla, and Jasmine as well as sleep gummies that contain melatonin, ashwagandha, and magnesium that is meant to be ingested around 30 minutes before sleep.
STYM Melatonin Bedtime Diffuser
The STYM Melatonin Bedtime Diffuser is another one that is similar in shape and size to a vape and uses melatonin, lavender, and chamomile. It does not have nicotine or diacetyl or vitamin e-acetate. Their specific mixture was verified in independent labs so it is its own special blend.
LUVV Labs Calm Melatonin
LUVV Labs Calm Melatonin inhalers come in a vape-like form. Long-lasting and disposable they give over 450 inhalations. Their inhalers contain no addictive or harmful substances and are made with kosher, vegan-friendly, natural ingredients. This inhaler contains melatonin, passionflower, valerian root, l-theanine, and chamomile, along with natural peppermint and cassia flavors.
Essential Oil Diffusers and Vaporizers
Essential oil-specific diffusers and vaporizers tend to be more expensive than vape-like melatonin diffusers. Though they cannot be used on the go, the average essential oil diffuser is the same price as about 3 to 5 vapes and can be a great investment if you only plan on using them in your home.
Exqline Aroma Essential Oil Diffuser
For large spaces and open floorplans, the Exqline Aroma Essential Oil Diffuser can cover spaces up to 450 square feet and runs for 22 hours a fill due to its 1500ml tank. This diffuser is easy to use, you just add water and your chosen essential oil (so long as it is water-soluble or pure), meaning that you can guarantee your safety when using it. This diffuser also acts as a vaporizer and can be set to a specific humidity level. This diffuser does not use heat, which means that the essential oils will not break down and will keep their original properties. The machine is also virtually silent and has a range of light options from dim to bright for convenience.
Urpower 2nd Generation Aroma Essential Oil Diffuser
Rated by the New York Times as the best essential oil diffuser, this 300ml device is one of the least expensive table diffusers you can find at only $20 and works as one of the best. Promising 7 hours off continuous diffusing time, so long as you refill the essential oils, it has 4 different timer settings as well as automatic color changing lights. It needs to be cleaned once a week, and its small size makes it easily transportable to the office or bedroom. It also has multiple functions and can be used as a humidifier, air purifier, and ionizer. Rather than heating essential oils like most diffusers do it uses ultrasonic diffusing technology to break the water and oils into particles that are fine enough to be inhaled to prevent heat from destroying the properties of the essential oils. For humidifier use, it can cover 108 square feet, whereas for aromatherapy it can cover up to 215 square feet.
MONQ is an aromatherapy company that uses organic and vegan essential oils that have no artificial ingredients, nicotine, tobacco, or THC. The company has a variety of handheld diffusing devices, including a line specifically dedicated to sleep that contains cold-pressed Bergamot, as well as steam-distilled Chamomile and Lavender. They also have bath soaks, roll-on essential oils, and bottles blends that contain these same sleep-inducing oils.
MONQ suggests a specific way of inhaling their essential oils. Rather than inhaling through the mouth, they recommend the “MONQ breath”: pumping out the mist from the AirTip and waving the mist in front of the nose for natural rather than forced inhalation. Some people prefer to use the MONQ pen like a vape, but that is not recommended nor rejected on their official website. The MONQ pen comes fully loaded, which helps prevent leaking and offers more than 200 puffs. The essential oils are heated through a nickel-chromium wire and are encased in stainless steel. MONQ offers other aromatherapy other than their sleep line as well, including zen, forest, and ocean.
MyMoods has a variety of vape diffusers that use pure essential oil blends, including one for sleep which has lavender, frankincense, and vetivert oils. The oils used in MyMoods vapes are organic, vegan, and contain no nicotine, THC, CBD, Vitamin E, or artificial flavor. They are not recommended for people who have asthma or respiratory conditions and are meant to be used for aromatherapy not to replace vapes. Like other diffusers, MyMoods does not suggest allowing the vapor to go into your lungs but suggests that you draw the air into your mouth gently and push it out through the nose to activate the receptors in your nose for the aromatherapy to work. The vapor in these devices is created from a low-power heating device that heats the oils at a low temperature to prevent them from breaking down or burning, producing a water-based vapor similar to steam.
Notes on Safety
Melatonin should not be ingested or inhaled by those who take anticoagulants, blood pressure medications, central nervous system depressants, diabetes medications, contraceptives, immunosuppressants, or seizure medications.
Other Ways to Help You Sleep
If you’re not quite sure about using vaporizers as a way to help you sleep, there are other options as well. Diphenhydramines, sedating antihistamines, such as Benadryl and Aleve PM can help with sleep but can also cause drowsiness during the day, dry mouth, constipation, and blurred vision. Johns Hopkins recommends exercising in the morning rather than at night, keeping your room cool (below 72 degrees), and sleeping in the dark to avoid visual disruption if you wake to use the bathroom.