Xanax From Nature: Calming Essential Oils #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to my letter X post in the #AtoZChallenge. Sorry for the weird title, but I had to come up with something starting with X. Xanax (alprazolam) is a benzodiazepine anti-anxiety and sleep medication. Here in the Netherlands, benzodiazepine medications aren’t covered by insurance, at least not when used for sleep or relaxation. In the spirit of finding alternatives to benzos, today I’m sharing what essential oils can do to promote relaxation. Now I don’t say that essential oils are as effective, but in some cases, they might just be, especially since benzos are highly addictive.

The most well-known oil for tranquility is, of course, lavender. Lavender is thought to help relieve anxiety by affecting the limbic region of the brain, the area that involves emotion. You can either use some lavender essential oil in a diffuser blend or enjoy a lavender bath. To do this, combine a few drops of lavender essential oil with a teaspoon or so of the carrier oil of your choice or an unscented bath gel.

Valerian is up next. I don’t own this oil and haven’t talked about it. Valerian is an herb that has been used since ancient times to promote sleep and relaxation. The herb can be used in herbal teas, but there’s also an essential oil derived from it that can be used in a diffuser blend.

Jasmine is also sometimes used in aromatherapy to promote relaxation. It has a beautifully floral scent and, in helping with anxiety, has the advantage that it doesn’t cause sleepiness. Jasmine is usually sold as an absolute and even then can be quite expensive.

Chamomile essential oil, particularly Roman chamomile, is also commonly used for helping reduce anxiety. I do not own this oil, as it is pretty expensive, but would love to in the future. I did at one point use chamomile in herbal tea.

Lastly, frankincense and vetiver essential oil both have calming properties.

There are also oils that have both calming and uplifting properties. For example, I personally didn’t expect patchouli essential oil to help with anxiety, as it is mostly thought of as an uplifting oil. However, of course, oils can do both. I will discuss more uplifting oils later.

Working On Us Prompt: Sleep Disorders

The past few days have been pretty busy, so even though I did want to blog, I hardly found the time. Now it’s already latish evening too.

Today I’m once again joining in with Working On Us, for which the prompt this week is sleep, insomnia and other sleep disorders.

As a child and teen, I suffered from insomnia a lot. I would often be awake for the whole night or hardly sleep at all. On week-ends, I sometimes made up for it by sleeping in, but I was definitely chronically sleep deprived. Though my parents sometimes suggested, and I don’t know whether they were joking, that I take valerian or melatonin, I wanted nothing of it. In fact, when I was going in for eye surgery at age seven or eight, I refused the tranquilizer they offered us before the operation. I also constantly fought the anesthesia.

When I was 20, I sought treatment for my insomnia for the first time. My GP prescribed temazepam, the most commonly-used sleep medication here in the Netherlands at least at the time. I was very scared when first using it, being that I’d not taken any medication in years, not even paracetamol.

I think that what lay underneath both my insomnia and my refusal to take medication for it, was an intense fear of losing control. I was, after all, pretty compulsive particularly as an older child and teen.

My sleep issues escalated in 2007, when I lived on my own in Nijmegen. Though I didn’t sleep less than I had as a younger person, I did suffer from the effects of sleep deprivation more. When I was admitted to the psychiatric hospital, the first medication I was prescribed was again temazepam. Then followed another few benzos and even levomepromazine (Nozinan), which is normally only used for palliative sedation.

I had to take “twilight anesthesia”, which means high doses of benzos, several more times prior to procedures and chose them over the pain that would otherwise ensue. However, I still had terrible fear when I “awoke”.

Other than insomnia, I’ve had an assortment of other sleep issues. My husband said at one point that I have hypersomnia, because I slept so much. This was probably down to a combination of medication, vitamin and iron deficiencies and lack of structure.

I am a sleep talker and I snore too. The snoring got slightly better as I lost weight last year. I’m not sure whether it’s worsened again since I’ve gained weight back up again. The sleep talking comes and goes with stress.

Lastly, I suffer from vivid dreams and nightmares. They’ve gotten a little better now that the long-term care situation is more or less settled, but during times of stress, I very often awaken in a state of shock because of vivid dreams. That is, I’m not 100% sure they’re REM sleep dreams or night terrors (which happen during stage 4 sleep). I’ve never had a sleep study done either.