Visit our shop (sale now on!), where you can buy one of our scented candle sleep packages. Our candles are made with 100% natural wax (soy and rapeseed) and fragranced with the pure essential oils of lavender, bergamot and geranium. The perfect way to relax! Our candle does not contain any paraffin wax or synthetic fragrance. Plus all packages come with a free sleep guide!
We will look at aromatherapy and the possible benefits it may have for relaxation and promoting restful sleep. Aromatherapy candles can provide a convenient and relaxing way to benefit from essential oils. We will explore the scientific evidence to find out which essential oils have been shown to have a calming and beneficial effect upon our sleep.
What are Aromatherapy Candles?
Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of aromatic essential oils (from the leaves, roots, seeds or blossoms of plants) to promote physical and psychological wellbeing, including promoting restful sleep (IFPA, 2015). Essential oils contain different mixes of active ingredients, and it’s this mix which determines what the oil is used for (UMM, 2015).
Aromatherapy candles are made by adding these essential oils to the candle wax and when the candle is lit the heat produced releases the vapours of the fragrant oils.
Types of Aromatherapy Candles and Essential Oils
Candles can be made from different types of wax or a combination of wax blends. Paraffin wax is the most commonly used wax for candles and has been around since the 1850s. Paraffin wax is a by-product of petroleum and is inexpensive to produce, but it is not eco- friendly (it is derived from a fossil fuel) and produces the most soot when burned. Beeswax candles are amongst the oldest type of natural candles and are the most expensive candle to buy. Beeswax has its own distinctive honey aroma and therefore can be difficult to scent. Soy wax and palm wax were developed in the 1990s. They burn much more cleanly than paraffin wax and burn for almost as long as beeswax candles. Soy wax is made from soybean oil which is produced from soy beans. It is biodegradable and has an appealing white, creamy appearance. Palm wax has similar properties to soy wax, but palm oil is currently harvested from non-sustainable palm plantations. Gel wax is a combination of mineral oil and polymer resin, but as it burns at a much higher temperature than traditional wax it is generally considered unsuitable for use in aromatherapy candles.
True aromatherapy candles must contain authentic essential oils and these must be added when the wax is at the right temperature (not too hot). Soya wax is an ideal wax for blending with essential oils because it has a lower melting point. For aromatherapy, the purity of the essential oils used is very important. Standardised oils may have added synthetics and are found in industries, such as cosmetics or food and drink flavouring. For aromatherapy candles pure essential oils should always be used (UMM, 2015).
The Modern Science of Aromatherapy
The modern science of aromatherapy was founded in 1928 by René-Maurice Gattefossé (1881-1950), a French chemist, who studied the chemical properties of essential oils and how they were used to treat wounded soldiers during World War 1. In the 1940s and 50s, Marguerite Maury (1895-1968), a nurse, explored and utilised essential oils for their effects on people’s moods and emotions. In 1948 Dr Jean Valnet (1920-1995), a French physician and Army surgeon, reintroduced essential oils into medical practice, and his work, along with that of Gattefossé and Maury, helped shaped the modern practice of aromatherapy (UMM, 2015). For more information, please see our blog on The History of Aromatherapy.
Sleeping Problems and Treatment
Occasional sleeping problems are experienced by everyone, but regular sleeping problems can be a sign that you are suffering from a sleep disorder, particularly if it affects daily life. Individuals may have trouble getting to sleep, waking in the night or waking too early. Insomnia is the most common type of sleep disorder and it is estimated that one third of people have periods of insomnia in their lifetime. It seems that women are affected more than men, and increasing age can be a risk factor. Insomnia can be caused by a physical health problem, lifestyle factors, stress, anxiety and depression. Lack of quality sleep can have a negative impact on our physical and mental health (NHS,2015).There is growing evidence that sleep deprivation has adverse effects on the immune system (Bryant et al. 2004). Steptoe et al. (2009) found that positive wellbeing is directly associated with good sleep.
More than 10 million prescriptions for sleeping pills are given each year in England, but sleep experts say that non-drug treatments offer better long-term solutions for insomnia (NHS, 2015). Sleeping tablets are effective for inducing sleep, but are not recommended for long term use as they lose their effectiveness over time and patients can become psychologically dependent upon them (NHS, 2015). Other non-pharmacological treatments for sleeping problems include sleep hygiene and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (NHS, 2015). Aromatherapy can be a viable and natural alternative to sleeping pills and can work alongside other non-drug treatments.
Historical use of Essential Oils for Sleep
Many ancient civilisations, such the Egyptians, the Greeks and Romans, used essential oils for a variety of purposes, such as for their cosmetics and perfumes and also for their drugs. Essential oils were incorporated into their spiritual rituals, their therapies and hygiene practices. The Ancient Chinese and Indian cultures made similar use of essential oils. Kyphi is a famous Egyptian fragrance which was used for religious purposes and for treating illnesses but also to induce sleep, increase dreaming and alleviate anxiety. Myrrh and frankincense were also used as aids to induce sleep and relaxation (Kenville and Green, 2009).
Aromatherapy as a Sleep Treatment
Today, fragrant essential oils are still used to promote relaxation and sleep. Scents are used to calm one’s mood which in itself promotes better-quality sleep, and aids the process of actually falling asleep. It is said that the sense of smell is one of the most important senses, and aromatherapy candles provide a subtle aroma which adds to the candlelight ambience, explaining why they are a popular choice for inducing a calming environment. A study by Shimizu (2000) on the influence of aromatherapy on mood found that aromatherapy is effective for stress relief and that the stimulation of the sense of smell, combined with touch, had the most influence on mood and improved sleep.
More recently, Hwang and Shin (2015) reviewed 13 studies which had investigated the effectiveness of aromatherapy in improving quality of sleep. They found that aromatherapy had a moderate and beneficial effect upon sleep and their analysis backed up the effectiveness of Lavender, Cypress and Chamomile. They conclude that aromatherapy was more beneficial for sleep than exercise therapy, based on an analysis of the effect size.
Lavender is one of the most popular scents for reducing stress and it is commonly used to promote better sleep. It’s fragrance can be described as floral, herbaceous, fresh and sweet. There is scientific evidence to show that it is an acceptable natural sleep aid (an alternative to prescribed medicines) with its proven sedative properties and the absence of serious side-effects (Boody, 2009).
It is one of the most commonly studied essential oils with regards to sleep and research has found that lavender increases drowsiness and relaxation and decreases stress (Diego et al. 1998). It has been shown to increase the percentage of deep sleep, offering practical applications as a mild sedative (Goel et al. 2005). A review by Fismer and Pilkinton (2012) which analysed a number of studies on aroma inhalation found that lavender oil, when inhaled, was beneficial to sleep. It is likely that further research will shed light on the mechanism via which lavender can aid sleep.
The following essential oils may also have beneficial effects in promoting sleep when inhaled (through calming and relaxing effects):
• Ylang ylang
• Sleep problems are common, and persistent difficulties can affect our quality of life.
• Aromatherapy is the art of using essential oils to maintain or enhance our physical or psychological wellbeing.
• Aromatherapy can be a natural alternative to sleeping pills, and could be combined with other forms of sleep treatment.
• Lavender essential oil is most commonly tested in relation to sleep, with positive results being found.
• Aromatherapy candles are an effective means of delivering essential oil fragrance. Try and choose one made from a natural vegetable wax, rather than paraffin.
Don’t forget to visit our shop (sale now on!), where you can buy one of our scented candle sleep packages. Our candles are made with 100% natural wax (soy and rapeseed) and fragranced with the pure essential oils of lavender, bergamot and geranium. The perfect way to relax! Our candle does not contain any paraffin wax or synthetic fragrance. Plus all packages come with a free sleep guide!
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