We are firm believers that having a relaxing bedtime ritual is a key component to getting a good night’s sleep. While a variety of factors go into setting yourself up for some quality shut-eye, from achieving an optimal temperature in the bedroom to avoiding certain beverages before bedtime—read more about that here—we recently sat down with Chinese herbalist, yoga teacher, licensed acupuncturist, and holistic health coach Hilde Schirmer (who also happens to be founder of the skincare line Freda & Wolf), to discuss how adding essential oils and a few mindful practices to your evening routine can help lead to a night of restful slumber. Here are her recommendations.
Diffuse essential oils in the evening. “Filling the bedroom with essential oils through a diffuser is one of the best uses of essential oils,” Schirmer says. “My kids go to bed at 8:30 p.m., and by 7:00 p.m. I have the diffuser going.” She usually chooses to diffuse a single, woodsy grounding oil at night, like northern lights black spruce or vetiver, adding 4-6 drops to the diffuser. “Wood notes help us drop into our bodies a little deeper,” she says. However, if the day has been high-octane or particularly stressful, she opts for something citrusy like an orange, ylang ylang, and patchouli blend. “It helps move Qi and emotions for a more restful sleep,” Schirmer says. To make her bedtime diffuser blend, fill the diffuser with water to the water line, add 2 drops orang essential oil, 4 drops ylang ylang essential oil, and 4 drops of patchouli essential oil, and turn on the diffuser.
Roll on an essential oil blend before bed. “The most vital part of the bedtime ritual for my kids and me is to roll our favorite relaxation blend onto the soles of our feet, wrists, and heart center,” Schirmer says. “If sleep feels distant, I apply the relaxation blend to the third eye chakra, located on the forehead between the eyes. It has an effect on the sleep-regulating pineal gland.” You can buy a premade relaxation essential oil blend at a natural foods store, or customize your own with your favorite wind-down scents—Schirmer reports that lavender, cedarwood, and valerian are all are all great choices that encourage sleep and relaxation.
Incorporate essential oils into your evening skincare routine. “My skincare line, Freda & Wolf, contains essential oils, so applying the Face Oil at night helps jump start my sleepy-time mindset,” Schirmer says. “I’m an overachiever, and set the bar quite high for myself, so I need a collection of wind-down practices at night to settle the monkey mind and tap into the parasympathetic nervous system.” Her face oil includes sandalwood, vetiver, neroli, lavender, frankincense, patchouli, and Roman chamomile, but there are many face creams and oils on the market that utilize essential oils, so seek out a high-quality one that appeals to you.
Indulge in a pre-slumber stretching session. “In theory, I love the idea of a relaxing bath before bed, but that’s not the way my life works right now,” Schirmer says. Instead, she does gentle stretches, which she finds even more effective in inducing sleep than a warm bath or a cup of chamomile tea. Rather than adhering to a regular routine, Schirmer just goes with what feels good to her body, usually beginning with standing crescent moon stretches on each side. Then, she folds forward with her hips apart, opening up her lower back and stretching her hamstrings. After that she goes to the floor and ends with a spinal twist and happy baby (which involves laying on her back, pulling her knees in, and holding onto the soles of her feet). In addition to relaxing the muscles, stretching invokes mindful breathing, Schirmer notes, which further deepens the relaxation state of the parasympathetic nervous system. Just 10 minutes of stretching will do the trick.
Add meditation and sound therapy to your pre-bed regimen. Often while stretching, Schirmer and her children will go through a chakra mantra meditation. “We place our hands over each chakra, going from root to crown, while repeating the mantra,” she says. She also incorporates Tibetan singing bowls or binaural beats while meditating and stretching. “That, combined with our essential oils, is the best evening wind-down practice, offering much-needed meditative quiet time for a busy brain and buzzing body,” she says. Here, Schirmer shares her chakra meditation:
- Root Chakra: I am secure, grounded, and protected.
- Sacral Chakra: I create with passion. I honor my relationships and the nature of my emotions.
- Solar Plexus Chakra: I am positively empowered. I am confident and worthy.
- Heart Chakra: I give and receive love openly. I love unconditionally.
- Throat Chakra: I speak my truth. And listen patiently.
- Third Eye Chakra: I listen for universal wisdom. I trust my intuition.
- Crown Chakra: I trust that I am divinely guided.
TSG Tip 324 from Baltimore, Maryland-based Chinese herbalist, licensed acupuncturist, and founder and CEO of skincare line Freda & Wolf Hilde Schirmer. Hilde Schirmer is featured in The Scout Guide Baltimore & Annapolis.