Despite the diversity within our city, there are a few things that all Vancouverites seem to have in common. An umbrella, for example. Also, an ever-present feeling of exhaustion.
It seems like how drained we are has transformed from a point of concern into a bragging right. The only acceptable answer to "How are you" is "Tired," usually punctuated with a dramatic yawn and feeble raise of a latte.
I'm definitely guilty of this. A willing participant in the who-got-less-sleep-last-night game, I usually stay up later than I should and wake up earlier than I want to, and I know the bags under my eyes sometimes violate the average aircraft's carry-on dimensions. I often wonder how to get a better night's sleep (ridiculous solutions like "go to bed earlier" or "stop watching Queer Eye till 3:00am" aside).
As if answering my prayers, a gracious divine force (otherwise known as the nice people at Saje Natural Wellness) delivered me three diffuser blends designed to battle those late-night tosses and turns. Made with natural essential oils, the bottles promised sweet slumber and uninterrupted z's.
So, do they actually work? Like the diligent, self-sacrificing journalist I am, I have taken to the sheets to get you the information that matters. For three nights, I diffused each blend starting from about an hour before I went to bed. Restful results below.
Night 1: Dream State
On the first day of Scentmas, Saje gave to me: Dream State, a diffuser blend made with lavender, valerian, and Roman chamomile. As far as sleep aids go, lavender is Beyoncé-level famous. It interacts with the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid—like I told you, this is real research) to calm neurotransmitter activity, which is supposed to reduce restlessness. Valerian is an old boy; the herb has been used for insomnia since the 17th century. Chamomile is another sleep all-star, and it gives the blend a floral scent.
I don't know if it was a placebo or a Saje-induced miracle, but I had no trouble falling asleep and staying asleep under Dream State's peaceful presence. I did spend a few minutes lying in the dark with the Glee cover of "Bills, Bills, Bills" stuck in my head (I guess Beyoncé is on my mind). But once I was out, I didn't wake up again until my morning alarm went off. I slept for 6.5 hours and felt extremely well rested the next day.
I had no dreams that I remember, so I don't think I was in a "Dream State"—but if I had one, it would probably be Hawaii.
Dream State Restful Diffuser Blend
Night 2: Goodnight
A blend of sandalwood, roman chamomile, and vetiver tucked me in on night two. Goodnight is a "grounding" diffuser blend meant to create a relaxing bedtime atmosphere. Chamomile has a ton of apigenin in it, an antioxidant that binds to certain brain receptors that decrease anxiety. Sandalwood actually makes some people sleepy and others alert—reactions vary from person to person, as is the case with cilantro and Crocs. Veviter is a bunchgrass native to India; oil is extracted from the root and believed to contain grounding properties.
Sleep effectiveness aside, Goodnight was my favourite scent of the three. I'd call it a go-to blend for the daytime, as well, especially for rainy days (and given where I live, they better sell these by the litre). Sleepwise, it took me longer to fall asleep on this night than each of the other two, and I woke up before my morning alarm. I only got about 5.5 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Maybe I'm one of those people that has a more alert reaction to sandalwood (if you're wondering, I like cilantro and support ironic croc-wearing only).
Goodnight Grounding Diffuser Blend
Night 3: Peaceful Slumber
The finale to my complex and grueling investigation was Peaceful Slumber, a blend of marjoram, lavender, and myrtle. For those of you who didn't take Aromachology 101, marjoram is a herb that is synonymous with oregano in some parts of the world. I know what you're thinking: the blend did not make my bedroom smell like the interior of a pizza shop (but hello, million-dollar idea). Marjoram has a more floral aroma than oregano, and has sedative properties that can help people who have trouble falling or staying asleep.
Peaceful Slumber did have a slightly more herb-y scent than I usually go for—it was a bit like sleeping in a spice cabinet, and the smell diffused farther within my house than the others did. I think I was starting to wonder if my neighbours would report a basement oregano-op when I fell into a deep, dreamless sleep for the next 7 hours. The blend had me KO'ed in less than 10 minutes.
Peaceful Slumber Sound Sleep Diffuser Blend
The verdict? I did get a noticeably better sleep this week, but I can't determine if the diffuser blends were a direct or indirect cause. Consider this: in order to make this an accurate scientific investigation, I made sure to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night, I didn't fall asleep watching Netflix or scrolling through Instagram, and I didn't do anything weird like eat an entire pizza at midnight (maybe I'll try that next week). The blends may have been the reason for my restfulness, but it also could have been the routine or my newfound focus on sleep. I think that much like buying flattering athletic gear or a new water bottle, sleep-aiding aromatherapy can motivate you into a healthy habit. My faith in a good night's sleep is renewed. No more burning the midnight oil—I'll be diffusing it.