To complement the MASSAGE Magazine article, “Sweet Dreams: Music to Address Insomnia,” by John Levine, in the September 2011 issue. Article summary: There are four basic brain-wave patterns: beta, alpha, theta and delta. Beta, the fastest of the four, is when you might be stressed or anxious. Alpha is slower, occurring when you are awake but calmer. Theta arises when you are dreaming. Delta occurs when you are deeply asleep or unconscious. The sounds you listen to influence what brain-wave state you move into.

by Geraldine Howard

Q. How did you become interested in aromatherapy? How has it personally affected your health and well-being?
A. I became unwell in my early 20s, suffering from insomnia and stress, and found aromatherapy had an incredibly therapeutic effect on my recovery. I went on to train with some of the world’s leading pioneers and never looked back. Not only is aromatherapy incredible at helping to relieve various physical and mental health concerns, such as stress, aching limbs and digestive complaints, it’s also effective on the skin, keeping it nourished and healthy.

Q. Insomnia is becoming more common with our busy culture. How can aromatherapy help with the mental and physical aspects of stress?
A. Aromatherapy is hugely beneficial at helping to deal with many kinds of stress. At home, pure oils and bath-oil blends can help change the atmosphere and improve the way you feel. Physically, oils penetrate deeply enough to ease muscular stresses and strains. Ginger, black pepper and rosemary work well, combined with a carrier oil, to help relieve stiff muscles. For the mental aspects of stress, combine wild camomile, petitgrain and frankincense to help clear your mind and focus thoughts. At home, a few drops of these oils could be used in a diffuser or a bowl of hot water.

Q. What are your favorite aromatherapy oils to help ensure a good night’s rest?
A. I recommend vetivert as being the most powerful essential oil to help aid sleep. I believe it’s a common misconception that lavender is the most effective oil to help relaxation and while it does create calm, vetivert is more effective at aiding deep, peaceful sleep.

Q. How can mental stress and physical aches and pains affect our sleep patterns? Would you recommend different modalities or oils for each concern?
A. Any stress, whether it’s physical or mental, can affect our sleep patterns, as it means the body is not totally in the right place. Physical aches are treated well by warming, antispasmodic oils and massage. Oils such as ginger, black pepper and rosemary contained within a carrier gel work to help relieve stiffness and are beneficial when coupled with massage. Mental stress requires oils that help to calm and focus the mind. Frankincense is a favorite of mine–inhale a few drops in times of tension and you’ll feel the benefits immediately.

Aromatherapy Associates was established in 1985 to share the benefits of aromatherapy through a range of therapeutic-grade products and treatments. We’ve continued to develop and expand, and our products are now sold at exclusive hotels, spas and retail outlets in more than 30 countries worldwide. Order online at