Vetiver Oil: A Grass Roots Therapy For Better Sleep

One of my most consistent problems with sleeplessness is that I can be totally exhausted, but still unable to actually drop off to sleep. 

That’s mostly because of my fibromyalgia, but it is complicated by back pain on those nights when my pain relief medication fails to cut the mustard, as it sometimes does. 

Because I know from past experience that prescription sleeping medication causes my whole system to lag, and because of the strong pain killers I need to take for my back as well as my fibro, I feel very strongly about not having those other drugs in my regime. 

So, I recently visited my friendly local alternative health practitioner and asked, “What can you suggest to help me sleep?”

She suggested Vetiver Oil, diluted in fractionated coconut oil. The instructions say to apply it under both big toes and to the wrists, to inhale deeply on going to bed, and to reapply on waking through the night. 

Extracted from the roots of vetiver grass, vetiver oil is useful for calming emotions and relaxing the body.

The first night, I did doze off more easily. I also smelt like I was sleeping in the very damp leaf litter on the floor of a forest that didn’t get enough sunlight. Inhaling it deeply wasn’t anything I needed to do consciously — that was unavoidable! It is not an offensive smell, but it is distinctive and perhaps a little strong. 

On the second night I decidedto just go with it under the big toes, and I added a dab or two on the inside of my ankles instead of my wrists – I figured the circulation is near the skin there, too, and I wouldn’t find the smell so strong there. I found that it still helped me to drift off and the smell of the oil was not so pervasive. 

On the third night, I followed the same routine as the previous night. I also used some lemongrass oil on my fingers and hands for pain management, as I often do through the day. It wasn’t my intention, but I found the lemongrass balanced and lightened the vetiver quite effectively. That was a happy accident! 

I have been following that routine for a couple of weeks now, and while I still don’t fall asleep quickly, I have observed that drifting off is gentler and generally doesn’t take as long as it has done in the past. 

Having experienced difficulty falling asleep for as long as I can remember – even before the onset of fibromyalgia, it’s fir to say that any improvement is welcome. 

Fibro-my-Sunday.

Image by Jordan_Singh on Pixabay

My plans for today are not optional. That is a luxury rarely available to me.

When I woke up, though, I realised my body has other ideas:

Me: “Come on, legs. You can do it!”
My legs: “No. We can’t.”
Me: “You have to.”
My legs: “Fine. But we’re going to make you suffer.”
My back: “I’m with them.”
My fingers: “Us too!”

I got up and showered. I needed the hot water for my back, but the water hitting my skin was painful.

I dressed, but then had to change into something made from softer fabric that didn’t hurt my skin so much just by being against it.

I downed my medications, hoping they would work quickly. They didn’t.

I drank my coffee, hoping the caffeine would make a difference. It didn’t.

I can’t take any more pain killers for hours. I can have more caffeine, though, so that is definitely happening.

This is one snapshot of one morning. One morning that is complete typical of many others in my life, and in the lives of other fibromyalgia sufferers.

And now, I am off to a full day of rehearsals that I have to attend because I am the director.

Today is going to be an exercise in perseverance and in drawing upon my actor’s craft. The role I play today needs to be motivated and excited, and able to project that motivation and commitment into my cast and crew.

I cannot fall over. I will not fall over. That is, at least, until I get home.

Tell you what, though. I’m glad my other half is cooking dinner, because I’m already exhausted.

Painsomnia and sleep deprivation

The term ‘painsomnia’ is perfect for describing the impact of chronic pain on the sleep patterns of those who live with conditions like Fibromyalgia.

This post touches on so many aspects of my life with both Fibromyalgia and back pain.

I’m thankful to The Brainless Blogger for writing so clearly and honestly what many people struggle to explain.

If someone you know has a chronic pain condition, you need to read this and share it with everyone you know.

Brainless Blogger

So I’m going to start with this tidbit: The brain literally starts eating itself when it doesn’t get enough sleep.

AHHHhhhhhh!!!!!!! My brain is EATING itself. WTAF!

Not cool.

Painsomnia and sleep deprivation

Other issues with sleep deprivation can include:

  1. Impacts short-term and long-term memory
  2. Concentration becomes impaired along with problem-solving abilities and even creativity
  3. Mood instability- obviously lack of sleep can make a person cranky as all hell. But long term it can be comorbid with anxiety and depression and make depression more intense
  4. Less than 5 hours a night can cause your blood pressure to increase
  5. It increases your risk for Type 2 Diabetes
  6. It increases the risk of heart disease
  7. It can lead to poor balance and increase the likelihood of falls
  8. Affects immune system and it may take you longer to recover from illness
  9. Increases the chances of obesity (source: Healthline)

And if that were not enough there is…

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FibroMyFriday

The aim of this post is not to complain. My spirit is still quite positive, albeit a little weary after working hard to tick things off my “do or die” list this week. Instead, my purpose is to raise awareness of what it’s like to live with Fibromyalgia. 

People cannot see my illness. It’s easy to feel sympathy for someone in a cast, a wheelchair or a hospital bed. I notice an immediate difference in people’s responses on the days I need to use my walking stick. Some are kinder, and most are more physically careful around me. 

Of course, there are always some who couldn’t care less about someone with a cane, but there is no point losing time or sleep getting upset about them. Their attitude only highlights the good in others’. 

My disease is invisible, although some of its effects are not. I may look tired, or upset, at times. My emotions sometimes get a bit messy, although I am a good actor so most people don’t know that. 

After a busy and somewhat stressful week, my body is letting me know how unimpressed it is. 
My pain levels are in the “stupid” range. 
My legs don’t want to bend anymore. 
I have zero need to take my pulse because everything is throbbing. 
Even  typing this is slow because my fingers hurt too.

To anyone else, I probably just look like someone in a recliner, covered with a quilt on a cold night, typing on her iPad. The truth is, I want to go to bed but I don’t want to move because I ache so badly.

I have medicated, but it’s not touching the pain. That’s always good. 

In a further act of bodily insubordination, my very dodgy spine is giving me spasms— yet another an indication that I have probably (read: definitely) overdone it, yet again. 

I don’t want sympathy. I don’t want medals or admiration, or people telling me I’m brave.

What I want is for people to understand that Fibromyalgia and other “invisible illnesses” are not imaginary. They are not something we adopt because they are “trendy”. 

Fibromyalgia hurts. And it sucks. And it doesn’t go away. 

And if you think I “don’t look sick”? Just remember, you can’t see my superhero cape, either.