It is quite common for children and adults with autism to have sleeping problems. And the correlation between ASD (autism spectrum disorder) and sleep disorders has not gone unnoticed in the scientific community. In fact, there are many theories as to why there seems to be an inevitable connection between the two.
Some experts say that it’s due to mutations in the genes directly responsible for regulating our sleep-wake cycle – also known as the body clock or circadian genes. Others claim that it has more to do with people with autism being oversensitive to sensory stimuli.
There’s also the theory that pharmaceutical medications known to be effective in suppressing core autism symptoms may have under researched side effects that may be affecting sleep.
Many theories exist, but there’s no single multidisciplinary consensus that points to one conclusion. Scientists and child medical care experts are, as of yet, not 100% sure as to why autism causes insomnia.
However, what they are sure of is that insomnia can exacerbate core autism symptoms, making it increasingly difficult for people with autism to go about their everyday lives. Autism can result in insomnia and in turn, insomnia can result in exacerbated symptoms of autism.
Don’t worry – it’s not all bad news. While modern science still can’t fully explain the connection between autism and sleep, there is existing research on how people with autism can fight the seemingly inevitable insomnia. And some of this research centers on all-natural herbal anti-insomnia remedies.
Olfactory healing via essential oils and vapors has been around since the dawn of ancient civilizations, and so is the medical application of certain herbs on the skin. These herbal remedies have been used in treating a variety of ailments, including but not limited to muscle pains, headaches, menstrual cramps, digestive problems, and in certain cases, insomnia.
While not all forms of vapor, aromatherapy, and topical herbs have been tested for effectiveness, there are some herbs and essential oils that have been proven to be medically effective via rigorous scientific testing.
Inhaling Lavender is More Effective Than Diazepam
Traditionally, lavender is used as a treatment for burns, insect bites, certain infections, and as a way to induce relaxation. There is a lot of historical and anecdotal evidence that lavender is indeed capable of treating the said ailments. And according to recent scientific research, lavender’s ability to induce relaxation could be much stronger than we initially believed.
In fact, researchers found that the inhalation of lavender oil has the same anxiolytic (or anti-anxiety) effect as diazepam and other similar pharmaceutical medications. Through both animal and human testing, there is a strong body of evidence to suggest that lavender is an effective anxiolytic, sedative, analgesic, mood stabilizer, anticonvulsant, and neuroprotective chemical.
And it does all that without the side effects commonly associated with the intake of known pharmaceutical relaxants, such as addiction or liver damage (with prolonged use).
Rubbing Rose Oil on the Skin Lowers Breathing Rate and Blood Pressure
One study has found that rubbing rose oil on the skin can physically relieve symptoms related to both stress and depression. The aim of this particular study was to determine the effects of rose oil via transdermal absorption (or by rubbing it on the skin). In order to confine the effects to just transdermal absorption and prevent olfactory interference in the results, the 40 healthy volunteers for the study wore breathing masks while they were being tested.
Researchers measured a total of five autonomic parameters: breathing rate, blood pressure, pulse rate, skin temperature, and blood oxygen saturation. As for measuring emotional responses, the subjects were made to answer questions based on emotional rating scales. A placebo was also used in the study for more accurate results.
Compared to when the placebo was applied, the application of actual rose oil resulted in significant decreases in test subjects’ blood oxygen saturation, breathing rate, and systolic blood pressure – indicative of a significant decrease in physical arousal.
Additionally, test subjects who were administered with rose oil also rated themselves as calmer, more relaxed, but also less alert than test subjects in the control group.
Herbal Remedies: Effective Alone and When Used Alongside Pharmaceuticals
Lavender and rose oil are two of the most effective herbal relaxants and anxiolytics available today. There are also currently no counterindications involving these two herbal remedies, which means that in general, they can safely be used in conjunction with autism and other medication.
Whether taken alone or alongside prescribed pharmaceuticals, these all-natural remedies are both safe and effective. However, if you are going to be mixing pharmaceutical and herbal treatments, it’s always best to consult your doctor on whether or not this is advisable.
While no current counterindications exist for either lavender or rose oil, combining their effects with pharmaceutical relaxants may result in extremely relaxing or calming effects, which is not only unnecessary, but could also be unsafe for some people inside the autism spectrum.
Additionally, if you plan to use these herbal remedies alone, it’s best to use them sparingly. A dab of lavender essential oil is enough to induce its effects; likewise, just a few drops of rose oil on the skin will do.
Start with using small amounts and wait 15 to 30 minutes for the effects; add more oils if the resulting effects are inadequate. This allows you not just to conserve on essential oils, but also to have a better handle on the strength of their effects on your body.
If you use these oils properly, you’re highly unlikely to run into any negative side effects. But in case you do, be ready to contact your doctor (as you should be whenever trying out any new forms of treatment/medication).