Identifying the Root Cause of Your Sleep Issue

by Jodi Cohen

Sleep is so critical to your health.

It allows you mind and body to relax, recover and repair so that you stay mentally and physically healthy.  According to Dr. Datis Kharrazian, sleep is your most powerful immune ally.

Restful sleep, defined as the ability to both fall asleep and stay asleep, allows time for your body to rest and repair, detoxify, balance blood sugar levels, burn calories and reset our energy reserves.  Without restful sleep, you may feel fatigued and your body compensates with cortisol spikes, sugar cravings and other tricks to keep us awake and functioning.

There is also growing evidence that sleep cycles impact other cycles in the body including the rhythmic patterns of the digestive and immune systems.  When we sleep, the brain produces 90 minute cycles of slow wave sleep. This is followed by periods of rapid eye movement (REM) during which dreams occur. During the night, the gut also produces 90 minute slow wave muscle contractions which are followed by short burst of rapid movement. Poor sleep cycles can disrupt this digestive function and the healing process within the gut.

You may struggle to fall asleep or wake up during the night and struggle to fall back asleep.  Essential oils are known for their sedative properties that to help relax the mind and body to reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and improve sleep quality.  For example, Lavender oil is known for its sedative effects.

What’s more essential oil blends can be used to support the regions of the brain and organ systems that can support or detract from restful sleep for both adults and children.


Identifying the Root Cause of Your Sleep Issue

In order to really solve sleep challenges, you need to look at the underlying issues. There are four core issues that can impact your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.  The purpose of this article is to help you identify the root cause of your sleep challenge and the best essential oil blend to support that underlying issue.

Trouble Falling Asleep 

If you struggle to fall asleep or experience racing thoughts or worries while lying in bed, your natural sleep and wake cycles, known as your circadian rhythms, might be a little out of balance.

Circadian Rhythm Imbalance

As you may know, your stress hormone, cortisol, is released by your adrenal glands. The sleep hormone, melatonin, is released by the pineal gland, a small pine cone shaped endocrine gland located near the center of your brain.  Melatonin also has many other neuroprotective benefits.

Your cortisol rhythms are supposed to be highest in the morning and then wane as the day wears on.  When you are active at night and slow in the morning, the cortisol patterns are reversed.  This throws off the circadian rhythm because cortisol and melatonin have an antagonistic relationship.


Low Melatonin Levels

Any disruption in your circadian rhythms as a result of diet or lifestyle choices or toxicity in your pineal gland can throw off melatonin levels. A lack of melatonin almost always correlates with chronic disease. For example, decreased production of melatonin is frequently found in patients with neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

To restore optimal melatonin levels, you need to consider your circadian rhythms, your pineal gland and the interaction of other hormones, like cortisol, that can disrupt melatonin levels.

For example, elevated cortisol levels at night actually turn off melatonin production. Similarly, if melatonin is elevated then cortisol is depressed. I like to illustrate this point with the image of a teeter totter.  When the stress hormone (cortisol) is high, it forces the sleep hormone (melatonin) to be low.  People often supplement with the melatonin hormone, which can help in the short term.

Unfortunately, your body, specifically your pineal gland, is supposed to make its own melatonin.  External supplementation of the hormone sends the signal to the body that it is sufficient in melatonin production and actually reduces your body’s own production of the hormone.  In other words, it throws off the body’s own internal thermostat for self-regulation.


Pineal Gland Toxicity

Another option is to help the pineal gland return to its innate intelligence and release more melatonin naturally.  Your pineal gland performs several incredibly important functions for your health, including producing and secreting melatonin, a powerful hormone that helps you fall asleep, detoxify and anti-inflame. Unfortunately, environmental toxins like metals, glyphosate and fluoride can damage your pineal gland and impair its ability to produce and secrete adequate levels of melatonin.

Circadian Rhythm™ blend can help activate your pineal gland and trigger the natural release of melatonin when applied to specific locations on the head (top of the skull, back of the skull and on the skull right above the ears).  This method emulates the innate intelligence of the body and has been extremely effective for those suffering from sleep issues and anxiety.

If you again think of the teeter totter example, when melatonin then increases (goes up), it forces cortisol levels down, effectively serving as a back door to lowering stress, anxiety and the racing thoughts that keep many of us wide awake when our bodies are exhausted and longing for sleep.

My daughter suffered from night time anxiety for over a year.  I tried everything I could think of and often just spent the night holding her while she cried, trying to soothe her fears.  The Circadian Rhythm™ blend was really a game changer for us. Not only did it help her fall asleep almost instantly, but within a week she reported that her night time anxiety was gone.

An imbalance in the circadian rhythm can present with indicators such as:

  • Inability to fall asleep
  • Inability to stay asleep
  • Difficulty waking up in the morning
  • Not feeling well after sleep
  • Not recovering from physical activity
  • Drop of energy between 4 and 7
  • Headache only in day parts

We have found the following oils helpful for clients who struggle to fall asleep:

  • Vibrant Blue Oils Circadian Rhythm™ blend helps trigger the natural release of melatonin from the pineal gland to help you fall asleep naturally.  Circadian Rhythm™ works well for people who struggle to fall asleep at night due to high stress or racing thoughts.  Restful sleep is a critical component to healing.  When the circadian rhythms flow smoothly, the body heals more easily.
  • Vibrant Blue Oils Sleep™ blend includes Spikenard that helps you drift naturally to sleep and Blue Tansy that helps calm your nervous system.  Works well in combination with Circadian Rhythm. Vibrant Blue Oils Calm™ blend work well to calm the body and the mind before bed.


Trouble Staying Asleep 

Nighttime waking, awakening shortly after falling asleep or waking up throughout the night, can often be attributed to:

  1. Blood Sugar issues
  2. Liver and Gall Bladder overload
  3. Hormonal Issues

Blood Sugar Sleep Issues

Sudden drops in blood sugar during the sleep cycle can cause the body to release stress hormones that in turn wakes us up and makes us feel wide awake.

Your brain and body need a steady supply of energy, known as blood sugar or glucose, while you sleep to ensure restful sleep.  If your blood sugar plummets during the night, your adrenal glands release cortisol (a stress hormone) as an emergency blood-sugar-raising tactic. This cortisol surge is what wakes you up and makes you feel wide awake.  This is known as nocturnal hypoglycemia.

Blood sugar issues or your brain’s increased need for glucose can compromise your sleep.  For example, if you are suffering from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or excessive stress, your brain will have increased glucose demands during the fasting period of sleep.  This is because when your brain is healing, it requires even greater demands for fuel might make you more likely to wake up in the middle of the night.

The connection between sleep and blood sugar issues goes beyond the obvious fact that when you are tired, you will crave sugar and carbohydrates for quick energy.  Researchers at Boston University School of medicine found that as the amount of sleep decreases, blood sugar increases, escalating the issue. The study found that people who slept less than six hours a night had blood sugar problems compared to those who slept for eight hours or more. This has to do in part with burning sugar versus fat for fuel.

You are designed to burn fat during the sleep cycle because it burns long and slow, like a log on a campfire, in contrast to sugar and carbs which burn quickly, more like kindling on a fire.  Because of undetected blood sugar issues, many people never go into fat metabolism during the night, in other words, they struggle to achieve ketosis.

Instead, their bodies attempt to burn sugar and carbs until the supply runs out, causing blood sugar to plummet.  This then triggers a cortisol response which then wakes you up with so much energy that you could go clean the kitchen and have trouble falling back to sleep.

If you find yourself stuck in this vicious cycle of sleep deprivation raising blood sugar, and unstable blood sugar in turn compromising quality sleep, you might consider the following oils helpful:

  • Vibrant Blue Oils Pancreas™ blend can help with night time waking, especially when you wake up and feel so wide awake that you could go clean the kitchen.  Waking during the night and feeling wide awake can suggest blood sugar issues for which the pancreas is a key organ.  Just smelling the Pancreas™ oil can help balance the pancreas enough to allow the body to naturally fall back asleep.  You can also apply Pancreas™ over the body –right side under your ribs – before meals.
  • Vibrant Blue Oils Adrenal™ blend helps to balance the adrenals, the organ that releases cortisol, thus reducing the intensity of cortisol spikes.  Adrenal™ can be energizing and is best applied during waking hours, not before bed or in the middle of the night.
  • Vibrant Blue Oils Hypothalamus™ blend balances and supports the hypothalamus which is the control center in the brain for the entire endocrine system, including all your hormones and your adrenals.  The hypothalamus determines how much cortisol is in the blood, so balancing the hypothalamus can help manage cortisol spikes.  You can apply Hypothalamus™ on the middle of forehead above the eyebrows both during the day and before bed.
  • Your spleen, located near your pancreas behind the stomach in the abdominal cavity, can also contribute to nighttime worry and stress that interferes with restful sleep.  Traditional Chinese Medicine links an imbalance of energy and sleep disturbances that can present as fatigue to an imbalance of your spleen energy, known as qi deficiency.
  • Spleen Qi™ can help support the Vitality of your Spleen and improve sleep quality. Apply 2- 3 drops of Spleen Qi™ over the spleen (left side of the body, under breast) or over the Spleen 6 point (inside of leg just above the highest peak of your ankle (four finger widths up from, apply deep pressure slightly behind the tibia bone).


Liver and Gall Bladder Issues

According to Chinese Medicine, each organ has a time of the day/night where it is most active.

The Liver springs into action between 1 a.m. to 3 a. m. If you wake up at this time, it could be the liver is overloaded and toxins act as an irritant to your body, waking you up and fraying your nerves.

Your liver processes everything you eat or drink and filters and detoxifies any harmful substances from the blood.  It also plays a critical role in fat digestion and managing your energy by storing and releasing blood sugar.

Your liver might be overwhelmed attempting to detoxify from toxins or emotions like anger, rage, frustration or resentment. Unlike blood sugar night waking, liver and gall bladder trigger awakenings are often accompanied by a feeling of grogginess and you might find it easier to fall back asleep.

For night-time waking due to liver issues or gall bladder issues, consider:

  • Applying 2- 3 drops of Vibrant Blue Oils Liver™ over the liver (right side of the body under the breast) can help support your liver so it does not experience overwhelm that wakes you up during the night.
  • Applying 2- 3 drops of Liver Support™ over the liver (right side of the body under the breast) can support the release of emotions related to the liver, including the feelings of frequent irritation, impatience, resentment or frustration, if you’re critical of yourself or others, if you have control issues, an inability to express your feelings in a grounded/balanced way, a lack of joy, feelings of not feeling heard, not feeling loved, not being recognized or appreciated or any issues with denial such as an inability to be honest with yourself and others.  Liver Support™ can help to recognize, move through and release anger and negative emotions, including those attached to PTSD, which can create stuck energy and impede your liver’s ability to heal.  It can also help children and adults deal with the trauma of abuse and let go of negative emotions, frustration, and fear so you can function effectively in the world.
  • Vibrant Blue Oils Gall Bladder™: The gall bladder concentrates the bile to help break down fat and carry toxins out of the body.  If the bile becomes too thick, it doesn’t flow as well and toxins don’t move out of the system as efficiently.  Some indicators that Gall Bladder Flow might be a helpful blend for you would be motion sickness, floating stools, avoiding fatty food like meat or if you do eating fatty food, needing to use the restroom shortly after, pain between shoulder blades, subtle headache above eyes.


Hormonal Issues

Hormonal ups and downs from menstruation, pregnancy, and midlife fluctuations can impact sleep.  For example, the hormone progesterone promotes restful sleep and a drop in estrogen can leave you more vulnerable to stress. Similar to blood sugar events, hot flashes are also caused by a rush of cortisol that alerts your mind and wakes you up. Several essential oil blends can help balance hormones.

For night-time waking due to hormonal issues, consider:

  • Hormone Balance™ helps to balance the body so that the liver, gall bladder and thyroid – the key organs that produce and synthesize hormones – can function optimally to enhance metabolism.  Hormone Balance™ contains clary sage, a medicinal herb with unique hormone like components that help to balance out estrogen production in the body.  Research on clary sage demonstrated its ability to lower cortisol levels by 36 percent as well as improve the levels of your thyroid hormones. It also works well when used as an abdominal massage to relieve tightening menstrual cramps and uncomfortable tension during your period by relaxing your smooth muscles. To use, apply 2-3 drops over the liver/gall bladder (right side of the body under ribcage) or thyroid (throat).
  • Estrogen Balance™ is designed to support the liver with the gentle mobilization of estrogen. Estrogen Balance™ works best when applied over the liver (on the right side of the body under the breast) in combination with castor oil before bed.  It is important to use it combination with a binding agent such as chia seeds, psyllium, or a supplement like BIND.
  • PMS Support™ blend is formulated with essential oils to help alleviate hormonal discomforts, like reducing cramping and bloating, along with promoting relaxation.  Formulated with Rose Geranium and Bergamot essential oils that both help balance hormones naturally, as well as supporting relaxation and reducing the underlying emotional stress that contribute to hormonal imbalances.  To apply, massage 2 -3 drops across lower back, lower abdomen and around ankles.
  • Your hypothalamus is a pearl size region of the brain located just above the brain stem that serves as the control center for the entire endocrine system, including all your hormones and your adrenals. The hypothalamus determines how much cortisol is in the blood, so balancing the hypothalamus can help manage cortisol spikes. The Hypothalamus™ blend supports the brain to send and receive the messages from the body necessary to facilitate appropriate hormonal responses.
  • Your Adrenal™ glands sit on top of the kidneys and help determine and regulate the body’s stress response by secreting key hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline (epinephrine) which supports your ability to rapidly respond to stress. Cortisol, in particular, serves as an immune modulator, reducing inflammation in the body, keeping the overactive aspects of the immune system in check, as well as stimulating and encouraging the potentially under active aspects of the immune system, especially in relation to fighting infections. Prolonged periods of stress can prioritize the production of cortisol over other hormones, throwing our hormones out of balance. Much like adaptogenic herbs, Vibrant Blue Oils Adrenal™ blend helps increase the body’s ability to adapt to stress and maintain healthy adrenal function to support hormonal balance.
  • Excess estrogen can make the bile from your gall bladder too thick and less able to efficiently detoxify excess hormones.  When bile is viscous and not flowing, toxins like old hormones can get stored and reabsorbed into the system. Gall Bladder™ helps mobilize the toxins out of the body. Apply over the gallbladder (on the right side of the body under the breast).


Why Essential Oil Blends?

Essential oils are known for their sedative, calming and relaxing properties that can help your body relax into restful sleep.  The sleep enhancing effects of essential oils are significantly enhanced when several oils are combined as part of a blend.

Research and clinical experience consistently demonstrate that essential oil blends consistently improve mood and sleep quality.  For example, a study found improved sleep promoting benefits from inhaling a blend of essential oils, including lavender, cedarwood and oils high in the constituent piperonal, extracted from bay laurel.

These blends that included helped improve total sleep time, duration of sustained sleep periods.  They also significantly reduced early morning awakening.


Essential Oil Blends for Sleep

In searching for an alternative to over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs, we found that sleep issues lend themselves especially well to essential oil support, including the following blends:


Helps to balance your adrenal glands which release energy supporting hormones like cortisol.  Using Adrenal™ during the day can help to balance your energy rhythms throughout the day and the night.

Circadian Rhythm™

Helps you fall asleep by triggering the pineal gland to naturally release the sleep hormone melatonin.


Helps calm the body and the mind.  It can be especially helpful in calming an over-active mind and busy children.

Estrogen Balance™

Helps balance hormone levels to reduce night time hormonal wake ups and sleep disruptions.

Gall Bladder™

Congestion in the gall bladder can slow down detoxification and contribute to  night waking.  Supporting your Gall Bladder™ helps you stay asleep and gently return to sleep.

Hormone Balance™

Helps balance hormones and support restful sleep.


Helps to balance your stress response so that you can more easily relax into restful sleep.


Waking up around 3 a.m. often correlates with your liver.  It is during the evening that your liver is the most active.  Waking up around this time usually means that your liver is over-worked and could use additional support.

Liver Support™

When you detoxify your physical organ, you release both physical and emotional toxins.  The liver is known to house emotions of anger, frustration and rage.  As physical toxins work their way out of your body, emotions like anger work their way out as well and  Liver Support™ helps to gently release those emotions.


Helps you return to restful sleep when you wake up around 1 a.m. and feel wide awake.  If blood sugar drops during the night, your adrenal glands release stress hormones to support emergency blood sugar levels which wakes you up.  The pancreas releases the hormone insulin to help carry the blood sugar into the cells which helps your body relax so you can easily return to sleep.


Helps shift your body out of the state of chronic stress response where increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol  stimulates the mind and body to a highly alert and wakeful state and depress the sleep hormone melatonin.  Dropping into the parasympathetic state allows your body to relax and make sleep more accessible.

PMS Support™

Helps balance hormone levels to calm sleep disruptions and help alleviate hormonal discomforts, like reducing cramping and bloating, along with promoting relaxation.  Formulated with Rose Geranium and Bergamot Essential Oils that both help balance hormones naturally, as well as supporting relaxation and reducing the underlying emotional stress that contribute to hormonal imbalances and sleep disturbances .


Helps support relaxation of the mind and body to support restful sleep.  This blend is exceptionally gentle and supportive for children.

Spleen Qi

Can help support the energy and vitality of your Spleen and improve sleep quality.


Take our Sleep Assessment

We have attempted to help you isolate different sleep issues and have also created an online sleep assessment and sleep guide to help clients learn more about specific sleep issues and natural remedies to consider in place of drugs.


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About The Author

Jodi Sternoff Cohen is the founder of Vibrant Blue Oils. An author, speaker, nutritional therapist, and a leading international authority on essential oils, Jodi has helped over 50,000 individuals support their health with essential oils.

2 responses to “Identifying the Root Cause of Your Sleep Issue”

  1. Hi!
    I used the Sleep product last night and had a great sleep, only getting up once to go to the bathroom!! Yeah! And I had a ton of energy for a very active day. This makes me very hopeful that I am on the right track.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!
    Sandy P.

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to Vibrant Blue Oils

Subscribe to Vibrant Blue Oils and receive weekly information on oils and how to use them. As a bonus, we’ll send out Beginner’s Guide to Essential Oils to your inbox immediately!