AAA: Can Essential Oils Affect Dreams?

by Bella Martinez March 11, 2020

AAA: Can Essential Oils Affect Dreams?

A few years back we wrote an article begging the question “Do essential oils give you weird dreams?” Our findings were yes, they did indeed cause some weird dreams to occur. Since then, dozens have commented that they too have had vivid, unusual and sometimes unsettling dreams caused by essential oils. The question now is, why? We took a deep dive into the world of dreams to answer that. 

To recap, numerous studies have shown that external stimuli, such as odors, can affect dreams. One of the most widely circulated studies involved exposing sleeping test subjects to the aroma of rotten eggs and phenethyl alcohol – the primary component in Rose oil. As expected, the aroma of rotten eggs caused negative dreams whereas the rose aroma produced positive dreams. In a similar study, researchers found that the aromas presented to sleeping test subjects were at times incorporated into their dreams, though this wasn’t always the case. However, these studies did not comment on the peculiarity, normalcy or vividness of these people’s dreams, unlike many of our own customers have.

Though dreams can simply be described as images that pass through our minds during REM, they can also be described as the product of REM protein-synthesis. During this stage, a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine (ACh) is in use. If you read our past AAA: “Which Essential Oils Help With Focus and Memory?” you may recall that certain essential oils, namely those high in 1,8- cineole like Eucalyptus oil, have been shown to block acetylcholinesterase (AChE) which prevents an excess production of ACh. In this previous article, we discussed how ACh naturally begins to decline as we age – this could also be why dream recall lessens as we age. Thus, essential oil’s ability to inhibit AChE was useful in improving memory. 

Now let’s put these pieces together. If ACh modulates REM sleep (the stage in which we dream) and essential oils have been shown to block AChE (an enzyme that inactivates ACh), could this be a clue as to how essential oils have the ability to produce vivid dreams? It’s interesting to look at the comments from our past blog post, “Do Essential Oils Give You Weird Dreams?” where multiple people confessed to having strange, vivid dreams after diffusing or wearing oils of Eucalyptus and Peppermint, both AChE inhibitors. In other words, the next time you inhale essential oils known to inhibit AChE, prepare yourself for the dreams that might ensue. 

Though we wish this were the answer to the mystery surrounding essential oils effects on dreams, it’s merely a hypothesis. It also does not explain the feedback we’ve received on oils of Roman Chamomile, Lavender, Clary Sage, Ravensara, Cedarwood and Tea Tree provoking peculiar dreams, as none of these oils have been proven to inhibit AChE. As more studies emerge and feedback from aromatherapy users continues, we hope to be able to answer these questions. In the meantime, sleep well and dream on.

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