Insomnia in the toddler years may stem from a variety of causes. Separation anxiety when learning to sleep alone and resistance to sleep as a way to assert independence are two of the reasons cited by sleep researchers Judith A. Owens, M.D., and Jodi A. Mindell, Ph.D., in an article on pediatric insomnia published on the Oregon Health and Science University website. No matter the cause of your little one's sleepless nights, aromatherapy is a time-tested remedy that can be used for children -- with caution -- as well as adults.
Choose your essential oils and herbs carefully. Valerie Ann Worwood, author of "The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy," recommends using Roman chamomile, mandarin, rosa palma and lavender essential oils to combat insomnia in children from 1 to 5 years of age. Other relaxing, sleep-inspiring scents include jasmine, vanilla and sweet marjoram.
Bathe your toddler in a warm, scented bath. The tub time alone can help your child relax, but the addition of scented oils makes it more pleasurable for both of you. Worwood recommends you use just one drop of essential oil for each year of your child's age. You can use any of the recommended relaxing essential oil scents or mix up a custom blend in a small bottle, adding a drop or two at a time to the bath water. Recommended combinations include chamomile, mandarin and palma rosa; chamomile and lavender; or chamomile, lavender and sweet marjoram.
Give your little one a relaxing massage. In order to use essential oils on the skin, you'll need to dilute them greatly with a carrier oil. For this you can use vegetable, sweet almond or jojoba oils, adding no more than two drops of essential oil to each tablespoon of carrier oil. As children are particularly sensitive to essential oils, the recommended oils for direct touch are mandarin, tangerine, neroli, and lavender. The combination of your gentle touch with the soothing scented oil is restful and can be done in bed to help your toddler drift off to sleep.
Place a few drops of lavender or chamomile oil on a cotton ball and place it next to the crib or bed, but out of reach, to give your child a sweet-smelling place to sleep. You can also make a homemade sleep spray by adding one or two drops of these oils to a cup of distilled water and then spraying it on your little one's sheets and pillowcase. If you're the crafty type, you can sew up a few small pillows filled with dried lavender or chamomile blossoms and place these in your toddler's bed.