In this post we look at aromatherapy and, more specifically, its use as a natural remedy for issues related to sleep. Discover how you can use 12 essential oils for sleep and achieve peace, calm and a deep restful slumber.
The practice of Aromatherapy is probably one of the commonly recognised, and most accepted of all alternative and complementary medicines. The use of oils in aromatherapy is now viewed by many as standard therapeutic practice. In fact, such are the gains made, modern medical practice now often recommends it as part of a patient’s holistic treatment programme.
How Do We Use Essential Oils For Sleep?
Each of the 12 aromatherapy oils have differing properties and chemical compositions, meaning each has a unique chemical profile. This profile depends on the plant, and often the part of the plant and the age of the plant. Therefore the way they support sleep is unique to each.
As individuals our lack of sleep is caused by many different factors. The oils and application methods that work for one person may be ineffectual for someone else. The aroma and its impact upon us and our sleep will be different for each of us.
One person may find an aroma exceptionally calming, but the same aroma may trigger terrible memories for someone else. In the same way, a fragrance that one person finds highly unpleasant may be therapeutic and calming to another.
This is why we have chosen 12 different essential oils for sleep, and why we also combine them into blends. As you begin working with each oil, and making your own blends, you will very easily identify those that work for you, and those that do not.
All 12 essential oils for sleep do share some similarities. It is because of their differences and commonalities that they are recognised as the best aromatherapy oils for sleep and rest. The first similarity is they aide relaxation and bring about feelings of calm. It is only when our body is relaxed and our mind is calm that we can experience the feeling of being tired. That tiredness then allows our mind to drift, our thoughts to wander, and our body to sleep!
The Science Behind The Aromas.
When we inhale the aromas from essential oils it induces a response reaction in the brain. This response reaction is relaxation, and sends messaging to our body signaling that it is time to rest.
Then as light of the day fades and the night darkens our body responds, and melatonin is produced. This chemical relaxes us further and makes us feel tired, prompting a restful night of sleep. You can read the full details about the science of sleep here.
The effect of oils and aromas is cumulative. Meaning that when you achieve better sleep through using a specific oil, or blend, your brain forms a positive association. This is key in Aromatherapy.
This positive association, or aromatic connection, links the aroma of the essential oils to the quality of sleep achieved. When you establish a positive association you should use this oil, or blend, again. Your brain has already linked this fragrance to achieving a good night’s sleep.
And because the effect of using essential oils is cumulative we find repeated use will further enhance the quality of sleep.
How Do You Know Which Aromatherapy Oils Are Right For You?
This is where you need to begin experimenting. Try all of the oils individually to begin.
When you have identified those that help you relax, you can begin to blend them to see if this promotes better and deeper sleep. It is through your own use and practice, and eventually personal knowledge of their effect, that you will determine the oils and blends that work for you.
There are around 300 commonly available types of essential oil. Many of these are believed to help with relaxation. Our list of 12 is formed of those that have an evidence base for their selection.
All of our essential oils for sleep are relaxing and calming and recommended for the promotion of sound slumber. Multiple scientific research studies have been done on essential oils, such as Lavender, as well as Roman Chamomile and Neroli that prove their effectiveness for sleep.
Research has proven that the 12 Essential Oils For Sleep work. However each of them have different effects and can be used in different ways.
As previously mentioned, one of the most important steps in choosing aromatherapy oils is our positive emotional response which forms a positive association to the aroma. However it is not all about aroma. Essential oils also have chemical constituents which have direct, physiological effects on our bodies.
This means that oils can impact our body’s biochemistry when we inhale them directly, via diffusion, or when we apply them topically. Many people use essential oils via diffusion (or inhalation) however research suggests that topical application may be the most effective method for people who struggle with sleep or have a sleep disorder.
One research study shows that the chemical components of lavender essential oil enters the bloodstream within five minutes from applying the oil onto the skin.
Another study showed when massaging lavender essential oil into the skin the subject received double the benefit. Likely because you gain the calming and relaxing response reaction from the brain via inhalation and also from the organic compounds which are absorbed through the skin!
A 1992 research study showed that highest impact to be gained from essential oils applied topically were observed within 20 minutes. So what are the best oils for sleep that help us gain restful sleep and relaxation?
What Are The 12 Best Essential Oils For Sleep?
- Sweet Orange
- Roman Chamomile
- Juniper Berry
- Ylang Ylang
- Clary sage
Let’s discover more about each of them.
1. Valerian – Essential Oils For Sleep.
Valerian essential oil is probably one of the most talked of out of all the oils that help us to get good sleep. This herb and its oil have been used for centuries to treat sleep disorders and help with emotional problems. Written records dating from the 17th century show it being used for the treatment of insomnia.
Ancient civilizations prized all varieties of Valerian, and for some it was seen as a magic herb. This was due to the hypnotic qualities the herb induced. The oil is produced through distillation using the root of the plant. It has a unique fragrance which is both calming and grounding.
The oil is actually classed as a calmative nervine with soporific and sedative effects. This means it is used to calm the nerves (calmative nervine) which induces drowsiness (soporific) and induces calm and promotes sleep (sedative).
Valerian essential oil can help us to fall asleep faster and improve the quality of our sleep. With deeper quality sleep we wake energized and ready for the day!
Note: Valerian Essential Oil is not recommended if you are already taking antidepressants or prescribed sedatives. It is also not recommended if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.Healthy Natured
2. Sweet Orange.
One of the best essential oils for sleep is Sweet Orange due to its wonderful peaceful aroma. Used for diffusion it fills the room with fragrance that promotes feelings of harmony, love and joy. Applied topically, and via diffusion, it promotes calm and relaxation.
Sweet Orange has been shown to be especially helpful for sleep issues that stem from stress or depression. Some people think because citrus is known to be an uplifting and invigorating aroma that it may not be suitable for sleep. However the reality is we need to feel uplifted and positive to achieve quality sleep.
This is why Sweet Orange is a favorite addition to many commercial essential oil sleep blends. It is because of its fresh and uplifting scent. I recommend adding Lavender to achieve a wonderful blended oil for achieving the positive mindset needed for excellent quality sleep.
3. Roman Chamomile.
There are many varieties of chamomile so make sure that you are using Roman! It is highly unique. It has a sweet and herby aroma which creates an atmosphere of calm and relaxation.
Roman Chamomile is one of the few essential oils for sleep that is recommended for all ages. It is safe to use around infants, children and the elderly. In fact it is the perfect oil for all the family. Used in diffusion it assists all ages to find rest, to relax and to sleep well.
Research shows Roman Chamomile to be effective in treating sleep disorders and for relieving stress and anxiety. Diffusion is an excellent method for this oil, as is adding 2 to 3 drops to a bowl of very hot water and inhaling the vapor in slow, deep breaths.
Roman Chamomile is another calmative oil with sedative properties. It blends well with all others on our list. So if your lack of sleep is due to exhaustion, stress, anxiety, depression or even if the reason is unknown, this Chamomile may help.
Lavender is by far the most popular of all the essential oils for sleep. It is excellent for relaxation and the oil I recommend for anyone new to aromatherapy and seeking help for sleep problems.
Lavender may be the most heavily researched of all our essential oils. Studies show lavender essential oil to have anxiolytic properties, meaning it inhibits anxiety. Other studies show it helps with the nervous system and aide depression.
Further research into Lavender and Rosemary essential oils show that they can be used to help us fall asleep due to their mild sedative properties. It is also an excellent oil for improving our quality of sleep and increasing the amount of sleep we achieve. This is also proven for those suffering from insomnia.
I recommend using it in an aromatherapy diffuser and as a topically applied massage oil. Lavender can be blended with all the other oils on this list.
5. Juniper Berry.
The aroma of juniper berries is known for its positive impact on our emotional state. It can reduce the symptoms of both physical and emotional stress.
In many ancient civilizations Juniper Berry was prized as a natural anxiety remedy. It is one of the most effective essential oils for those dealing with internalized trauma and emotional pain. This is because, when inhaled, it is extremely effective at triggering a positive association relaxation response in our brain.
One research study focused on the effect of essential oils for those suffering with insomnia and who were taking medication for their condition. The study used a blend including juniper berry, sandalwood, rose and orris.
The research shows that out of the 29 individuals in the study, 26 were able to reduce medication when they used the essential oil blend at night. More impressively 12 out of the 29 were able to stop taking their insomnia medication altogether.
Use juniper berry via diffusion, add a few drops to your evening bath or apply it topically by dabbing a mix to your inner wrists. To apply topically it must be mixed with a carrier oil, recommended 2 drops of Juniper Berry and 15 drops carrier.
Frankincense essential oil has properties that induce feelings of peace and promotes our physical relaxation.
The aroma of Frankincense is earthy and uplifting. It is wonderful for creating an atmosphere that feels safe and provides comfort. It allows you to engage with issues that may be troubling you, to collect your thoughts and release stored emotion no longer serving your needs.
It is an excellent choice for anyone whose sleep problems stem from worrying or if you have anxiety about the future. Frankincense is great for helping you determine your purpose, for use in your spiritual development and for prayer and meditation.
Angelica is known as the “Oil of Angels”. This is because of its properties that help to calm anxiety, restore happy memories and aide in achieving peaceful deep sleep.
Angelica oil has soothing qualities. This helps to relax physical tension and stress in the muscles. It is excellent for conditions of the nerves. It is a relaxant and a stimulant. This doesn’t mean it will keep us awake. The Angelica helps to sedate and relax nervous conditions while providing enough stimulation so we are able to keep ourselves safe.
Melissa, or lemon balm, essential oil is known as the “Elixir of Life”. The Melissa oil has herbaceous aromas with a sweet lemony scent. The aroma inspires joy and helps to create feelings of warmth and peace. It has hypnotic, calming properties that make it excellent for supporting those who suffer from insomnia.
Melissa is wonderful used in an essential oil diffuser 20 minutes before bed to enhance relaxation and feelings of drowsiness.
Vetiver is a deeply relaxing essential oil that helps to promote deep sleep during times of nervous tension. It is known as the “oil of tranquility”. It has a strong woody and earthy aroma and has been used for its holistic sleep enhancing properties for centuries.
When added as part of our night sleep routine, the Vetiver oil helps us to balance our nerves, reduces anxiety and restlessness and reduces issues related to insomnia. Blended with Lavender essential oils it is an excellent natural insomnia remedy. It is also excellent when blended with Clary Sage and Ylang Ylang.
10. Ylang Ylang.
Ylang Ylang is one of the most relaxing oils when diffused. It promotes great sleep because of its sedative effect on our nervous system. This essential oil has a deep floral aroma which helps reduce the impact that daily stress has on us. It also provides us with an environment of calm and peace.
Use Ylang Ylang individually or blend it with Vetiver to enjoy deep relaxing quality sleep.
Note: Ylang Ylang essential oil is very strong. This may cause some people headaches so start using small amounts or blend it with others.Healthy Natured
11. Clary Sage
Clary Sage is another known nervine (calming the nerves) and sedative so is one of the favorite essential oils for sleep. Traditionally this oil was used to enhance our ability to dream and to recall dreams. This essential oil contains naturally occurring sclareol which helps calm our nervous system in times of stress, depression and insomnia.
It is thought that the calming and relaxing properties may help us to gain a more healthy and positive attitude by balancing our emotions and quieting our mind. As a blend for restful sleep try diffusing Clary Sage with Lavender, Frankincense, and Sweet Orange.
Cedarwood is one of the most comforting and grounding of the essential oils for sleep. It has an earthy woodsy aroma that is perfect used in a diffuser before bed. It is a proven sedative and research shows it helps decrease our heart rate and even lowers blood pressure.
Cedarwood boosts our serotonin levels. It does this by stimulating our pineal gland which transforms it and releases melatonin. This increased melatonin level is important for regulating and stabilizing our sleep pattern. The relaxing, calming and comforting properties are not the only benefit, it is also an anti-inflammatory, expectorant and antiseptic. This makes it excellent if cold, cough or flu is causing a lack of sleep.
Use in a diffuser or in a carrier oil mix. Dap a couple of drops of Cedarwood mixed in carrier on your forehead, inner wrists or back of the neck at the base of skull.
Essential Oils For Sleep Application Methods.
Probably the most well known, and arguably the easiest and most effective method. Just add a few drops of essentials or a blend to a diffuser half an hour before you go to bed.
2. Direct Inhalation:
Inhalation methods use the aromas of the essential oils for sleep
- Add 2 to 3 drops to a cotton ball and place inside your pillow case.
- You can place the drops directly onto your pillow. If you do this ensure you place the pillow with the applied side facing the mattress and you head on the clean side.
- Place 5 drops of essential oil to 20 drops carrier. Then add a few drops to your palms and rub them together. Breathe in the aroma while also benefiting from a topical application.
- Place some of the carrier oil mix directly behind your ears or inner wrists.
- Add to a bath. Adding a few drops of your favorite oil to a warm bath is a great way to get the relaxing and sleep promoting benefits of aromatherapy. Having a warm soak an hour before bed will also promote relaxation and can help us gain better sleep.
Topical application is the use of oils on the skin. Usually topical applications are applied to areas known as trigger points. These are the soles of the feet, on the inside of the wrists, at the inside of the knees, behind the ears and the back of the neck at the base of the skull.
When applying topically you need ensure the essential oils are mixed with a good quality carrier such as Coconut, Almond, Jojoba, Olive, Avocado, Argan or Arnica oil.
Your topical blend should be at 2% dilution which is 2 drops of essential per tablespoon of carrier.
Always do a small skin patch test before using. Dap a drop or 2 on a small area of the inner wrist and leave for a couple of hours. Only use topically if no allergic reaction occurs.
4. Misting Spray:
This is a great way to achieve the relaxation of diffusion, without the diffuser!
- Add 20 drops of essential to a clean spray misting bottle.
- Add 1/2 cup fresh cold water.
- Replace the nozzle head, screw tight and shake well.
- Misting your room, and a light mist to your pillows, before you go to bed will help promote quality sleep.
- Ensure you shake the bottle well before each use.
Essential Oils For Sleep Blends.
The following essential oil blends are recommended for use within a diffuser. They have been shown to aide with relaxation and promote better sleep.
Blend #1 – Promote Restfulness.
To your diffuser add:
- 6 drops Lavender;
- 3 drops Frankincense;
- 3 drops Melissa;
- 3 drops Clary Sage.
Blend #2 – Ease Anxiety and Promote Calm.
To your diffuser add:
- 6 drops Juniper Berry
- 2 drops Lavender
- 2 drops Cedarwood
Blend #3 – For Deeper More Restful Sleep.
To a diffuser add:
- 4 drops Angelica
- 2 drops Vetiver
- 4 drops Roman Chamomile
- 2 drops Lavender
Blend #4 – Ease Anxiety And Calm Tensions.
Add to your diffuser:
- 6 drops Lavender
- 3 drops frankincense
- 3 drops Vetiver
Blend #5 – Peace And Calm For Longer Sleep.
To your diffuser add the following:
- 2 drops Ylang Ylang
- 1 drop Sweet Orange
- 2 drops Lavender
- 1 drop Cedarwood
- 1 drop Roman Chamomile
I hope that you have been able to find the complementary therapy information needed to help you achieve a great night’s rest.
If you do try any of these essential oils for sleep and the suggested blends please do let me know how they worked for you! Or if you have other suggestions that should be added to our list let me know. Add them to the comments section below or contact me directly.