Essential oils for sleep have been used since the beginning of time to naturally and effectively treat sleep disorders, along with an endless list of other ailments. The earliest record of essential oil usage is the historical ‘Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine’, completed in 2697 BC. It showcases the properties of over 300 different plants and their medicinal uses.
Two thousand years later, Hippocrates (460-377 BC), known as The Father of Medicine, documented over 200 different herbs during his lifetime. Treating patients with baths, massage with infusions, and the internal use of herbs such as fennel, parsley, hypericum, and valerian, he developed methods that are still regularly used today in teas and essential oils to treat insomnia.
To help you reap these same benefits, we’ve compiled a list of fifteen essential oils for sleep that will have you sleeping well tonight.
Lavender is most likely the first essential oil that comes to mind when considering a natural sleep-aid, so let’s go ahead and get it out of the way. Proven to calm the nervous system by lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and skin temperature, this magic purple plant can also stimulate hair growth, battle itchy dandruff, and help with skin issues like fine lines, wrinkles, and chapped lips.
Pro Tip: Before bed, mix a few drops with olive, jojoba, or coconut oil and massage into the nails, any fine lines, and your scalp to wake up feeling and looking refreshed.
Speaking of ancient times, Frankincense may be one of the oldest well-known aromatic herbs on the planet. Sourced from the resin of the Boswellia sacra tree, multiple studies show its sweet, woody scent eases tension and helps patients relax into a more restful sleep.
Pro Tip: After a tough day, mix a few drops with avocado oil and massage into the shoulders and chest, then slip into a warm bath to melt away your stress and tension.
Pronounced EE-lang EE-lang, these tender blooms from the Cananga tree produce a sweet-scented oil known to alleviate stress, anxiety, high blood pressure, rapid breathing, and heartbeat and reduce hypertension. In Indonesia, the petals are scattered on the bed of newlywed couples on their wedding night to balance male and female energies, support focus and restore peace.
Pro Tip: While ylang-ylang oil should not be applied directly to the skin, try mixing with a base oil or add a few drops to an unscented moisturizer for a therapeutic sweet floral scent.
Scan the list of ingredients in calming herbal teas and you’ll most likely find valerian root. During a recent study, valerian extract was found to significantly increase delta and theta activities and also decrease beta activity in the brain which controls drowsiness and deep sleep. Meaning, Valerian oil can help you fall asleep faster and improve the quality of your sleep. Yes, please!
Pro Tip: Mix with a carrier oil and massage into the bottoms of your feet to promote peace and balance before bed.
Even though they are related, don’t go grabbing your sage plant unless you plan to cook with it. Clary sage essential oil is known for its stress-relieving properties and pleasant aroma. When inhaled, it can promote relaxation, emotional stability, PMS relief, and has been proven to have antidepressant effects for menopausal women.
Pro Tip: Distill a few drops into a steaming mug of hot water and inhale deeply before bed for a calm, deep sleep.
If you’re a nurse or third shift employee, sweet marjoram essential oil might be for you. A study found it improved the sleep quality of nurses on monthly rotating night shifts who experience biological circadian confusion from altered day and night sleep patterns. The scientific proof lies in the compound’s linalool, which stabilizes the cardiovascular system, and linalyl acetate, which promotes calm.
Pro Tip: Place a few drops on a cotton ball and place them next to your pillow and you’ll be drifting to sleep day or night.
Hailing from the citrus family, the sweet-smelling oil has been used by the Italians for centuries to promote calm. Unlike most citrus oils, which can stimulate the senses, multiple studies show bergamot reduces psychological stress response, lowers blood pressure, and reduces the heart rate and cortisol often spiked by anxiety. This, in turn, promotes better sleep.
Pro Tip: While it can be used topically, diffusing is your best bet with this oil since bergamot is photosensitive and makes skin more sensitive to the sun.
Another widely documented ancient oil, Roman chamomile was used to help lull the Roman Empire to sleep, hence the name. This oil is a winner for relieving insomnia, anxiety, and reducing nightmares, especially in children. Some studies show that using this essential oil can potentially improve overall daytime functioning and lessen feelings of fatigue during the day.
Pro Tip: To promote sweet dreams for your little one, diffuse a few drops of lavender and Roman chamomile in your child’s room and allow it to mist through the night.
Found in gardens around the globe, the pink petals of the rose geranium offer more than aesthetic benefits. Its essential oil helps improve sleep, relieve stress, and brighten the mood. Working double duty, the essential oil can also help cleanse the immune and lymphatic system.
Pro Tip: Mix several drops of rose geranium essential oil with facial cream at night to unclog pores, awaken the lymphatic system and drift into a calm sleep.
Believe it or not, smelling jasmine has been proven to be just as effective at calming the nerves as a sleeping pill or sedative. The centuries-old blooming beauty shares a similar chemical makeup to pharmaceutical sleep aids, just without the groggy side effects. Jasmine essential oil is also effective for treating anxiety, depression, and panic attacks.
Pro Tip: This is one oil to always have on hand due to its gentleness when applied directly to the skin and versatile uses. Place a few drops on a washcloth and toss in the dryer to make your clothes smell heavenly and provide an all-day-long therapeutic aroma.
For centuries cedarwood oil has been used to treat skin and scalp ailments. More recently, a key component in the essential oil, cedrol, has been proven to be an effective sedative. It helps decrease heart rate and blood pressure and alleviate hypertension and anxiety. Another study showed when cedarwood-infused towels were laid near the pillows of adults with dementia, they slept longer and were less likely to experience early morning awakening.
Pro Tip: Cedarwood emits an earthy woodsy scent that’s perfect in a diffuser.
A coveted oil for centuries rose oil treats a long list of ailments, including skin and scalp irritations, scars, depression, grief, nervous stress, and tension. It also relaxes the body and eases pain, making falling into a deep sleep effortless.
Pro Tip: Diffuse it, add it to moisturizers or carrier oils, or apply directly to the skin. There’s no right or wrong way to use rose oil —it’s as versatile as the list of ailments it treats.
Peppermint essential oil is a favorite for many due to its familiar, comforting scent and calming anti-inflammatory properties. Regularly used to treat colds, muscle fatigue, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, curb appetite and soothe headaches, it can help ease many internal and external issues.
Pro Tip: Before bed, apply a dab under your nose, to your wrists or abdomen for an all-night healing treat for the senses.
Another of the oldest and most versatile essential oils, juniper berries have been used for thousands of years by ancient civilizations to treat just about everything, add flavor to food, and starting around the seventh century, flavor gin! It is frequently used to treat many problems in the body including fatigue, nervous exhaustion, and menstrual difficulties. For this reason, it’s a great choice for women.
Pro Tip: Juniper oil is best diffused with lavender or Roman chamomile to promote deep, relaxed sleep.
An often forgotten essential oil for sleep, neroli oil is sourced from the blossom of a bitter orange tree. Today, its spicy, citrus scent is often found as a base in both men’s and women’s perfumes. This is another great oil to mix with lavender or chamomile to add an extra dimension of scent and healing properties.
Pro Tip: Neroli can be diffused on its own to reduce stress and blood pressure, especially in women.
According to The Center for Disease Control, people experiencing sleep insufficiency are also more likely to suffer from chronic diseases, increased mortality, and reduced quality of life and productivity. During the night, varying sleep cycles play a critical role in processing memories and bringing the body to a relaxed state. This helps to repair the day’s wear and tear on the mind, body, and soul. But before you run out and buy essential oils, if you are dealing with a chronic issue, it’s best to visit your doctor before the herbalist.
Once you’re sure all is well, and you are looking for a better night’s rest, then essential oils are a fantastic solution. For those trying to maintain a healthy weight, studies show lack of sleep leads to unwanted, unhealthy weight gain. According to a 2004 study, people who sleep less than six hours a day were almost 30 percent more likely to become obese than those who slept seven to nine hours. To add insult to injury, those that slept less also had elevated levels of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates hunger.
While essential oils are all-natural and generally safe for topical and aromatic purposes, it’s important to be aware of the following precautions for adults, children, and pets.
Here are a few safety precautions you can take when using essential oils:
Since there are varying degrees of skin sensitivity, test a small area on your forearm before applying liberally. Blend essential oils with a carrier oil (olive, jojoba, or coconut oil) or moisturizer and wait twenty-four hours to see if a reaction occurs. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, talk with your doctor before using any essential oils. For more information on the general essential oil, safety read this article from Very Well Health.
Even though essential oils are a great option for use on children, extreme care should be taken. Only use pure essential oils, free of additives or synthetic ingredients. Always try the oil on yourself first when the intent is to apply topically. When diffusing, start by using half the recommended number of drops to test for sensitivity. Never use oil on babies younger than six months. The New York Times recently published a great article on safe essential oils for children.
Your furry family members are extremely sensitive to smells and many essential oils can be harmful when ingested. Before diffusing essential oils around pets, make sure there is sufficient airflow. The website Wire Cutter did a great job of explaining safe essential oil use around pets. As wonderful as essential oils are for an all-natural remedy to a restless night and waking refreshed if you’re sleeping on an old, tired mattress, chances are, nothing will help you sleep well until you fix your foundation and spring for a new mattress.
For a great resource to help you find the perfect mattress and compare the current market trends check out our handy mattress comparison tool.