Many people use essential oils for sleep, with fragrance and aromatherapeutic benefits promoting a sense of relaxation and calm.
Getting a good night’s sleep has a huge effect on our mind and body, but many struggle to establish a good pattern for a host of reasons.
Scientific research has found several links between the use of essential oils and improving sleep quality, which is good news for anyone in search of a natural solution. We look at how using essential oils for sleep and relaxation could help you unwind at night, along with some suggestions on where to start.
How do essential oils help improve your sleep?
When essential oils are inhaled, it is believed that the molecules attach themselves to the olfactory bulb in the nose. Signals are transmitted from the molecules to areas of the brain that manage behavioural and emotional responses. A behavioural or emotional effect is then induced once these parts of the brain release neurotransmitters, which can include:
How do you use essential oils for sleep?
There are a few ways you can use essential oil for sleeping. Here are some of the easy ways to try them out:
- Burn the oil using a diffuser: Essential oils burnt using a diffuser allow you to inhale the fragrance and health benefits as you go about your day. Use it in the bedroom, living room or anywhere else a short while before bed time to create a relaxing atmosphere that promotes a good night’s sleep.
- Mix into a bath: You can use essential oils in a similar way to a bubble bath, mixing them with a carrier oil and adding to a warm bath. The heat of the water combined with the oil’s fragrance can help you feel drowsier and more relaxed and ready to sleep quickly once in bed.
- Massage into the skin: Mix a few drops of your preferred essential oil with a carrier oil and gradually massage into your shoulders, back of neck, chest, soles of feet or any other tense areas. As the oil absorbs into the skin you may feel more relaxed and ready to rest.
- Inhale evaporated oil: If you do not want to use a diffuser, a similar but more direct method is to add a few drops to a handkerchief, cotton ball or fabric scrap and inhale. Alternatively, you could place some drops onto your pillowcase so you can enjoy a natural intake as you drift off.
When using essential oils for the first time, it is a good idea to carry out a skin patch test to ensure you do not experience an allergic reaction.
What are the best essential oils for sleep and relaxation?
We’ve put together a selection of what we believe to be the 5 best essential oils for sleep:
1. Lavender oil has a soothing, calming effect
Lavender Essential Oil is one of the most popular essential oils to help sleep patterns. Studies have found that it can produce a calming sedative effect that may be able to improve sleep duration and quality.
More recently, a study showed that people with major depression enjoyed better sleep after inhaling lavender oil. Using lavender oil on a regular basis could also help to lower stress and anxiety levels, reduce headache symptoms and improve brain functions.
2. Bergamot oil may be able to reduce blood pressure and heart rate
Many people suffer with heart problems of varying degrees, and a 2019 study found that a blend of lavender, bergamot and ylang ylang helped to improve sleep quality of people with such conditions. Bergamot Essential Oil is trusted by many people who believe it creates a calming effect, giving them more opportunity to relax and get a better night’s sleep.
3. Manage stress and anxiety levels with peppermint essential oil
You may also be able to improve sleep quality using Peppermint Essential Oil, with the fragrance helping to reduce stressful and anxiety-driven thoughts that make it difficult for people to switch off before they go to sleep.
A study involving 105 people with cardiac issues compared peppermint oil with lavender and aromatic distilled water control to assess the calming effect of each one. The results determined that both essential oils helped to improve the participants’ sleep quality more than the water control.
4. Sandalwood could have a positive effect on your mood
How you get to sleep at night is heavily influenced by your mood as you get into bed, with stress and anxiety making it difficult to relax and drift off. Sandalwood essential oils woody aroma can improve your mood and reduce anxiety and stress levels, helping to create a feeling of calm.
A study tested aroma sticks that contained sandalwood, lavender, bergamot, frankincense and mandarin by giving them to people with cancer to see how it impacted their sleep patterns. The results were promising, with 64% reporting some kind of improvement in their quality of sleep.
5. Relax and prepare for a good night’s sleep using chamomile
People have long held the belief that drinking chamomile tea offers a great way to relax and de-stress. So, it stands to reason that chamomile essential oil can provide many of the same calming benefits, whether it's inhaled, diffused or applied topically.
There hasn’t been much wide scale research carried out to assess how effective chamomile is at improving sleep quality; however, one smaller study involving 20 students did find that using the oil helped to change their sleep patterns for the better.
Whilst more research is needed, studies to date are encouraging and appear to indicate that using essential oils for sleep could provide the calm and relaxation needed to rest well for the night. So, what are the best essential oils for sleep? The likes of lavender oil, peppermint oil, bergamot oil, sandalwood and chamomile are popular choices for many, although there are plenty of alternatives that may work better for you. It may require you to try a few different types before you find one that suits your routine and lifestyle best.