The promotion of healthy sleep patterns is one of the oldest applications of essential oils.
For those that struggle to get to sleep, it can be very difficult to engage in day-to-day tasks without the support of a good night’s rest.
Many oils are known to have anxiety and stress-relieving effects, which often go hand in hand with treating insomnia, and some oils have specific sleep-inducing properties that can make them great bedtime scents.
What is insomnia?
Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that affects approximately 33% of people at some stage in their lifetime.
It can make it hard to fall asleep, stay asleep, and get a good quality rest. Those suffering from symptoms of insomnia might find it difficult to get out of bed, and most people may also experience extreme tiredness throughout their day.
Over time, insomnia can crucially affect mood as well as health, work performance, and quality of life.
Most cases tend to be short-term - lasting only a few days or weeks as a result of stress or a traumatic event. More chronic cases, however, can last months on end and are generally associated with pre-existing medical conditions or medications.
How can essential oils help with insomnia?
Essential oils have been used for centuries to tackle sleep issues.
Scientifically, these claims are becoming more and more concrete as researchers discover the capabilities of aromatherapy in promoting healthy, high-quality sleep.
In most oils, this effect comes as a result of direct inhalation, which can cause adjusted responses in the brain that can help regulate stress levels, anxiety, and finally sleep.
Incorporating certain essential oils into your nightly routine can therefore successfully prepare you for a night of sufficient rest.
What are the best essential oils for insomnia?
From relaxing florals to grounding earthy scents and even some gentle citrus oils, there’s an essential oil on our list for everyone. Here are some of our favourite essential oils for drifting off to sleep.
- Known for centuries as a calming scent, lavender oil is undoubtedly the most common essential oil used for promoting high-quality sleep.
- It can be found in numerous commercial sleep products and is generally seen as the most effective natural remedy for insomnia and sleep loss.
- Scientists have linked lavender’s powerful effects to two primary constituents - linalool and linalyl acetate – that are said to stimulate the olfactory system in the brain.
- These effects go on to target several other regions of the brain responsible for mood, heart rate, and blood pressure, which in turn create relaxing benefits.
- What’s more, a study in 2012 found that the inhalation of lavender oil could reduce symptoms of PTSD-caused insomnia and improve the quality of sleep in subjects. This means that lavender oil could successfully remove symptoms of insomnia in sufferers overall.
- A natural sedative with calming properties, cedarwood oil can be very effective at improving both the length and quality of sleep.
- The oil has a grounding effect, which discourages our mind from wandering, and it is said to promote feelings of safety and tranquillity.
- Studies in 2003 and 2018 respectively confirmed these effects by measuring the benefits of cedarwood’s chemical constituent cedrol, which was said to notably calm restless motor activity and reduce stress levels.
Ylang Ylang Oil
- The sedative effects of ylang ylang, which are said to positively impact blood pressure and heart rates, can help to promote stress-free and high-quality sleep in insomnia sufferers.
- Ylang ylang oil is able to influence processes in the hippocampus region of the brain and serotonin system which, as was discovered in a 2018 study, points to an anti-anxiety effect.
- This allows the oil to fully relax us, making it far easier for us to fall asleep.
Black Spruce Oil
- Black spruce essential oil contains a-Pinene, a component that has been shown to enhance non-rapid eye movement sleep – also known as NREMS.
- A study in 2016 found that a-Pinene could enhance the quantity of NREMS without affecting the intensity of NREMS or the quality of REM sleep.
- This allows black spruce oil to successfully improve the quality of sleep overall as well as help the body repair and regenerate tissues – leading to a healthier lifestyle.
Juniper Berry Oil
- Juniper berry oil is known to have a powerful effect on insomnia. It reduces stress and invokes a feeling of needing to sleep, which has led it to be used to treat insomnia in traditional medicine for centuries.
- A study in 2006 confirmed these effects when it found that insomniacs were able to take less sleep-promoting medication when smelling juniper berry oil.
- Twelve subjects even noted that they were able to halt the use of medication altogether after being exposed to the natural remedies of juniper.
- Nutmeg oil is known to bring a feeling of comfort and safety. These feelings can lead to a better quality of sleep and an improvement in symptoms of insomnia.
- In fact, a study in 2016 found that taking capsules containing nutmeg was an effective way of decreasing symptoms of insomnia in patients.
- Nutmeg is also a natural sedative and can allow for a greater release of serotonin in the brain to promote restful sleep.
Lemon Verbena Oil
- Known for its soothing properties, lemon verbena oil is known for significantly reducing tension in the body and mind.
- Tea made from lemon verbena leaves is traditionally associated with sleep promotion for these reasons.
- Lemon verbena oil is also rich in melatonin which is primarily released by the pineal gland at night-time and is commercially used to help facilitate sleep in sufferers.
May Chang Oil
- May chang oil has long been linked to Indian Ayurvedic medicine for its ability to reduce negative energy and enhance spirituality.
- These effects can allow the mind to relax before bed, letting go of petty stress and unnecessary negativity that may plague our subconscious in sleep.
- A study in 2012 confirmed these ancient conclusions while also finding that may chang oil could help lengthen our sleep time overall.
Dill Seed Oil
- The word ‘dill’ comes from the Norse word ‘dilla’, meaning ‘to lull’. The oil is aptly named; dill seed oil’s sleep-promoting abilities can help it to act as a lullaby, encouraging us to sleep deeply.
- The component carvone in the oil is thought to be responsible for these effects as it can help to regulate stress and anxiety, calming the mind and preparing it for rest.
Melissa (Lemon Balm) Oil
- Another natural sedative, melissa oil has long been associated with the ability to balance emotions and promote relaxation.
- A 2013 study demonstrated the potency of these benefits by displaying melissa’s success in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression in study participants.
- This can positively translate to better sleep quality by improving positive thinking and calmness before bed.
- A study in 2008 found that soothing mandarin oil can be used to prevent anxiety-related sleep loss.
- Diffusing mandarin oil can help to promote healthy sleeping patterns and stop stress from interrupting sleep.
How do I use essential oils for sleep?
There are a number of ways to incorporate essential oils into your sleep routine.
Many people with sleep issues tend to opt for using an electric diffuser in their bedrooms – allowing the scent to fill the space for around an hour or so before sleep.
This effect can also be achieved using an oil burner, reed diffuser, or another passive scent method. Learn more about how to use essential oils without a diffuser.
Another good method to incorporate is topical application. Combine your chosen oil with a skin-soothing carrier oil and apply the mixture to your pulse points before bed – including your wrists, temples, and below your jaw. This will allow the scent to gradually surround you as you drift off.
If you’re not a fan of mixing the oils yourself, you can also try using a pre-formulated rollerball to help achieve the same effect.
Are there any precautions in using essential oils for sleep?
While essential oils are largely safe, it’s important to remember that they are also extremely potent substances, and so should always be approached with at least some caution in mind.
If you choose to apply the oils topically, learning how to dilute them correctly is a vital skill for proper safety. You can check out our essential oil dilution guide for tips on how to do this.
Despite some sources stating otherwise, you should also never ingest essential oils – for sleep or any other reason - as they can cause severe damage to your internal organs.
Whilst many essential oils can have sleep-promoting properties, it’s important to experiment and discover what works best for you. We all respond slightly differently to different scents, and some oils may be more comforting us than others.
You may even find that your most effective insomnia cure involves a blend of sleep-promoting oils. If you’re not sure where to start, you might want to try our Sweet Dreams Essential Oil Blend.