The Best Essential Oils For Insomnia & Better Sleep

How to Use Essential Oils to Improve Your Sleep
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Essential oils have become popular as sleep remedies in the natural health community and they can help you to treat insomnia and get better sleep.


Sleeping problems include a wide range of conditions. Some people battle to fall asleep. Others fall asleep easily but cannot remain asleep for long enough. Still, others fall and remain asleep but it is sleep interrupted by bad dreams and/or physical movement of their arms and legs. All of these people feel are left feeling tired the next day. Find out how to use essential oil to treat these sleeping problems.

Essential Oils for Better Sleep


Lavender essential oil is one of the most versatile and commonly used essential oils to have on hand (and you can read my previous article about top 10 uses for lavender essential oil).

Lavender is one of the oils that has been tested for its ability to aid sleep, and researchers have reached some promising conclusions. After injecting caffeine into mice to cause hyperactivity, one group of researchers discovered that the smell and inhalation of lavender could bring them back to a normal activity level.(1)

Another study concluded that a lavender foot bath could increase blood flow and promote changes in the autonomic nervous system that are usually present when people are relaxed.(2) Applying some of this oil diluted in a carrier oil to the body before going to bed at night may, thus, be effective too.


The aromatherapy community swears by it and research has confirmed it: the inhalation of valerian essential oil can help you fall asleep more quickly and can lengthen your sleep duration significantly.(3) Researchers argue that valerenic acid, its active ingredient, has sedative effects. Many people also drink a drop of the oil in a glass of water half an hour before bed time to try to intensify its potency.

Roman Chamomile

Roman chamomile has a comforting, sweet, and herby scent that many families report to be popular with their children as a sleep aid. Researchers also report that it can serve as a mild sedative to calm nerves and reduce anxiety to treat hysteria, nightmares, insomnia and other sleep difficulties.(4) The route via which it has these effects is not yet understood, but the effects seem to be primarily psychological.


In a study that tested the effect of bergamot inhaled with water vapor, academics discovered that this oil has the ability to improve mood and reduce anxiety. Even better, it seemed to reduce the presence of the hormone cortisol in the saliva, which they assumed gave it its sedative properties.(5)

Sweet Marjoram

This is not only a good herb for cooking, but also a popular essential oil used to aid sleep. Almost no research has been conducted to confirm or disprove its sedative properties. It is thought to improve voluntary breathing in asthmatic patients,(6) so it is possible that involuntary breathing, such as that which accompanies sleep, is also improved. Those with sleep apnea may want to try it to keep their breathing even through the night.

In addition, it may be an effective oil to relieve chronic pain, especially when mixed with lavender oil,(7) which is a promising finding for those who battle to sleep because of chronic pain (also read my article about the top 16 essential oils to relieve pain and inflammation).



For those people with restless legs and other involuntary movements during the night, the inhalation of cedarwood essential oil has been found to reduce automatic motor activity and to prolong sleep.(8) You can also find more uses for this essential oil in my article the best uses for cedarwood essential oil).

Orange and Lemon Oils

Some studies show that citral, myrcene, and limonene, ingredients in all essential citrus oils, increase the duration of sleep and relax muscles.(9) This may be useful for people who cannot remain asleep for long enough. People may benefit from inhaling it, while others may want to consume a drop or two in food or beverages before they go to bed. Since it is able to serve as an anti-convulsant, the route via which it has these effects is speculated to be via the central nervous system.(10) Just be careful, however, there is also a study that shows that lemon oil can shorten sleep duration,(3) which probably means that you should test orange and lemon oils on yourself instead of adopting any citrus oil as a sleep aid. Lemon essential oil is also very versatile and you can read more about it in my previous article about 10 amazing uses for lemon essential oil.


Santalol, a major component of sandalwood essential oil, has been found to have a depressive effect on the central nervous system, which enables users of it to sleep. In sleep-disturbed rats, it causes a significant decrease in total waking time and an increase in total non-rapid eye movement sleep, which is the deepest type of sleep.(11) A study on human adolescence reached a similar conclusion.(12) Read more about this essential oil in my article about the best uses for sandalwood essential oil.


Studies have established that ylang-ylang oil decreased memory and cognitive processing,(13) which can make it a good option for those who struggle to fall asleep because of chattery minds (also read my article tricks to fall asleep when your mind is busy). It is also able to increase relaxation and calmness.

Clary Sage

Clary sage has two useful effects. It helps to stabilize unsettled emotions(14) and between chamomile, rosemary, and lavender, it is the strongest anti-stressor.(15)


Essential Oil Blends for Inducing Better Sleep

Now that you are familiar with the specific effects of essential oils, you can identify your own sleep problem and test some blends that target that problem alone. For example, a blend of orange oil to relax muscles and cedarwood oil to reduce automatic motor activity could be a powerful intervention against restless legs syndrome. Alternatively, you can mix oils that have a variety of effects to improve all aspects of sleep.

One study that mixed lavender, roman chamomile, and neroli in a 6:2:0.5 ratio discovered that the inhalation of this blend was more effective than traditional nursing methods at reducing the stress and improving the sleep of patients in an intensive care unit.(16)

Another study mixed lavender, ylang-ylang, marjoram, and neroli and concluded that it could lower blood pressure and improve sleep of middle aged women with hypertension.(17)

A further study reported that a blend of lavender, basil, juniper, and marjoram increased the likelihood that elderly hospitalized patients would experience sleep satisfaction by 20%.(18)

Essential Oils for Sleep – Usage Guide

There are two perfect ways to apply these oils, either topically, by putting a few drops diluted in a carrier oil on your neck, shoulders, back, stomach, or arms, or aromatically, by adding them to an essential oil diffuser with a long-run cycle that can circulate them through your room for most of the night. If the diffuser is too weak to distribute the molecules throughout the whole bedroom, you can place it as close to your bed as possible.


Both these methods will ensure that you can smell and inhale them until morning, but you should note that most of the studies cited above made use of inhalation of the oils, rather than of topical application. If you want to apply it, you should apply it to your upper body where you can still inhale it.

If you have trouble falling asleep after a stressful day, and you don’t want the oils in your room or on your body throughout the night, you have two options available to you:

  1. A warm 20 minutes soak in a bath with these oils can ensure a good start to the night.
  1. Or alternatively, put some oil in your hand, cup your hand around your nose, and inhale for ten minutes after you have gotten into bed.

If you are interested to learn more about essential oils you can find useful information in my e-book Magical Aromatherapy. This e-book will help you to discover the power of essential oils and the most effective ways to use them:

Magical Aromatherapy

1.    Buchbauer G, Jirovetz L, Jäger W. Aromatherapy: Evidence for Sedative Effects of the Essential Oil of Lavender after Inhalation. Zeitschrift für Naturforschung C. 2014;46(11-12).
2.    Saeki Y. The Effect of Foot-Bath With or Without the essential Oil of Lavender on the Autonomic Nervous System: A Randomized Trial. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2000;8(1).
3.    Komori T, Matsumoto T, Motomura E, Shiroyama a. The Sleep-Enhancing Effect of Valerian Inhalation and Sleep-Shortening Effect of Lemon Inhalation. Chem Senses. 2006;31(8).
4.    Srivastava JK, Shankar E, Gupta S. Chamomile: A Herbal Medicine of the Past With a Bright Future (Review). Molecular Medicine Reports. 2010;3.
5.    Watanabe E., Kuchta K., Kimura M., Rauwald H.W., Kamei T., Imanishi J. Effects of Bergamot (Citrus bergamia (Risso) Wright & Arn.) Essential Oil Aromatherapy on Mood States, Parasympathetic Nervous System Activity, and Salivary Cortisol Levels in 41 Healthy Females. Forsch Komplementmed. 2015;43.
6.    Natural Standard Research Collaboration. Sweet Marjoram (Origanum Majorana, Majorana Hortensis). 2015.
7.    Buckle J. Use of Aromatherapy as a Complementary Treatment for Chronic Pain. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 1994;5(5).
8.    Kagawa D, Jokura H, Ochiai R, Tokimitsu I, Tsubone H. The Sedative Effects and Mechanism of Action of Cedrol Inhalation With Behavioral Pharmacological Evaluation. Planta Medica. 2003;69(;7).
9.    do Vale TG, Furtado EC, Santos JG, Viana GSB. Central Effects of Citral, Myrcene and Limonene, Constituents of Essential Oil Chemotypes from Lippia alba. Phytomedicine. 2002;9(8).
10.    Carvalho-Freitas MIR, Costa M. Anxiolytic and Sedative Effects of Extracts and Essential Oil from Citrus aurantium L. Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin. 2002;25(12).
11.    Ohmori A, Shinomiya K, Utsu Y, Tokunaga S, Hasegawa Y, Kamei C. Effect of Santalol on the Sleep-Wake Cycle in Sleep-Disturbed Rats. Japanese Journal of Psychopharmacology. 2007;20(4).
12.    Ariani NWN. Effect of Sandalwood Aromatherapy In Sleep Quality of Adolescents At Dharma Jati Orphanage II In The Year 2012. Coping Nurs. 2013;1(1).
13.    Moss M, Hewitt S, Moss L, Wesnes S. Modulation of Cognitive Performance and Mood by Aromas of Peppermint and Ylang-Ylang. International Journal of Neuroscience. 2008;118(1).
14.    Butje A, Repede E, Shattell M. Healing Scents: An Overview of linical Aromatherapy for Emotional Distress. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services. 2008;46(10).
15.    Seol GH, Shim HS, Kim P-J, Moon HK, Lee KH, Shim I, et al. Antidepressant-Like Effect of Salvia sclarea is Explained by Modulation of Dopamine Activities in Rats. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2010;130(1).
16.    Cho M-Y, Min ES, Hur M-H, Lee MS. Effects of Aromatherapy on the Anxiety, Vital Signs, and Sleep Quality of Percutaneous Coronary Intervention Patients in Intensive Care Units. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2013;2013.
17.    Ju M-S, Lee S, Bae I, Hur M-H, Seong K, Lee MS. Effects of Aroma Massage on Home Blood Pressure, Ambulatory Blood Pressure, and Sleep Quality in Middle-Aged Women with Hypertension. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2013;2013.
18.    Richards K, Nagel C, Markie M. Use of Complementary and Alternative Therapies to Promote Sleep in Critically Ill Patients. Critical Care Nursing Clinics of North America. 2003;15.
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5 Responses to The Best Essential Oils For Insomnia & Better Sleep

  1. Verne Lake says:

    I have sleep apnea and I use a C-Pap. You suggested using oils “aromatically, by adding them to an essential oil diffuser with a long-run cycle that can circulate them through your room for most of the night”. My C-Pap has a small water tank to moisten the air that I breath. Would you suggest adding the oil to the water in the C-Pap?

  2. Jennifer says:

    I love lavender, it is the number ONE essential oil every household should have in my opinion. I like to mix lavender and roman chamomile in a spray bottle and spray in my bedroom before sleeping.

  3. Janine says:

    I am wondering if you have the references for the studies you have cited. I would love to read them.

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