Proven Essential Oils For Insomnia & Better Sleep Backed By Scientific Evidence

How to Use Essential Oils to Improve Your Sleep

There are many essential oils that can help you get to sleep faster and treat insomnia. Scientific studies have revealed that essential oils such as lavender, valerian, chamomile (and many more) can help you fall asleep faster. In this article I am going to cover proven essential oil for better sleep, including essential oil blends to induce 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 their sleep is interrupted by bad dreams and/or physical movement of their arms and legs. All of these people are left feeling tired the next day. Find out how to use essential oil to treat these sleeping problems.

Essential Oils for Better Sleep (Evidence Based)

Lavender essential oil

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 scientific 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 also be effective.

Valerian essential oil

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.

Researchers argue that valerenic acid, its active ingredient, has sedative effects. (3)

Chamomile essential oil

Chamomile essential oil has a comforting, sweet, and herby scent that many families report to be popular with their children as a sleep aid.

A medical study found that chamomile can serve as a mild sedative to calm nerves and reduce anxiety to treat hysteria, nightmares, insomnia and other sleep difficulties. (4) The way chamomile is effective is not yet understood, but the effects seem to be primarily psychological.

Bergamot essential oil

In a scientific study that tested the effect of bergamot inhaled with water vapor, scientists discovered that bergamot has the ability to improve mood and reduce anxiety.

Even better, bergamot seemed to reduce the presence of the hormone cortisol in the saliva, which the researchers assumed gave it its sedative properties. (5)

You can read more about bergamot essential oil and its uses in my previous article.

Sweet Marjoram essential oil

Sweet marjoram 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. But Sweet marjoram essential oil is thought to improve voluntary breathing in asthmatic patients. (6) It is possible that involuntary breathing, such as that which accompanies sleep, is also improved. Those with sleep apnea may want to try sweet marjoram oil to keep their breathing even through the night.

In addition, sweet marjoram essential oil may be an effective oil to relieve chronic pain, especially when mixed with lavender oil. (7) This is a promising finding for those who battle to sleep because of chronic pain.

Sweet marjoram essential oil is also one of the most effective essential oils to relieve pain and inflammation

Cedarwood essential oil

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 prolong sleep. (8)

You can also find more uses for this essential oil in my article about the best uses for cedarwood essential oil.

Orange and Lemon Oils

Some medical 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.

Since citrus oils are anti-convulsant (anti-epileptic), the route via which they have these effects is speculated to be via the central nervous system. (10)

Lemon essential oil is also very versatile and you can read more about it in my previous article about the amazing uses for lemon essential oil.

Sandalwood essential oil

Santalol, a major component of sandalwood essential oil, has been found to have a depressive effect on the central nervous system, and this enables better 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.

Ylang-Ylang essential oil

Scientific studies have established that ylang-ylang oil decreased memory and cognitive processing, (13) so ylang-ylang oil can be a good option if you struggle to fall asleep when your mind is busy because it may be able to increase relaxation and calmness.

Read my article tricks to fall asleep when your mind is busy

Clary Sage essential oil

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 medical 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 scientific 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 medical 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 available options:

  1. A warm 20 minutes soak in a bath with these oils can ensure a good start to the night. Mix a few drops of the essential oil, or essential oil blend, in a tablespoon of carrier oil of your choice and add it to your bath.
  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.

Related articles:

Scientific Resources:
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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