Are you struggling with sleep problems and tired of counting sheep? You're not alone, over half of Australians struggle with at least one chronic sleep disorder.
Fortunately, there’s a solution; essential oils are natural alternatives to traditional over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids. They’ve been used for centuries to relax, reduce stress & anxiety, and relieve pain that keeps you awake at night. They promote healthy nights of sleep without the groggy side effects.
So if you’re ready to fall asleep and stay asleep, learn which essential oils are best for falling asleep & staying asleep the entire night. We'll show you why they work and how to use them to finally get a good night of rest.
Why you can't sleep
Sleep is essential for our overall health and wellbeing, but many people struggle to get enough quality sleep each night. Most sleep issues are the result of stress & anxiety, medical conditions like hyperthyroidism & ear infections, environmental factors, and ageing. Each of these causes sleep disorders like insomnia, restless leg syndrome (RLS), sleep apnoea, and narcolepsy.
And whether you struggle with one or all of these disorders, the result is the same - you're even more tired and stressed than the day before. But you don't have to live like this anymore, nor do you have to use heavy prescription drugs before bed every night.
How essential oils can help you sleep
Essential oils trigger a release of sleep-inducing hormones in the brain. A 2021 study confirmed that EOs such as lavender oil improve sleep quality. The same research suggests these oils may increase the length of slow-wave sleep, which plays a vital role in memory and immune function. These oils can also treat stress, anxiety, and muscle pain, which often negatively impact sleep quality.
Unlike over-the-counter medications, essential oils don’t cause grogginess and have no adverse side effects for most individuals. These oils can be inhaled directly from the bottle or used in a diffuser, or even applied topically during a massage. You can also soak a cotton ball in oil & place it under your pillow or add a few drops to your bath water.
Which essential oils are best for sleeping?
According to a 2019 insomnia study, over 40% of their test participants had anxiety. Lavender is one of the most popular essential oils for sleep because of its soothing aroma and anxiety-reducing properties, which combine to help you relax. Linalool and linalyl acetate, the primary constituents of lavender oil, have soothing properties. Lavender oil inhalation also promotes the production of dopamine and serotonin, which are essential for mood and sleep regulation.
This oil is one of the most popular choices for those with jet lag. Studies have determined it decreases the time it takes to fall asleep while improving sleep duration.
2. Ylang ylang
Ylang ylang oil has a sweet, floral aroma that reduces stress and anxiety while improving overall sleep quality. Like lavender oil, ylang ylang essential oil contains linalool, which has been shown to improve sleep deprivation-induced stress and memory loss. This essential oil also contains geranyl acetate, which improves sleep and relieves mental stress.
Ylang ylang oil inhalation stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, helping the body relax as you prepare to go to sleep. It can also reduce blood pressure and heart rate to relax your body further.
3. Melissa (lemon balm)
For centuries, people have used lemon balm, or melissa oil, as a natural sleep aid. This oil contains rosmarinic acid and eugenol, which can improve mood and cognitive function while promoting relaxation. It also triggers the production of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which creates a calming effect by reducing stress, anxiety, and fear.
Pain and inflammation can make it difficult to sleep; using an anti-inflammatory agent like chamomile essential oil makes it easier for those with chronic pain to fall asleep. Chamomile essential oil contains a flavonoid called apigenin, which binds to the same brain receptors as Valium, Xanax, and Klonopin without causing adverse side effects.
Inhaling chamomile essential oil stimulates serotonin and melatonin release, helping to regulate mood and sleep.
Peppermint oil can relieve tension-induced sleep problems. Additionally, this oil is an excellent way to clear your airways if you’re struggling to sleep because of head & chest congestion or allergies. Still, it has stimulative effects, so it isn’t ideal for use right before bed.
Although peppermint oil has stimulative properties, it can be combined with other oils to enhance their sleep-promoting effects. For example, a 2020 study confirmed that inhaling lavender and peppermint oils improved sleep quality in cardiac patients.
Marjoram’s comforting aroma promotes feelings of peace and tranquillity. A 2017 study found aromatherapy with marjoram essential oil resulted in improved sleep quality for 27 nurses who had been working overnight shifts. The same research confirmed marjoram essential oil contains monoterpenes, such as a-pinene, y-pinene, and p-cymene, which have anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, it contains terpinen-4-ol and linalool, which have sedative and calming effects.
This oil also helps regulate the autonomic nervous system, which releases hormones that regulate your body’s circadian rhythm (internal clock). It can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, slowing your heart rate and breathing while decreasing blood pressure.
Bergamot has a citrusy aroma that promotes calmness. Like lavender, bergamot essential oil contains chemicals with sedative and anxiolytic properties, such as linalool and linalyl acetate.
Studies show that inhaling bergamot oil reduces the stress-causing hormone cortisol. Cortisol level reduction is an excellent way to improve sleep duration. Inhaling bergamot essential oil also stimulates the production of serotonin and dopamine, which can help regulate mood and sleep.
Cedarwood oil contains cedrol, which can lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure. It also contains alpha-humulene, a sesquiterpene with anti-inflammatory and calming properties. This essential oil stimulates serotonin production to help regulate mood and sleep.
If you’re having trouble sleeping because of congestion, inhale cedarwood oil to break up phlegm and improve sleep quality.
9. Clary sage
Clary sage essential oil contains linalyl acetate and germacrene-D, which have sedative and anxiolytic properties. This essential oil has been shown to decrease systolic blood pressure and relax patients undergoing urodynamic examinations. Like lemon balm, clary sage essential oil can stimulate GABA release when inhaled, reducing stress, anxiety, and fear.
In addition to helping you sleep, clary sage oil can reduce menstrual cramps and act as a natural antidepressant.
Eucalyptus can be stimulating for certain individuals, which may seem counterintuitive as a sleep aid. Still, it’s a natural decongestant, clearing your airways of phlegm and reducing severe coughs that make it hard to sleep. It has a refreshing aroma that can alleviate mental fatigue, helping clear your head of racing thoughts and stress that may keep you awake.
If physical discomfort is preventing you from sleeping, try applying eucalyptus essential oil topically to alleviate the pain. It can also be combined with other oils, such as lavender or chamomile, to enhance their sleep-promoting properties.
How do you use essential oil for a better night’s sleep?
These machines break essential oils down, releasing them as a fine mist. Add three to five drops of essential oil to your diffuser, along with the amount of water recommended in your diffuser’s instructions. Turn the machine on and let it run for 30-60 minutes before bed to avoid wasting oil.
There’s no need to leave your diffuser running through the night. Many newer diffusers have built-in timers, so you can schedule them to turn off shortly after you fall asleep.
On your pillow
Add one to two drops of essential oil to a cotton ball, tissue, or handkerchief, avoiding direct contact with your skin. Place the item inside your pillowcase, on the far end, so you don’t lay your head directly on top of it. The oil will diffuse naturally over the next few hours.
With this method, you needn’t worry about removing it after 30-60 minutes. The one to two drops of essential oil will evaporate naturally throughout the night.
Add 5-10 drops of essential oil to a carrier oil, such as jojoba or sweet almond oil. Stir the mixture to disperse the oils, and spend 20-30 minutes soaking in the tub. Breathe deeply as you bathe to inhale the oil’s aroma.
Some carrier oils aren't ideal for aromatherapy baths. For example, grapeseed oil can leave a slippery film in your tub. Traditional coconut oil will also make your tub slick, but you can use fractionated coconut oil without issues.
Often, essential oil blends are better than individual oils for improving sleep. Here are three essential oil sleep blends worth checking out.
Lavender and cedarwood: This combines lavender’s calming properties with the soothing effects of cedarwood. Add three drops of lavender essential oil and two drops of cedarwood oil to your diffuser. Let it run for 30-60 minutes before bed.
Roman chamomile, bergamot and clary sage: Roman chamomile and clary sage have sedative properties. This blend combines these properties with the mood-balancing and stress-reducing effects of bergamot. Add two drops of Roman chamomile, two drops of bergamot, and one drop of clary sage oil to your diffuser before bed to improve sleep quality.
Lavender, bergamot, and frankincense: This combines lavender’s calming properties, bergamot’s stress-reducing properties, and the anxiety-reducing effects of frankincense. Add three drops of lavender oil, two drops of bergamot oil, and one drop of frankincense oil to your diffuser for a good night’s sleep.
Try our curated packs of essential oils, made with a mix of oils that pair well for all uses.
Other Tips for Getting Better Sleep
Essential oils are an effective tool for falling asleep and improving sleep quality. Still, they work best when combined with good habits.
A consistent sleep schedule has been shown to improve sleep quality. Going to sleep earlier and at the same time every night can improve your overall health.
Blue light from cell phones, computers, and television screens can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Avoiding blue light for an hour before bed makes it easier to fall asleep. If you must use a device before bed, check its settings menu to see if it has a blue-light filter setting.
Creating a comfortable environment is one of the best ways to improve sleep quality. Keep your room cool and dark. Many sleep better in quiet rooms, but some prefer ambient noise, such as a fan or sound machine. And finally, make sure to invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows that support your body for 8 hours every night.
If you want to use essential oils to help you sleep, there are plenty of options, even if you suffer from multiple chronic sleep symptoms. They’re a natural, safe, and effective alternative to OTC medications that can come with unwanted side effects. Not only do they help promote relaxation and reduce stress, but they also offer a sensory experience that can enhance your overall sleep environment.
By incorporating these oils into your nightly routine, you can create a sense of calm and tranquillity that will help you drift off to sleep and stay asleep throughout the night. So go ahead, give them a try, and let the power of essential oils transform your sleep routine.