Best Essential Oils for Improving Sleep

Quick Answer: Best Essential Oils for Improving Sleep

1. Lavender oil
2. Ylang Ylang
3. Roman Chamomile
4. Cedarwood oil
5. Valerian oil
6. Sandalwood oil

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Sleep is an important biological process that is essential for the body to function normally [1].

Any condition that affects the rhythmic pattern of sleep and disrupts quality sleep is called a sleep dis1order [2].

Insomnia and sleep apnea are some of the most common sleep disorders [3].

Nearly one-third of the population complains of insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea affects 2-4% people with a higher prevalence in males [4].

Some of the symptoms may include fatigue, irritability, anxiety, falling asleep during the day and depression [5].

Common causes of these disorders are hectic work schedule, emotional stress, pain or discomfort at night [6].

Most of the treatments include use of anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications [7].

Most of these medications have side effects such as drowsiness or dizziness and can cause addiction and withdrawal issues as well [8].

Essential oils have many amazing benefits for attaining quality sleep and managing sleep disorders.

What are the Essential Oils?

Aromatic liquid substances extracted from flora, grasses, fruits, trees, etc. are called essential oils [9]. These concentrated liquids have multiple uses in medicine.

They may be used orally (ingested), topically (applied to the skin) or aromatherapy (inhaled) which is a form of alternative medicine.

They are extracted using either steam and water (distillation) or using mechanical techniques such as cold pressing [10].

Examples of essential oils are peppermint oil, citronella oil, cedarwood oil, etc. Carrier oils are fixed vegetable oils in which the essential oils can be dissolved easily and efficiently making them ready for use [11].

Examples are Almond oil, Castor oil, Jojoba oil etc.

How can Essential Oils help with Sleep Disorders?

Best Essential Oils for Improving Sleep 2

Essential oils can improve sleep quality and can be used in sleep disorders because of their ability to alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression.

They can induce physical relaxation and reduce restlessness. Many essential oils also have sedative effects.

Essential oils are an excellent option for improving the quality of one’s sleep [12]. Essential oils have been used in many situations to aid in relaxation and assist in relaxation.

Let us take a look at some of the benefits of essential oils for sleep

1. Helps in Relieving Stress

Stress can have a negative impact on the quality of sleep [13]. Lack of sleep causes the body to raise the levels of stress hormones, which can further cause a disruption in the circadian cycle.

Stress and quality of sleep have a very close relationship and therefore a phrase commonly used when one is stress is ‘losing sleep over something.’

A survey in the United States has shown that more than 40% of American feel they get less than the required number of hours of sleep [14].

In addition to stressors like financial issues, relationships and work pressures, lack of sleep itself is a cause of stress called insomnia induced stress.

A study was conducted to determine the effect of aromatherapy with lavender oil for job-related stress in nurses and the study found that it was effective in reducing stress symptoms for 3 to 4 days [15].

Another study analyzed the effect of lavender aroma on salivary stress markers, they found that elevated stress markers had been significantly lowered 10 minutes after lavender aromatherapy [16].

2. Assists in Reducing Anxiety

Anxiety and sleep problems are bidirectional [17]. Anxiety causes sleep disturbances and vice versa. Chronic insomnia can result in a very high chance of developing an anxiety disorder [18].

The brain and its neurotransmitters can influence immune function and there could be a link between anxiety and immune modulation [19]

A study of using inhalation of essential oils of Satureja found that it could reduce anxiety in humans. Anxiety levels measured using an anxiety index showed that the levels were lower in the group that used aromatherapy [20].

3. Helps Prevent Depression

Insomnia affects 10-35% of people and research shows that it is associated with depression [21]. Not just insomnia, depression can lead to excessive sleeping in about 15% individuals [22].

In depressed patients, there are changes in the levels of brain hormones such as norepinephrine and serotonin, which can be responsible for sleep disturbances [23].

Many essential oils have psychoactive properties and have shown therapeutic potential in preventing depression, further studies may enable their use as alternatives to antidepressant medications [24].

4. Possesses Sedative Effect

Essential oils with sedative benefits are useful for those whom anxiety and stress are causing sleep disruptions [25].

In a study performed in mouse models it was found that lavender oil aromatherapy caused a decrease in the motility of the animals thus showing sedative properties [26].

Human inhalation of the essential oil of linalools showed a sedative effect which was observed by changes in sleep wave patterns [27].

5. Helps Induces Relaxation

One of the first steps in improving sleep quality is to ensure good sleep hygiene, which means that one needs to have sleep practices that will allow the mind to relax completely.

Essential oils can help to induce a state of relaxation as they have a calming effect on the mi [28].

A study used blended essential oils of lavender and bergamot and showed that these oils when used topically made participants feel more calm and relaxed [29].

6. Aids in Reducing Restlessness

Many people suffer from restlessness at bedtime, which prevents them from being able to enjoy quality sleep. Anxiety related to restlessness can cause sleep disturbances.

In a study oral administration of Silexan an active substance which contains essential oil from Lavandula flowers reduced anxiety induced restlessness in participants [30].

Can Essential Oils be used for Sleep Apnea?

Yes, essential oils can have been used for sleep apnea, they can have a calming effect and prevent sleep disturbances in patients by improving breathing and air flow.

They can also be used along with Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines. They should not be used in patients who have skin allergies, epilepsy or asthma.

Sleep apnea is a serious condition which causes brief interruptions in breathing during sleep.

Certain essential oils can improve symptoms of sleep apnea and improve breathing, however, they need to be used in a certain way diluted in carrier oils such as sesame oil, canola oil etc. to obtain their benefits [31].

Rubbing Marjoram oil on the soles of the feet or using a diffuser while sleeping can help improve sleep apnea [32].

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines are the most common treatment for sleep apnea.

The machine sends a continuous flow of airway pressure to the throat to ensure that the airway remains open during sleep [33].

CPAP aromatherapy packs are available where a diffuser can be placed in front of a CPAP filter and place drops of essential oil on the diffusion pad and use the machine in a regular manner [34].

Mixing a drop of peppermint oil in a glass of water gargle and expel it out, this can provide significant relief in sleep apnea [35]. Water should not be swallowed.

The advantage of essential oils for sleep apnea is that it is not addictive like other medicinal aids, but it may not be suitable for persons suffering from epilepsy, asthma or sensitive skin 35.

Can Essential Oils be used for Babies & how to use them?

Yes, essential oils can be used for putting babies to sleep but should be used with a carrier oil and only in infants 6 months of age and above.

When essential oils are used for a baby, care must be taken to ensure they are of the highest therapeutic grade and used with carrier oils since a baby’s skin is very sensitive [36]. Sunflower oil is a popular carrier oil which is considered safe [37].

Essential oils should be avoided in infants under 6 months of age [38]. 4-5 drops of lavender, cedarwood or valerian oil can be diffused in the child’s room or applied to the child’s feet [39].

The best way to use the oil is either by body massage or at bath time, it can also be diffused in the baby’s room [40].

What are the Best Ways to use Essential Oils for Sleep?

The best ways to use essential oils for sleep are by using a diffuser or by applying them to trigger points on the body such as wrists and behind the ears.

Diffusion is one of the best ways to use essential oils for sleep. Just place a few drops of the essential oil in a diffuser before going to bed [41].

Another option is to use a misting spray of the essential oil in the room where you sleep. Add 20 drops of the essential oil to 30ml of water and place in a spray bottle [42].

Topical application of the oils on trigger points such as the wrists, behind the ears and soles of the feet may also be useful [43].

Care must be taken when ingesting essential oils, it is not a preferred method of use as the is a potential for side effects.

If ingesting essential oils mix a drop of the oil in a teaspoon of honey and ingest do not mix it in a glass of water as water and oils are immiscible [44]

Can Essential Oils help in Snoring?

No, there isn’t sufficient evidence to support the role of essential oils for snoring. However, many people strongly claim to have benefitted from using essential oils for this purpose.

The Ann Arbor Institute of Massage Therapy recommends applying thyme oil to the soles of the feet which can help in reducing snoring.

Although, there is limited evidence to support the role of essential oils in snoring people have sworn by the beneficial effects of essential oils for snoring [45].

A study administered volatile oil by gargling to determine its effectiveness on snoring [46].

The study found that volatile oil is not effective for snoring. The Ann Arbor Institute of Massage Therapy recommends applying thyme oil to the soles of the feet, which can help in reducing snoring [47].

What are the Best Essential Oils for Sleep?

Best Essential Oils for Improving Sleep

There are several essential oils that are extremely beneficial for improving the quality of sleep.

The most popular one is Lavender oil. Other essential oils which are good for sleep are Cedarwood oil, Ylang Ylang, Sandalwood and Valerian oil.

Some of the best essential oils for better quality sleep, sleep disorders, anxiety, depression and to improve one’s mood are as follows -

1. Lavender oil

The most popular essential oil for sleep is Lavender oil. Lavender oil is known for its sedative properties. It is also known to improve sleep quality, increase sleep amounts and elevating daytime alertness [48].

Lavender is safe to apply to the skin, but a patch test should first be performed on a small part of the skin.

You can also rub a few drops of lavender oil on your palms and take inhaled deep breaths and a couple of drops may also be added to bath water [49].

2. Ylang Ylang

Ylang Ylang oil is a strong sedative and is known to treat depression, anxiety, and stress which themselves can cause insomnia [50].

The oil shouldn’t be directly applied to the skin but should be mixed with a base oil like sweet almond or coconut oil or it can be added to a cream and then applied on the skin [51].

3. Roman Chamomile

Chamomile oil is known for its sedative properties and it can relieve stress and anxiety [52]. Add 1-2 drops of chamomile oil in water and inhale the steam [53].

Also brewing a cup of tea with chamomile oil and sipping it 45 – 60 minutes before bedtime is helpful [54].

4. Cedarwood oil

Cedarwood oil is a natural sedative and can combat insomnia. It reduces stress by stimulating the production of serotonin [55].

Cedarwood oil can be used topically by applying to the soles of the feet using a carrier oil such as sweet almond oil or it can be used as aromatherapy by using a diffuser [56].

5. Valerian oil

Valerian oil can help you sleep faster and also improve the quality of sleep [57]. Valerian oil is usually taken in through bedtime herbal teas [58].

For tea, soak 2 to 3 grams of dried herb valerian root in 1 cup of hot water for 10 to 15 minutes [59].

6. Sandalwood oil

Sandalwood oil has the ability to relax cramped muscles, relieved chronic insomnia and meditative state [60]. Add 1-2 drops of Sandalwood oil to your face and then place a towel over your head.

Take a bowl with steaming water and place your face above the steaming water [61].


Always use a carrier oil to dilute the essential oils and do not use water as the oil is immiscible with water [62].

Essential oils should never be taken internally directly as they are highly concentrated and can erode the mucous membranes [63].

Some essential oils can be irritants and therefore a patch test should be done by applying on the underside of the wrist [64].

Essential oils should not be used on infants less than 6 months of age and should be used with caution in patients with epilepsy, asthma and pregnant women [65].

Lavender oil boosts the effects of sleep medication and anti-depressants and therefore should be used carefully when taking these type of medications [66].

Use Cedarwood oil with caution during pregnancy, particularly in the 1st trimester [67]. Before using check for skin sensitivity and use on feet as far as possible[68].

Always use therapeutic grade essential oils [69].

Always consult your physician or a qualified aromatherapist before using any essential oils [70].

Final Words

Essential oils have many wonderful benefits for improving the quality of sleep as well as reducing factors that can disturb sleep such as stress, anxiety, and depression.

The use of essential oils for the purpose of improving sleep should be done taking into consideration the precautions and should be used with care.

When used correctly essential oils can ensure that one will drift off into a peaceful sleep using a natural and safe method of aromatherapy.

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