Do you have trouble sleeping? You’re in good (though sleep-deprived) company! Millions of Americans report having regular problems with sleep. Whether your sleep is disturbed only occasionally, or you have trouble sleeping often, learning to use some soothing essential oils may help you get a better night’s rest, which is critical to good health.
Of course, in addition to adding calming scents to your bedtime routine, you want to make sure your daily habits aren’t sabotaging your sleep. If you’re overdoing the coffee or getting too much screen time before bed or your mattress isn’t comfortable, deal with those issues first. Aromatherapy can be powerful, but it might not be enough to overcome habits that are compromising your shuteye.
If you’re doing everything to promote a good night’s rest and still aren’t sleeping well, aromatherapy may your ticket to dreamland. Pinpointing possible causes of sleep disruption can help you choose the most effective oil to promote quality sleep. The causes for sleep problems are numerous, ranging from allergies to pain-related sleep disturbance to stress.
Depending on what’s keeping you from getting quality ZZZs, different oils may improve symptoms while helping to induce sounder sleep. If your sleep is disturbed by breathing problems caused by allergies, one study found symptoms improved significantly using a blend of sandalwood, geranium, and ravensara. Pain-related sleep disturbance may be best addressed with pain-relieving oils that also have a soporific effect, like lavender, sweet orange, or frankincense.
Caution: Note that a number of essential oils contain naturally-occurring compounds that can trigger allergic reactions or skin irritation, so take sensible precautions. If using oils topically, *always* dilute essential oils in a carrier oil and try one oil at a time to check that you have no reaction to it. If you do have a reaction, stop using the oils immediately to see if your condition improves. If you are pregnant or nursing, be sure to consult a doctor about essential oil safety before applying to your skin.
Which essential oils support sleep?
There are a limited number of scientific studies on a few oils and oil blends, but the data is not robust enough to prove most oils’ effectiveness definitively. However, a long history of use by practicing aromatherapists and herbalists is prompting the scientific community to continue researching essential oils’ effects on sleep. In most situations, inhaling these soothing scents poses little risk and you’ll discover for yourself whether they improve your slumber.
Several studies have singled out lavender essential oil as especially good at encouraging a better night’s rest. In a number of studies, subjects reported significantly better sleep quality when lavender essential oil was diffused while they slept.
Here are some oils to try individually or blended together that have developed a reputation for helping people get better quality sleep:
You can also try a sleep blend containing several sleep-enhancing oils.
How to Use Essential Oils for Better Sleep
Oil diffusers are a popular way to add essential oils to the air. Ultrasonic diffusers can be set to turn on intermittently through the night, keeping your air filled with soporific scent. Pick one with a long run time if you’d like it stay on all night. To avoid adding melatonin-suppressing light to your bedroom, be sure to choose one without a light or one that can be shut off when the diffuser is running.\
If you prefer to keep things low-tech, a beautiful personal diffuser pendant by your bedside might suit. You can change out the pad inside in the morning with a more bracing peppermint oil and wear it to prepare you to take on the day.
You can also put essential oils directly on your pillow, but note that they may stain your pillowcase. A drop on a tissue or cloth tucked into your pillowcase should get scent to your nose without staining. You can also mist your pillow or spray your room with an oil blend.
An aromatherapy pillow next to your sleeping pillow is another option to release scent all night long. You can refresh its scent with an extra drop of oil each night.
Add to your bath
Another option is to add essential oil to a soothing bath, which is a great before-bed practice that relaxes body and mind and helps prompt the temperature drop your body uses as a signal to prepare for sleep. To add essential oils to your bathwater, dilute 3-10 drops in a tablespoon of carrier oil and mix in after your tub has filled. You can also add them into easy DIY bath salts, which add the benefits of magnesium, a mineral you can absorb through the skin that promotes pain relief and sounder sleep.
When applied topically, essential oils act on your body through both inhalation and absorption into your skin. You can add a drop of your favorite sleep-inducing oil or blend to some lotion or a carrier oil and massage into your temples, wrists, or neck. One drop per teaspoon of carrier oil will get you a dilution rate of 1%, 2 drops per teaspoon is 2%. It’s safest to keep dilution to 2% or lower.
Or you can try a pre-diluted roll-on, which is also great for travel, as is a gentle sleep balm. I’ve used Badger Sleep Balm for years and take it with me on the road. I like to rub a little on my temples and right under my nose to help me relax. The smell is divine and reminds my body it’s time to settle down for sleep.
Better still, rub some relaxing aromatherapy massage oil on tight muscles and get the sleep-inducing benefits of a massage as well.
Experiment with different essential oils to find the ones you like best and that best support your sleep. Sweet dreams!