If you want to wake up refreshed and sleep soundly, these soothing essential oils for sleep can help with just that. Not only do they help calm the nerves in your body, but they act as a gentle (and natural) sedation, which help support the full night’s rest you need.
As you’ve probably experienced yourself, not getting enough sleep can dramatically alter your moods, ability to focus, and can wreak havoc on your overall health. In America alone, an estimated 50-70 million people suffer from sleep disorders or sleep deprivation – talk about a serious epidemic!
Not getting enough sleep is associated with higher levels of anxiety and depression, impaired cognition, higher risk of stroke, cancer and diabetes, higher risk of injury, as well as immune system suppression. A lack of sleep also makes you more dependent on caffeine-containing foods and drinks, which takes a huge toll on your adrenal glands and makes the next nights’ sleep even more difficult.
The Problem with Sleeping Drugs
The frustration of not being able to sleep often leaves people resorting to prescription sleeping aids like benzodiazepine, which was originally designed to reduce anxiety. The use of hypnotic drugs (aka. sleeping pills), has been associated with a 35% increase in developing cancer (1). That, in addition to the fact that people using hypnotics are four times more likely to die than people who don’t take them (2), makes natural alternatives a much better option.
Another problem with taking sleeping pills is that they’re highly addictive and interact with important neurotransmitters like GABA. I remember very distinctly one of my neuroscience professors stating how dangerous it is to interact with brain chemistry (like taking prescription drugs). And I wholeheartedly agree.
After several months of using sleeping pills like benzodiazepines, you’re significantly more likely to develop addiction, tolerance, and withdrawal symptoms, which makes coming off sleeping pills a major headache (literally and figuratively).
How Essential Oils Can Help
Essential oils work on the body’s physiology in numerous ways. Whether you choose to inhale them or put them on your skin, essential oils can help even the worst of insomniacs help get some sleep.
According to a study published by Complimentary Therapies in Clinical Practice, over 90 percent of subjects who were given aromatherapy over a 13-week period of time expressed that they would continue to use the blend that included bergamot, lavender, sandalwood, frankincense and mandarin (3).
Another study found that lavender, roman chamomile and neroli significantly helped lower anxiety levels and improved sleep quality compared with conventional nursing intervention (4).
Other oils like angelica, ylang ylang, lemon, sweet orange, cumin, valerian, and juniper berry have also been found to be superbly effective at helping ease individuals’ insomnia (5).
In fact, essential oils for sleep are so effective that even some healthcare facilities have started incorporating aromatherapy within their practice to help ease anxiety and to allow patients to sleep better (6). Not bad for a natural remedy that has virtually zero side effects.
The Best 9 Essential Oils for Sleep
While these essential oils for sleep may help lull you off into dream land, their effectiveness will decline if you’re doing things like staring at electronics immediately before going to bed, or if you’re dealing with excessive stress in your life. Check out my article on my top 10 fundamental steps to help improve your sleep and get rid of insomnia if you’re serious about changing your sleeping habits.
In the meantime, if you want to get the most out of your sleep, keep these oils by your bedside.
Lavender essential oil has been used for centuries as a relaxing, soothing aroma. One study from Britain’s University of Southampton tracked the sleep patterns of 10 adults for a week and found that sleeping in a lavender-scented room improves sleep quality by up to 20%. This is because lavender increases slow-wave sleep, the deepest part of sleeping in which the heartbeat slows and muscles relax (7).
One of my favorite essential oils, frankincense has been said to be effective for anxiety and depression, calming the mind and helping with insomnia. In 2016, researchers had cancer patients use “aromatics” that included frankincense. Over 64% of patients reported improved sleep after using the sticks (8). Given its function as a well-studied anti-depressant and anti-anxiety herb, it’s no wonder individuals get relief from sleepless nights when inhaled.
Bergamot can help stop those restless thoughts that keep you awake at night thanks to its anti-anxiety effects on the brain. Animal studies have found that bergamot is just as effective at reducing anxiety as diazepam (a benzodiazepine) (9), meaning that it has the potential to work just as good (if not better) than the benzodiazepines prescribed as sleeping pills.
4. Roman Chamomile
If you’ve ever heard of the sleep-enhancing benefits of chamomile tea, then this essential oil likely won’t surprise you. Roman chamomile has sedative and relaxing properties that can help cure insomnia. According to a 2005 study published in Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin, chamomile extracts exhibit benzodiazepine-like hypnotic activity (10). A case study also found that after inhaling Roman chamomile essential oil, volunteers experienced more drowsiness and calmness, demonstrating its potential to improve sleep and help enter a peaceful state of mind (11).
One of the most widely studied benefits of valerian essential oil is its ability to help those with insomnia and improve quality of sleep. Studies have shown that valerian reduces the time it takes to fall asleep, so if you can’t sleep, valerian might be just what you’re looking for. In one double-blind study, 44 percent of previously poor sleepers reported perfect sleep, while 89 percent reported improved sleep when taking valerian root (12). Valerian contains a chemical called linarin, which creates a sedative effect. It increases your brain’s GABA levels, which in turn, allows you to sleep better (13).
6. Juniper Berry
Just the smell of juniper berries can help reduce physical and emotional signs of stress. It has been used as a natural anxiety remedy for centuries, and rightfully so. One study tested a diffusion of different essential oils, which included juniper berry, sandalwood, rose and orris. When using the essential oil fragrance at night, over 89 percent of insomniacs were able to reduce their drug dosage (of sleeping pills). Twelve subjects were able to eliminate medications altogether (14).
In Germany, angelica was historically referred to as the “oil of angels,” partly because of its ability to calm anxiety, restore peaceful memories, and bring restful sleep. It acts as a wonderful sleep aid when diffused in the room before bed.
Neroli is often overlooked when it comes to sleep. One study noted neroli’s ability to produce a calming effect, particularly when combined with lavender and chamomile (15). It is also effective on its own in reducing stress and blood pressure levels, which in itself can promote a restful sleep once remediated.
Sandalwood is an incredibly grounding, soothing essential oil that can help knock just about anyone out for a good nights rest. It dates back many centuries as a popular, effective remedy for anxiety. It’s sweet, woody, musk-like scent has a calming effect on the nervous system, meaning less rapid thoughts and more peaceful sleep.