Essential Oils for Sleep: What You Need to Know

Key Takeaways:

  • Lavender oil is one of the most popular essential oils for sleep due to its relaxing properties.
  • Other calming oils include roman chamomile, clary sage, and ylang ylang.
  • Essential oils can be diffused, added to baths, applied topically, or used in aromatherapy pillows and sprays.
  • Essential oils should be diluted properly before applying to skin to avoid irritation.
  • While essential oils can promote relaxation, they are not a cure for chronic insomnia which requires medical attention.
Essential Oils for Sleep


Getting a good night’s sleep is crucial for both physical and mental health. However, many people struggle with occasional or chronic insomnia that makes it difficult to fall and stay asleep. Using essential oils is one natural way to promote relaxation and sleep. Certain aromatic essential oils have sedative and calming properties that can help prepare both the mind and body for restful sleep when used properly.

Some of the most popular essential oils for sleep include lavender, roman chamomile, clary sage, and ylang ylang. The soothing scents of these oils can trigger relaxation responses in the brain and body. While essential oils should not be used in place of medical treatment for diagnosed sleep disorders, they can be an effective part of an insomnia treatment plan. Read on to learn how to safely use essential oils to encourage better sleep.

How to Use Essential Oils for Sleep

There are several methods for using essential oils before bedtime to promote sleep:

  • Diffusers: Add a few drops of sleep-promoting essential oils like lavender into a diffuser and allow the scent to fill your bedroom.
  • Baths: Mix essential oils into carrier oils like coconut or jojoba and add to a warm evening bath. The oils will provide aroma benefits as you soak.
  • Topical use: Essential oils must always be diluted properly with a carrier oil before applying to skin. Once diluted, essential oils can be massaged into the temples, wrists, neck, and feet prior to bed.
  • Aromatherapy sprays and pillows: Make a sleep-inducing pillow or linen spray by adding essential oils to water in a spray bottle. Spritz your pillow or sheets lightly before sleep.

Start by using oils in moderation to gauge your body’s response. Most essential oils should not be used undiluted as they can irritate sensitive skin. Do a patch test before topical use.

Choosing the Right Oils for Sleep

While many essential oils promote relaxation, some are specifically renowned for encouraging drowsiness and sleep. The most common oils used for sleep include:

  • Lavender – Has a sedative effect that slows down racing thoughts and promotes sleepiness.
  • Roman chamomile – Has a gentle sedative effect and relieves anxiety and restlessness.
  • Clary sage – Contains compounds with euphoric and stress-relieving effects.
  • Ylang ylang – Relieves anxiety, lowers blood pressure and has a sedative effect.
  • Sandalwood, marjoram, cedarwood, and vetiver also have subtle sedative qualities.

A blend of multiple relaxing oils often works better than a single oil for sleep issues.

Precautions: While generally safe, essential oils do come with some precautions:

  • Always dilute oils properly before use, especially for sensitive groups like children and pregnant women.
  • Do not ingest essential oils unless under the guidance of an aromatherapist.
  • For topical use, do a patch test on a small area of skin first to check for allergic reactions or irritation.
  • Be cautious about using photosensitizing oils like bergamot before sun exposure, as they can increase sun sensitivity.
  • If you have a medical condition or take medication, check for contraindications before trying essential oils.
  • See a doctor if insomnia persists for over 3-4 weeks to rule out underlying conditions. Do not rely solely on essential oils to treat chronic sleep disorders or replace medical care.

Conclusion: Using essential oils can be an effective complementary therapy for occasional sleep troubles like jet lag, stress, or minor anxiety. Calming aromas trigger relaxation responses that prime us for sleep by lowering blood pressure, reducing anxiety, and quieting mental chatter. While essential oils should not replace medical treatment, using them as part of a multi-pronged approach can benefit many people struggling with sleep. Talk to your doctor or aromatherapist to learn if essential oils are right for your needs. With some caution and care, essential oils can help support healthy, restful sleep.

FAQ: Q: How long do the effects of essential oils for sleep last? A: Most essential oils will provide relaxation benefits for 2-4 hours after use. Effects can vary based on the oil, delivery method, and dosage used. Oils with higher sedation properties like lavender may have longer-lasting effects than stimulating oils.

Q: Can I use essential oils for sleep every night? A: Using most sleep-promoting essential oils nightly is safe, as long as they are properly diluted. However, it is a good idea to take occasional breaks to avoid becoming desensitized to their effects over time. Switch up oils and blend different ones together to keep them effective.

Q: Are essential oils safe for children and babies? A: Essential oils can be used around children, but must be heavily diluted (1-2 drops in 1 tablespoon carrier oil). Oils should not be applied directly to or inhaled by babies under 3 months. Always research oil safety for young children and consult a pediatrician first.


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Lillehei, A., & Halcon, L. (2019). A systematic review of the effect of inhaled essential oils on sleep. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.), 25(9), 851–860.

Srivastava, J. K., Shankar, E., & Gupta, S. (2010). Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with a bright future. Molecular medicine reports, 3(6), 895–901.

Wheatley D. (2005). Medicinal plants for insomnia: a review of their pharmacology, efficacy and tolerability. Journal of psychopharmacology (Oxford, England), 19(4), 414–421.

About the author:
Shahane Tan

Shahane Tan

Shahane Tan, a Nursing graduate from Xavier University, combines healthcare expertise with roles in real estate and life coaching. Passionate about holistic well-being, her insights bridge science and practicality. Explore her balanced wellness approach at

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