Essential Oils That Can Help You Sleep Better

If you're dealing with insomnia or other sleep difficulties, essential oils may offer some relief. Extracted from flowers, leaves, and other plant parts, essential oils each have the unique scent of the plant.

Essential oils and herbs on a wooden table
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While scientists have yet to determine how or why aromatherapy might help alleviate sleep problems, it's thought that inhaling essential oil molecules (or absorbing essential oils through the skin) may activate brain chemicals involved in controlling sleep.

To date, there is very limited scientific support for aromatherapy's effects on sleep. Preliminary research, however, shows that certain essential oils may help promote relaxation and, in turn, encourage sounder sleep. Here's a look at essential oils that are commonly used for sleep.


The most frequently used essential oil for sleep, lavender essential oil (Lavandula angustifolia) may be of some benefit when it comes to easing sleep problems. For instance, a 2015 study of 159 postpartum subjects found that eight weeks of treatment with lavender aromatherapy helped improved sleep quality (compared to a placebo).

The participants using lavender oil dropped four drops of 10% lavender oil (combined with sesame oil) onto a cotton ball which was then placed on a cylindrical container. They took 10 deep breaths (from 20 centimeters away from the container) and then placed the container beside their pillow until morning.

The procedure was done four nights a week for eight weeks. The other group followed the same procedure but used just the sesame oil.

In a study published in Nursing in Critical Care in 2017, 60 people with heart disease who were in an intensive care unit were given 2% lavender oil (for inhalation) or no treatment for 15 days. The use of lavender oil aromatherapy improved sleep quality and reduced anxiety.


Cedrol, a component in cedarwood essential oil, has been found in preliminary studies to produce a sedative effect.

For a small study involving older adults with dementia, essential oils (including a blend containing Japanese cypress, Virginian cedarwood, cypress, and pine oil) were placed on towels around participants' pillows every night for 20 days. Total sleep time was longer in those using the essential oils, with less early morning awakening.


In a study published in a 2016 study, researchers examined the use of essential oils (including a blend containing bergamot and sandalwood) in a personal aromatherapy device to improve sleep

After giving 65 participants the devices, the researchers found that 94% used them to help with sleep and 92% said that they would continue using them. Of those who used the device, 64% reported an improvement in sleep quality.

Essential Oils to Avoid for Sleep

Some essential oils have been found to increase alertness:

  • Petitgrain essential oil increased alertness and attentiveness in a study on work performance and stress.
  • Rosemary had a stimulating effect—increased blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate—in a study analyzing its impact on physiological measures.
  • Sandalwood oil inhalation was found to elevate pulse and blood pressure.

Side Effects and Safety

Some people experience an allergic reaction to essential oils. Testing is recommended before using any new oil.

Since essential oils are extremely potent, you should always take caution when using aromatherapy. To start, make sure to blend your essential oil with a carrier oil (such as jojoba or sweet almond oil) before applying it to the skin. It should never be applied directly to the skin or used in excessive amounts.

Furthermore, essential oils should never be taken internally without the supervision of a health professional. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider before using essential oils.

Talk to your healthcare provider if you have difficulty sleeping or if you're considering the use of aromatherapy in the treatment of a sleep disorder.

How to Use Essential Oils for Sleep

There are many ways to use essential oils:

  • Massage your neck, shoulders, and any other areas with a relaxing essential oil blend.
  • Shake a drop of a sleep-promoting essential oil onto a cotton pad and place it by your pillow in the evening for an hour.
  • Unwind with an essential-oil-enhanced bath before bedtime.
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