Essential Oils for Sleep
Essential Oils for Sleep
Essential Oils for Sleep

Essential Oils for Sleep

Backed by science, supportive plants for a sweet slumber.

Last Updated: September 23, 2019
Contributor: Megan-Rose Talbot-Kelly

Sleep is vital to human life—and good sleep has tremendous mental and physical health benefits, including regulated metabolism, improved cognitive function, and a well-performing immune system.1 Despite this, we often take sleep for granted. In a digital, rapid-paced world where we’re constantly inundated with stimuli, stress, and screens, it’s no wonder we struggle to achieve restful sleep. In a study based on 21,826 respondents aged 6-79 from the 2007 to 2015 Canadian Health Measures Survey, a 42% increase in nighttime insomnia symptoms was observed for adults aged 18 or older. The majority of Canadians with insomnia symptoms reported having the symptoms for more than one year.2 Findings like these are an indicator of a bigger picture around holistic wellness, and sparked our investigation into the ability to feel better, naturally.

Overcoming sleep struggles may not always require a prescription. The inhalation of essential oils is continuously being studied as a safe alternative to pharmaceutical medications for some sleep struggles. One review found a majority of collected studies showed positive effects of essential oils on sleep, without adverse events reported. Although more studies are needed to strengthen findings like these, the rise in use of all natural botanicals is certainly something to keep an eye on.3 We’re excited to share some of the best essential oils to support healthy sleep habits, and how to use them.

 

close-up of woman sleeping with eye-mask

 

Clary Sage

This mediterranean herb isn’t just for the kitchen, and it’s useful from its stems to its seeds. Clary Sage is thought to have tremendous benefits, including reducing stress by decreasing systolic blood pressure, and activating paths with dopamine characteristics.4 Clary Sage essential oil has been shown, in one study on female patients with urinary incontinence, to induce relaxation.4 Since stress may directly impact some sleep disturbances,5 this powerful and pleasant perennial could be full of possibilities.

  Saje Tip: Diffuse an essential oil blend with Clary Sage in your bedroom an hour before bedtime.  

Orange

Orange is colloquially known to pack a punch of vitamin C, boost our immune systems, and support our overall health. The essential oil of this citrus fruit is also a great sidekick when it comes to sleep support; the use of orange essential oil, when used in a blend with other essential oils, has been studied and shown to have possible sedative effects to promote stable sleep (due to a compound called linalool) in both the elderly suffering from dementia6 and in one group of hospitalized children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.7 There’s more to orange than meets the eye.

  Saje Tip: Rub an essential oil blend with Orange onto soles of feet before bedtime to promote a simply sweet sleep.  

close-up of Chamomile

 

Roman Chamomile

You may know this soothing herb best as a bedtime cup of tea, but Roman Chamomile is revered as the ultimate calming ingredient in essential oil remedies. A growing body of evidence shows various benefits to our health when diffused or applied topically in a blend.8 Among its positive effects on digestion, joint pain, and inflammation, Chamomile aromatherapy is also shown to be a sleep soothing agent.8 Its natural sedative effects may be due to its flavonoids binding to certain receptors in the brain that trigger this calming reaction.8 It’s no wonder this herbaceous essential oil is touted as a slumber soother.

  Saje Tip: Add 4-12 drops of Roman Chamomile essential oil to a bowl of steaming water or facial steamer before bedtime. Inhale slowly and deeply for 5-10 minutes.  

Valerian

This powerful, aromatic herb has most traditionally been used as a remedy for sleep in the form of tea.9 While the research evidence is still limited, initial studies have shown promising results for the use of Valerian in essential oil blends. Due to its naturally relaxing properties, Valerian is likely to support healthy sleep habits, including falling asleep and sleep quality.10 Experts see such potential in Valerian for sleep improvement, they recommend conducting further studies as a high priority to combat sleep disturbances like insomnia.10

  Saje Tip: Roll on an essential oil blend with Valerian, or spritz a Valerian mist into the air before bedtime.  

Vetiver

Vetiver is a fragrant plant known for a variety of beneficial uses; traditionally, it has been used as an antiseptic, an anti-inflammatory, and as a mild sedative.11 Vetiver is an essential oil still yet to be explored. But if you love its strong aroma, we say go ahead and diffuse the essential oils of this complex, grassy root as part of your nighttime routine.12

  Saje Tip: Add 7-12 drops of Vetiver essential oil into your bath for a calming pre-slumber ritual.  

Sandalwood

Sandalwood is loved for its deeply aromatic properties, and is popular for its fragrant use among many cultures.13 This earthy oil actually has a potent compound in it called santalol which is responsible for many of its soothing properties.14 While studies and research are still being conducted, some experts suspect Sandalwood aromatherapy to help support healthy quality of sleep, inhibiting chronic sleep disturbances that cause waking.8

  Saje Tip: Dab several drops of Sandalwood essential oil onto a tissue and place inside your pillowcase before bed for a soothing slumber.  

Ylang Ylang

The flowery botanical with the fabulous name can help us gain more restful sleep. In one study, Ylang Ylang essential oil inhalation significantly improved sleep quality for a group of college students.15 Some research has shown the likelihood of Ylang Ylang to help reduce stress and associated physiological reactions, allowing for a calmer body and mind, which may help promote easy sleep.16

  Saje Tip: Ylang Ylang works best when used by quantity, so soak in some bath salts containing Ylang Ylang.  

close-up of Marjoram

 

Marjoram

This fresh perennial herb is proving to be a useful sleep aid by researchers. In one study, aromatherapy massage with a blend of Marjoram and Almond essential oils showed a significant improvement in sleep quality on nurses.17 The compounds in Marjoram have multiple beneficial effects on the human body: they promote emotional calming, cardiovascular stabilization, and muscle relaxation.17 Experts agree this piney plant deserves more attention.

  Saje Tip: Massage 3-5 drops of diluted Marjoram essential oil or a Marjoram blend on joints, pulse points, or temples at nighttime.  

Lavender

Lavender, known for its tranquil scent and relaxing properties, has garnered ample attention both by aromatherapists and researchers. Several studies have shown the botanical to help combat insomnia and improve sleep quality.18 In one study, it even improved daytime wakefulness while promoting stable sleep at night.18 This herb is packing some serious flower power when it comes to supporting healthy sleep habits.

  Saje Tip: Use 2-3 drops of a Lavender essential oil blend in your diffuser throughout the day and night.  

Bergamot

This dark green, leafy, citrus-hybrid botanical has mysterious roots—its origin region is still unknown.19 What is known, however, is its use for aiding in stress reduction, which can help decrease anxiety and stress effects, helping to calm the mind to prepare for sleep.19 Studies have shown Bergamot can help with sleep quality improvement due to its powerful effects on the nervous system.20 While further investigation is needed, researchers agree this punchy plant is one to watch out for.

  Saje Tip: Diffuse 10-15 drops of Bergamot essential oil in any area of your home, or blend with another favourite sleep helper like Lavender or Sandalwood.

With sleep struggles on the rise, promoting healthy nighttime habits is all the more necessary. Thanks to Mother Nature’s potent plants, you can support your slumber the 100% natural way. In addition to the use of essential oils in creating restful rituals, making sure to hydrate, balancing a healthy physical lifestyle, and making time for mindfulness will help nurture your bedtime bliss.

Reference List

  1. Seigel, JM, Porkka-Heiskanen, T, Frank, MG. Why Do We Sleep, Anyway? (Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School 2007). Retrieved from http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/benefits-of-sleep/why-do-we-sleep
  2. Chaput, JP, Yau, J, Rao DP, Morin, CM. Prevalence of insomnia for Canadians aged 6 to 79. (Health Reports 2018). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30566205
  3. Lillehei, AS, Halcon, LL. A systematic review of the effect of inhaled essential oils on sleep (Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE): Quality-assessed Reviews 2014). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK246974/
  4. Seol, Geun Hee, Lee, Yun Hee, Kang, Purum, You, Ji Hye, Park, Mira, Min, Sun Seek. Randomized Controlled Trial for Salvia sclarea or Lavandula angustifolia: Differential Effects on Blood Pressure in Female Patients with Urinary Incontinence Undergoing Urodynamic Examination (Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 2013). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3700459/
  5. Bavey, Neil B. Stress and Insomnia (National Sleep Foundation 2001). Retrieved from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/stress-and-insomnia
  6. Takeda, Ai, Watanuki, Emiko, Koyama, Sachiyo. Effects of Inhalation Aromatherapy on Symptoms of Sleep Disturbance in the Elderly with Dementia (Evidence-Based Complementary and ALternative Medicine 2017). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5376423/
  7. Ranani, Hooshang Alijani, Zamenjani, Masoomeh Noruzi, Asnafi, Ali Amin, Latifi, Mahmood. The effect of aromatherapy with orange essential oils on sleep quality in the school-age children whit ALL 2015). Retrieved from http://cmja.arakmu.ac.ir/browse.php?a_id=296&sid=1&slc_lang=en
  8. Srivastava,Janmejai K, Shankar, Eswar, Gupta, Sanjay. Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future (Molecular Medicine Reports 2011). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2995283/
  9. Unkown. Best Essential Oils for a Good Night’s Sleep (The National Sleep Foundation 2019). Retrieved from https://www.sleep.org/articles/best-essential-oils-good-nights-sleep/
  10. Bent, Stephen MD, Padula, Amy, MS, Moore, Dan, PhD, Patterson, Michael, MS, Mehling, Wolf, MD. Valerian for Sleep: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis (US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health 2015). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4394901/
  11. Balasankar, D., Vanilarasu, K., Selva Preetha, , P., Rajeswari, S., Umadevi, M., Bhowmik, Debjit. Traditional and Medicinal Uses of Vetiver (Journal of Medicinal Plant Studies 2013). Retrieved from http://www.plantsjournal.com/vol1Issue1/Issue_may_2013/6.pdf
  12. Zielinski, Eric. BENEFITS OF VETIVER ESSENTIAL OIL: 5 PROVEN HEALTH BENEFITS (ADHD INCLUDED!) (Natural Living Family with Dr. Z and Mama Z 2019). Retrieved from https://naturallivingfamily.com/benefits-of-vetiver-essential-oil/
  13. Santha, Sreevidya, Dwivedi, Chandradhar. Anticancer Effects of Sandalwood (Santalum album) (AntiCancer Research, International Journal of Cancer Research and Treatment 2015). Retrieved from http://ar.iiarjournals.org/content/35/6/3137.long
  14. Ohmori, A, Shinomiya, K, Utsu, Y, Tokunaga, S, Hasegawa, Y, Kamei, C. Effect of santalol on the sleep-wake cycle in sleep-disturbed rats (Japanese Journal of Pharmapsychology 2007). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17879595
  15. Sayorwan, Winai. Effect of ylang ylang oil aroma on sleep quality of Kanchanabhisek Medical and Public Health Technology (KMPHT) College’s students, Nonthaburi, Thailand (5th International Conference and Expo on Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine 2017). Retrieved from https://www.omicsonline.org/proceedings/effect-of-ylang-ylang-oil-aroma-on-sleep-quality-of-kanchanabhisek-medical-and-public-health-technology-kmpht-colleges-s-70475.html
  16. Van Der Westhuizen, Guida Maria. Effects of Ylang ylang essential oil on physiological and socio-psychological variables in females (Central University Of Technology Free State Bloemfontein 2017). Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/00b8/972b69baf3fdbb88dcde920da4c3df5956da.pdf
  17. Chang, Ying-Ying, Lin, Chao-Ling, Chang, Li-Yin. The Effects of Aromatherapy Massage on Sleep Quality of Nurses on Monthly Rotating Night Shifts (Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2017). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5518528/
  18. Koulivand, Peir Hossein, Ghadiri, Maryam Khaleghi, Gorji, Ali. Lavender and the Nervous System (Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2013). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3612440/
  19. Navarra, Michele, Mannucci, Carmen, Delbò, Marisa, Calapai, Gioacchino. Citrus bergamia essential oil: from basic research to clinical application (Frontiers in Pharmacology 2015). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4345801/
  20. Perna, Simone, Spadaccini, Daniele, Botteri, Leonardo, Girometta, Carolina, Riva, Antonella, Allegrini, Pietro, Petrangolini, Giovanna, Infantino, Vittoria, Rondanelli, Mariangela. Efficacy of bergamot: From anti‐inflammatory and anti‐oxidative mechanisms to clinical applications as preventive agent for cardiovascular morbidity, skin diseases, and mood alterations (Food Science & Nutrition 2019). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6392855/

Megan-Rose Talbot-Kelly
Contributor
Megan-Rose Talbot-Kelly
National Educator
As the National Educator at Saje Natural Wellness, Megan-Rose shares a personal wellness perspective and invites us into the spirit of holistic well-being. Megan-Rose holds designations in Reiki/Massage, Yoga Teaching, Nutrition and Aromatherapy that further support her in her goals of elevating global wellness, everyday. Outside of her affinity for research and education, Megan-Rose can be found hiking and stargazing on the west coast, nurturing her garden, and indulging in new plant based recipes.