Anyone who’s smelled fresh cookies baking in the oven knows that scents have a strong influence on how we feel. When we smell something, our olfactory nerve sends signals directly to our limbic system and amygdala, the parts of our brain responsible for our memory or mood. That’s why certain scents can instantly make us feel brighter, or recall a favorite memory.
Aromatherapy is a form of alternative medicine that relies on the powerful sense of smell. Practitioners use the essential oils from plants to heal the mind, body, and soul. Essential oils can be used for a variety of purposes, from boosting mood to relieving migraines, but in this article we’ll focus on how they can be used to calm and relax the mind and body, preparing you for sleep.
Here are our Top Essential Oils for a Better Sleep – Reviewed
1. Lavender Oil
Lavender calms the nervous system by lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and skin temperature – all processes which take place during the body’s natural transition to sleep. Lavender essential oil alleviates mild insomnia and reduces anxious thoughts by altering your brain waves in order to produce a more relaxed state.
Well-tested and affordable, this Lavender oil from Plant Therapy is among our top choices for essential oils to help you sleep.
2. Valerian Oil (For Healing Properties)
Valerian is an herb. It is native to Europe and parts of Asia but also grows in North America. Medicine is made from the root.
Valerian is most commonly used for sleep disorders, especially the inability to sleep (insomnia). Valerian is also used orally for anxiety and psychological stress, but there is limited scientific research to support these uses.
In manufacturing, the extracts and oil made from valerian are used as flavoring in foods and beverages.
3. Clary Sage Oil
Although they’re related, clary sage is different than regular sage and better for sleep. Additionally, one study found clary sage essential oils had antidepressant effects for menopausal women.
Together with its sleep-inducing properties, the rigorous testing and sustainable production of this Eden Gardens products places this oil among our favorites.
4. Sweet Marjoram Oil (Another Healing Oil)
Once a staple fragrance of upper-class ladies, sweet marjoram is one of the most pleasant and classy scents around. There are multiple forms of marjoram, sweet marjoram being recommended specifically for insomnia due to its calming qualities.
This oil from Healing Solutions is distinguished as a top pick by its sustainable and natural production.
5. Roman Chamomile Oil (Our Favorite Oil!)
There are several types of chamomile, but Roman Chamomile oil is known as the best for relieving insomnia and anxiety. Research has even shown that the light floral oil can reduce nightmares.
This, coupled with its versatility and quality, puts this Aviano product among our top picks for best essential oils for sleep.
How Do Essential Oils Help Sleep?
Choosing scents that promote relaxation can help get our bodies into a restful state ready for sleep. Essential oils also just smell nice and can be a pleasant way to enhance the sleeping experience. Making essential oils part of your bedtime routine can also help train your mind to associate the specific scent with falling asleep.
Many people prefer to use essential oils because they’re natural and don’t create the common side effects associated with many sleep medications, such as daytime drowsiness or more serious health risks. For example, a 2010 study found smelling jasmine to be just as effective at calming the nerves as a sleeping pill or sedative, but without any adverse side effects.
Many essential oils are adaptogens, which means they adapt to the person taking them and have different effects on different people. For instance, vetiver oil relieves insomnia for some people, while creating a feeling of refreshment and alertness for others during times of exhaustion. Of course, some oils are known precisely for their activating effects, like energizing tangerine or lemongrass, and should be avoided as a sleep aid.
The best essential oils for sleep fall into two main categories: oils that stave off insomnia by calming the mind and reducing anxiety, and oils that alleviate snoring and sleep apnea by clearing the airways.
Overall, more research is still needed regarding essential oils and sleep. However, the studies done thus far do suggest that using essential oils before bedtime can help alleviate mild sleep problems.
Where to Buy Essential Oils for Sleep
You can buy essential oils at pharmacies, health food stores, online, and large retailers.
It’s key to purchase oils that are advertised as “pure” or “100%” essential oils and list the oil’s botanical Latin name. Ones that say “perfume oil” or “fragrance oil” often use synthetic ingredients, so while they smell nice, they don’t provide the same benefits and may even contain other additives more likely to irritate your skin. If possible, look for organic oils with a non-GMO or “Therapeutic grade” label, meaning they don’t have toxins and only use pure chemicals.