11 Best Essential Oils for Sleep

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated - Medically reviewed by Zemira Barnes (MS)

Sleep is one of the most important and restorative processes for our body, and when we don’t get a proper amount of restful, uninterrupted sleep that we need, there are quite a few negative effects on our overall health. Fortunately, there are many excellent essential oils for sleep, which can leave you refreshed, rested and ready to face the world.

In the United States alone, more than 40 million people suffer from chronic sleep disorders, and another 20 million suffer from acute sleep problems. These disorders can range from chronic insomnia to daytime sleepiness, restless leg syndrome, and various other sleep problems related to substance abuse, anxiety, depression, medication interactions, and chemical imbalances. Pharmaceuticals prescribed for sleep disorders can often have extreme side effects and leave people feeling sluggish throughout their day. Experts recommend 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep per day for adults, yet in our fast-paced and demanding modern world, this can be very difficult.

While some of the causes of sleep disorders cannot be controlled or mitigated by essential oils, the soothing and relaxing qualities of these oils can help calm the body and mind, making it easier for people to find restful sleep. This is due to the sedative, anxiolytic, anti-depressant, soothing, warming, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic properties of these essential oils. [1]

Best Essential Oils for Sleep

Some of the most popular and effective essential oils for sleep problems include orange, valerian root, roman chamomile, lavender, sandalwood, bergamot, ylang-ylang, cedarwood, frankincense, sweet marjoram, and jasmine, among others.

Cedarwood Oil

This essential oil has anti-inflammatory, relaxing, and sedative properties, making it an ideal remedy before you get ready for bed, as it can help clear your mind of stress and anxiety and will induce the release of melatonin, which will make it easier to fall asleep. [2]

How to Use: You can add a few drops of cedarwood oil to your room diffuser, or mix this oil with a carrier oil and put a few drops of your forehead, temples, and neck before laying down for the night.

Ylang Ylang Oil

This floral and fruits essential oil helps reduce inflammation and has a sedative effect on the body, helping people fall into a deep and restorative sleep. It can also eliminate anxiety, relieve tension and stress if it is the source of your insomnia and sleep disturbances. Ylang Ylang oil can also be added to your bath water before bed. [3]

How to Use: Mixing this oil with bergamot and lavender oils for a topical sleep remedy is very popular. Simply mix a few drops of each together on your pillow for an uninterrupted night and a refreshed feeling in the morning.

Sandalwood Oil

Sandalwood oil can stimulate the body to produce melatonin, an important neurotransmitter that can regulate your circadian rhythms and help you achieve normal sleep patterns. It is also a sedative and anxiolytic, which helps clear the mind of anxious and distracting thoughts. [4]

How to Use: The aroma of sandalwood is enough to lull people into a deep sleep, so adding it to a room diffuser, the palms of your hands or an aromatherapy treatment before bed can be very effective.

Lavender Oil

Widely known as one of the most relaxing, soothing, and anxiolytic oils, people have been using the aromatic compounds found in lavender to aid sleep for thousands of years. Lavender also has anti-spasmodic properties, which helps it prevent restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea. [5]

How to Use: You can mix a few drops of lavender oil into your bathwater or sprinkle a few drops on your pillow before you go to bed. Room diffusers are also a good approach to using lavender oil.

A bottle of essential oil for good sleep with white flowers and napkins on a wooden table

Essential oils are said to promote sleep. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Sweet Marjoram Oil

Sweet marjoram oil is known to have sleep-inducing and sedative effects on the body due to its direct interaction with the central nervous system and the pineal gland, thus facilitating the release of melatonin into the blood. This oil can also help reduce anxiety and stress hormones, making it easier to fall asleep. [6]

How to Use: Some people mix a few drops of sweet marjoram oil into a glass of warm water and drink it before bed, as this can help rapidly calm the body and help you drift off.

Jasmine Oil

Jasmine may be one of the most legendary sleep aids, as it has well-researched soporific qualities. It can induce the release of certain neurotransmitters in the brain that will lower stress levels and calm the mind, while also providing a rested feeling in the morning. [7]

How to Use: Many people choose to use jasmine oil in their room diffusers, particularly before bed, as it provides a calming atmosphere in the bedroom and soothes the mind as it slips into sleep.

Frankincense Oil

People often turn to frankincense for its effects on anxiety and depression, but it can also help you get better sleep. Lowering stress hormone levels in the body and helping clear the mind, without giving an energetic boost, makes this the perfect pre-sleep remedy. [8]

How to Use: Mixing a few drops of frankincense and bergamot oils together in your hands, rubbing them together, and then breathing deeply before laying down can help prevent insomnia. Also, you can sprinkle 2-3 drops on your pillow.

Valerian Root Oil

Famed as a sedative substance that can elevate mood and eliminate depression, valerian root oil is one of the most popular essential oils for sleep, as it tends to cause a very deep, uninterrupted sleep that leaves you feeling refreshed in the morning. [9]

How to Use: One of the most popular uses of valerian root oil is in a bedroom diffuser. Turn it on a few hours before sleep, filling the room with relaxing micro-particles, which can induce restful and uninterrupted sleep.

Roman Chamomile Oil

For thousands of years, roman chamomile oil has been used as a relaxant substance, due to its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. If you suffer from chronic pain or discomfort that keeps you up at night, try using this oil for relief and a peaceful night’s sleep. [10]

How to Use: You can add some of this essential oil to your shampoos, conditioners or face creams, allowing the aroma to slowly calm you down at the end of the day, or you can add the oil to a room diffuser for all-day relaxation.

Orange Oil

Anxiolytic properties are important for any oil used as a sleep aid, and orange oil has proven abilities to calm the nervous system and promote a calmer mind. It also has sedative properties when used at night, helping to soothe restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea. [11]

How to Use: Mixing orange oil with a carrier oil, such as almond oil or coconut oil, and then applying the mixture to your skin as a nighttime moisturizer can help calm your muscles and mind, as the aroma will lull you gently into slumber.

Bergamot Oil

The relaxing properties of bergamot have been shown to reduce stress hormone levels in the body and prohibit the release of adrenaline by the body. For anxiety-induced insomnia and sleep problems, this oil is a comprehensive remedy. [12]

How to Use: A popular way to use bergamot oil is to add 5-10 drops to a hot bath and then soak in it while inhaling the steamy fumes. Following this, falling asleep shouldn’t take very long at all!

Word of Caution: The use of essential oils for sleep problems is very popular, but it is important to consider the side effects that some of these oils may have. They are packed with active compounds and chemicals that could negatively interact with medications, exacerbate health conditions, irritate the skin, disturb the stomach, cause blood pressure to drop dangerously low, or leave you feeling fatigued or sluggish. Each oil has individual components and risks, so additional research is necessary before you add one to your daily health regimen. Furthermore, you should always discuss your personal risks before using one of these potent essential oils for sleep.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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