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Get A Good Night’s Sleep With Essential Oils

By Kelly Lake

Essential oil have an incredibly diverse range of scientifically proven therapeutic effects, and one of them includes the enhancement of sleep. Whether it be a result of reducing anxiety, mild sedation, or simple relaxation, researchers have concluded oils can affect both the length of time being asleep and/or the “depth” or quality of the sleep itself. There are several oils used by aromatherapy practitioners for this purpose, and it’s likely one oil and technique will work better for a given individual than another. That said, here’s some oils and techniques with which you can experiment, and help yourself or a loved-one get a better night’s rest.

The first oil of choice, and the one with the most scientific backing is lavender, distilled from the lovely purple flowers grown in France and Bulgaria. Lavender is certainly the most widely used oil for stress reduction, with a great many research papers supporting this effect. Lavender is the essential oil with the highest amount of “linalool”, a natural chemical to which the relaxing effects are attributed. Linalool itself has been the subject of numerous studies, and its gently sedating action is well documented.

Several factors make lavender this number one choice: It’s absolutely safe, so much so that it can be used with young children as well as those well into old age. It’s relatively inexpensive, the aroma is generally well-liked, and is readily available from a number of sources. At the same time, the choice of lavender is not for everyone — and this is an important note in all therapeutic uses of aromatic oils — the user must not find the aroma of the oil unpleasant and expect it to work. Women seem to have an affinity for lavender, as do young children. This is of course a generalization, but if you or someone you know would like to try aromatherapy for enhancing sleep and don’t care for lavender, don’t force it! There’s other oils out there.

An important point for mothers of very young children: Lavender has even been the subject of research performed with infants. A few drops of lavender oil added to a bath made a significant improvement in the amount of sleep the infants got, they cried less, and even the mothers enjoyed lower stress levels. The researchers concluded their findings were in accordance with all previous research noting the sleep-enhancing, stress-reducing effects of the oil.

For those who don’t care for the aroma, or are looking for the absolute simplest method of use, several papers were published concurrently investigating the effects of a lavender oil pill. The pill contained eighty milligrams of essential oil, and one was ingested daily for ten weeks. The overall aim of the studies was to evaluate the pill’s efficacy in treating anxiety disorders, but one of the questionnaires participants filled out was an evaluation of their sleep. Researchers noted in their conclusion: the lavender oil preparation “had a significant beneficial influence on quality and duration of sleep and improved general mental and physical health without causing any unwanted sedative or other drug specific effects”.

The essential oil distilled from the heartwood of the sandal tree has also been shown to improve sleep. While the test subjects inhaled the essential oil’s vapors, the researchers determined it was the action of the essential oil in the bloodstream that produced the effect of reduced time spent awake, and a longer duration of REM sleep. This indicates the oil can be administered through topical application as well as inhalation, as is also the case with lavender.

Other essential oils that do not necessarily have science-backed results, but are otherwise traditionally used for sleep enhancement include chamomile, neroli and ylang ylang. Chamomile is mentioned by many professional therapists for use with children, and can be used just as lavender is, or probably better yet, blended with lavender for a synergy of effects. Neroli is thought to be the single most calming oil in all of aromatherapy, with an even more gentle action than lavender. Ylang ylang, with a pleasing floral scent, may be more widely enjoyed than lavender with similar effects.

We then need to look at the actual applications of these oils, and there are really many ways to use an essential oil for enhancing sleep. The most common method is by diffusing the oil throughout the night. When using a diffuser in this way, it’s important to keep it set at its lowest output, or use a timer, because too much of the aroma can actually keep one awake. Sprinkling a drop or two on the pillow or bedspread acts just like a diffuser, releasing the aroma as the oil evaporates — again, start with the smallest amount and work up if necessary. Topical application is best on the feet — they’re a very receptive part of the body for essential oil therapy. While lavender and chamomile can be used undiluted, for other oils, add a few drops essential oil to a tablespoon of almond (or other “carrier” oil) before application. A few drops of essential oil can also be added to a bath, where the oil is both absorbed by the skin and enjoyed aromatically.

There are clearly many oils and many methods that may enhance sleep. It’s important to experiment to find the oil and technique that works best for you. You (or the loved one you’re working with) should enjoy the oil’s aroma, and the application should be simple enough that it actually gets used. When you or someone you love is having challenges getting a good night’s sleep, aromatherapy has a lot to offer, with its brilliant natural aromas and science-backed therapeutic actions.

The author is proponent of the varied and potent healing actions of aromatherapy essential oils. For more, see

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Lake, Kelly "Get A Good Night’s Sleep With Essential Oils." Get A Good Night’s Sleep With Essential Oils. 7 Jul. 2010. 23 Aug 2015 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Lake, K (2010, July 7). Get A Good Night’s Sleep With Essential Oils. Retrieved August 23, 2015, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Lake, Kelly "Get A Good Night’s Sleep With Essential Oils"

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