The world of essential oils is often surrounded by skeptics who doubt the bold claims of essential oil companies and reported benefits of various blends. One area, however, where all of the critics fall silent, is in the realm of sleep. Certain essential oils are absolutely proven to aid in the speed of falling asleep, the quality of that sleep, and the lack of side effects and dependency regarding sleep.
Essential oils are basically super-concentrated forms of the plants from which they are derived from. So if a plant has a particular benefit, then the essential oil has it even more of that benefit. This means that anything that would make a good cup of tea before bed is also a great essential oil to help with sleep. But not every plant tastes good, or should be ingested, so sometimes using the essential oils is beneficial just because there’s no other good way to access the benefits of the plant. One of the best things about using essential oils for sleep is that they’re non-habit forming, so you don’t have to worry about becoming dependent.
When it comes to oils for sleep, here are the top six:
Lavender oil might as well be called ‘Relax Juice’. It is simply the best oil out there for calming down your body and mind and helping you sleep. Lavender is high in linalool and linalyl acetate, both compounds that have been proven to relax the body. Lavender has also been linked to lower levels of stress, a frequent cause of sleeplessness, and lower levels of pain— another reason people toss and turn.
Another great sleep aid is chamomile. Of the two most common types of chamomile, German and Roman Chamomile, Roman Chamomile has been proven to be the more potent sleep aid. Roman chamomile is a natural sedative and anti-depressant. Certain flavonoids in chamomile attach to the brain and reduce the production of stress-released hormones, meaning you can finally relax and drift away.
Bergamot is the distinctive flavoring in Earl Grey Tea. But don’t try drinking that at bedtime! The black tea is highly caffeinated and will keep you awake. Instead, try just the oil of this fresh, citrusy fruit. The sweet fruit is refreshing and soothing at the same time and is slightly better at relaxing the nervous system than a regular orange, although Sweet Orange oil can also aid in quality of sleep. Bergamot lowers blood pressure and stimulates your body to release dopamine and serotonin.
It seems counter-intuitive that a citrus fruit, which is usually associated with wakefulness, could be used as a sleep aid, but it is believed that the focusing ability of these fragrances, as well a the chemical-releasing ability, helps to eliminate distractions and the restlessness that comes along with lack of, or poor, sleep.
Vetiver oil, also known as Khus oil, comes from a gigantic Indian grass. This plant has a spicy, earthy fragrance, and is frequently used in cosmetics and fragrances as a base or patchouli substitute. The oil has been shown to calm, even sedate, the nervous system, making it a valuable sleep aid. Also used to combat absentmindedness, anxiety, and ADHD, vetiver is effective at suppressing the distracting flare-ups of the mind that steal away a good night’s sleep.
Valerian root has been used as a sleep aid for over a thousand years. Historical records show the extract of valerian root being prescribed for insomnia in Ancient Greece and Rome! Valerian oil has a warm, woodsy smell that can be quite strong, so only a small amount is needed.
Finally, cedarwood essential oil is wonderful at helping to regulate sleep and increase rest. Not only does cedarwood have a comforting, light woodsy scent, it also stimulates the pineal gland to release melatonin, your body’s sleep drug.
Now that you know what to use to help regulate your sleep, let’s look at a few ways you can use them. First, it’s important to note that using essential oils can be a great relief for sleep problems, but they can’t necessarily overcome other horrible habits. Trying to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day, sleeping in a designated area with no natural or artificial light, and turning off screens or monitors at least half an hour before bed will go a long way toward improving sleep. If you’re not starting with those, using essential oils for sleep is working uphill— they will still affect your body, but they will have a lot of factors to overcome. Try to minimize those contrary habits and you will see a much greater result from the oils.
The best way to get the benefits of any of these oils is with a diffuser. Whether simple or high tech, simply diffuse a few drops of your oil of choice, or a medley of more than one, into the room where you will be sleeping or getting ready to sleep. Allow the oils about half an hour to have their effect, and then bed down for the night and enjoy the slumber!
These oils are all safe to use topically in small amounts. Dilute a few drops into about a tablespoon of carrier oil and use it as a body lotion for a simple massage. You can also apply a drop or two directly to the back of your neck, your wrists, or the bottoms of your feet for a fast acting application. Just make sure the oils you are using are high quality, as many people have bad reactions to poor quality oils, especially applied directly to the skin.
Of all of these, lavender and chamomile are the only ones mild enough to ingest. Try placing a drop or two in a cup of hot water and inhaling deeply while you sip the brew.
Whatever your particular sleep problem, there’s an essential oil that can ease your pain. Nobody likes to be sleep deprived and no one likes to be around people who are sleep deprived! So do everyone a favor, and try using essential oils for sleep and remember what it feels like to be happy and well rested.