If you need better sleep, a calming scent might help. Essential oils, derived from natural sources such as flowers and trees, can be used for their relaxing, sedative effects.1 While conclusive research is limited, many people who have difficulty sleeping—due to pain, discomfort, or stress—report that essential oils help them fall asleep and stay asleep.

Using essential oils before bed can be one part of your sleep hygiene. Read Practicing Good Sleep Hygiene

Try one or more of these 5 essential oils at bedtime and see if you sleep more soundly.

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Lavender. Perhaps the most popular essential oil, lavender comes from the fragrant, purple flower. Studies indicate that use of lavender oil in aromatherapy can help people experience a deeper sleep.2

Vetiver. Distilled from the roots of an aromatic, tropical grass, vetiver is used by people to soothe the body and mind, facilitating a pleasant bedtime experience that helps promote sleep.

Jasmine. The sweetly scented oil that comes from the jasmine flower is widely used for aromatherapy. One study suggests that exposure to the scent of jasmine at night led participants to experience more efficient sleep and reduced stirring.3

Sandalwood. This oil is sourced from sandalwood trees and used in perfumes and cosmetics. Some people who normally have difficulty sleeping have reported that inhaling sandalwood’s woody fragrance helps them fall asleep faster and even sleep deeper.

Cedarwood. Cedarwood oil has an earthy scent and contains sedative properties that may help you experience a higher quality sleep.4

Essential oils can be used as sleep aids one of two ways:

  • You can use essential oils aromatically, adding a few drops, along with water, into a diffuser at bedtime; this will release the scent into your bedroom air.
  • You can apply the essential oil topically, mixing it equally together with coconut oil or olive oil (to help prevent irritation) and rubbing the mixture directly onto your skin. Apply the mixture to small areas, such as your wrists, temples, and the back of your neck.

If you choose to apply essential oils topically, be sure to test out a small amount first, making sure it does not irritate your skin. Do not ingest essential oils.

Before making a purchase, do your research, reading user reviews of various online retailers that sell essential oil and checking in with your local vitamin or health food store.

Essential oil can be just one part of your balanced sleep hygiene. It’s not meant to replace the effects of a quality mattress or compensate for lack of proper exercise and nutrition.

Learn more:

Teas for Better Sleep: Top Bedtime Tea Recommendations

Psychological Techniques, Sleep Environment, and Better Sleep

References:

  1. Lillehei AS, Halcon LL. A systematic review of the effect of inhaled essential oils on sleep. J Altern Complement Med. 2014;20(6):441-51.
  2. Goel N, Kim H, Lao RP. An olfactory stimulus modifies nighttime sleep in young men and women. Chronobiol Int. 2005;22(5):889-904.
  3. Wershing, B., Almeida, J., Raudenbush, B. Effects of Jasmine Scent on Sleep Quality and Cognitive Performance. Association for Chemical Reception Sciences Conference, July 2008, San Francisco, CA.
  4. Kagawa D., et al. The sedative effects and mechanism of action of cedrol inhalation with behavioral pharmacological evaluation. Planta Med. 2003 July;69(7):637-641.