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Pick The Best Essential Oils For A Good Night's Sleep

Written by Dr. Pulyk Nataliya Omelanivna on Fri, 11 November 2022

Key Highlights

  • Essential oils form the basis of aromatherapy treatments to bring down anxiety and stress, and improve sleep.
  • The body absorbs the essential oil molecules through the nose and the skin, and our sense of smell of key to aromatherapy.
  • Essential oils are concentrated plant essences and about 3,000 varieties are found around the world.
  • Some oils can be used separately or you can experiment and combine to create your own essential oil blends for sleep.
  • Essential oils are organic and powerful, and they must be used in the right way.
  • People with medical conditions should consult their doctors before using any essential oil.
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In a gadget-addicted and sleep-deprived world, the body's own daily maintenance period — those 7 or 8 hours of sound sleep — is often disrupted. Lack of sleep can lead to anything from bad mood and forgetfulness to chronic diseases, so it's very important to know how to induce and how to create the conditions for getting good quality sleep. This is why it's time to make your acquaintance with essential oils for sleep. 

People who have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep usually resort to sleeping pills to feel rested, but a more organic — and pleasanter — way is to pick the best essential oils for sleep, of which lavender is the most famous.

What are essential oils?

Essential oils are concentrated plant essences. They're derived from specific plants and, depending on the plant, only from particular parts. These include the leaves, roots, buds, twigs, heartwood, bark, resin, flower petals, seeds, or fruit. Throughout the world, there are approximately 3,000 essential oils.

The therapeutic action of essential oils is usually attributed to the naturally-occurring chemicals found within them. The way these various natural chemicals interact with each other gives an essential oil its unique qualities. Essential oils for relaxation and sleep and essential oils for insomnia have long been a part of traditional, natural sleep solutions in cultures around the world. 

How essential oils work

In aromatherapy, there are two ways in which essential oils have an effect upon the body: through the nose and the skin. 

benefits of essential oilsAromas disperse in the air, float, and reach the nose. When the aroma molecule hits receptors inside the nostrils, it sets off a reaction that results in brain activity. Our brain responds to smells very quickly. Certain types of aromas help you relax and fall asleep. The fragrances generate a calming effect. 

Inhaling essential oils has long been used in sedating, relieving anxiety, excitement and aggression, and inducing sleep. Research has shown that most of the therapeutic benefits from essential oils can be experienced simply by inhaling them. This makes the use of essential oils extremely efficient. Lavender oil for sleep is one such time-tested solution.

Essential oils also enter the body through the skin because their molecules are very tiny. Of course, when using essential oils on the body, whether as a massage oil or in baths, we're still using our sense of smell, because aromatic molecules float around in the air as we receive a massage or take a bath.

Some oils can be applied directly to the skin, while others are too concentrated and need to be diluted into carriers such as massage oils, bath soaps, and lotions. Some oils can be used separately or you can experiment and combine to create your own essential oil blends for sleep.

If you are one of the millions of people suffering from poor sleep, you might want to consider adding a sleep-friendly essential oil blend to your night-time routine.

Essential oils that help you sleep

The following are some of the well-known and some not-so-well-known essential oil scents that can act as aromatherapy for sleep.

1. Lavender

One of the most popular natural aromas around the world, lavender mellows us out. First used as perfume by ancient Egyptians 2,500 years ago, it's now used to treat insomnia, migraines and provide stress relief. Research confirms the potent relaxing effects of linalool, a fragrant alcohol found in lavender extracts.

  • Lavender is seen as an excellent natural remedy to treat insomnia and improve sleep quality
  • Several studies have investigated the effectiveness of lavender aroma on quality of sleep and they've found that lavender improves quality and duration of sleep. 
  • In a study on 31 hospitalised patients, use of lavender aroma showed a trend towards an improved quality of daytime wakefulness and more sustained sleep at night. 

Lavender

2. Sweet marjoram

The essential oil of sweet marjoram is a calming sedative that's used as an aid to induce sleep.

Inhaling its fragrance triggers the release of the chemical melatonin within the body, making you feel ready to wind down and transition to a sleep cycle.

  • Sweet marjoram reduces inflammation in the body and allows the body to fall into a more relaxed state.
  • You could use sweet marjoram essential oil as a vapor rub on your chest.
  • It also blends well with other relaxing oils like lavender or chamomile and can be used either in a diffuser or mixed with a carrier oil like sweet almond or coconut to make a massage oil.

Sweet marjoram

3. Roman Chamomile

According to Sleep Foundation, a US-based information resource on sleep, there are two types of chamomile plants: Roman and German.

These plant varieties are similar, although they have different combinations of active ingredients and, as a result, potentially different effects.

  • Roman chamomile essential oil is more known for reducing anxiety, while German chamomile is known for relieving pain.
  • If a person experiences anxiety or pain that interferes with sleep, reducing those symptoms could in turn improve sleep.
  • A 2011 study in the journal Molecular Medicine Reports says that chamomile, because it reduces anxiety, also has the potential to reduce the tendency to have nightmares.

Roman Chamomile

4. Clary Sage

Clary sage is a natural sedative that can have a calming effect to help you fall asleep and stay asleep.

  • As per a 2014 study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research, clary sage helps reduce the levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, which could be the key to helping your body prepare for a good night's rest.
  • Research shows that aromatherapy improves sleeping quality in women who work on fixed night shifts, graveyard shifts, or rotating shifts.

Clary Sage

5. Valerian

A lot of herbal teas marketed for insomnia contain valerian root. 

  • Several different species of Valerian have been used for sedation and sleep in many different cultures, including India, China, and Japan.
  • Known for its sedative effect, valerian essential oil can help you get the rest you need without feeling groggy in the morning.
  • "Valerian may not only help people fall asleep faster, but it could improve the overall quality of sleep as well," says a 2013 study published in the American Journal of Medicine.

Valerian

6. Bergamot

Despite belonging to the citrus family, bergamot has a different impact than other citrus-based oils.

  • Research shows that bergamot oil acts as an emotional healer. Its antidepressant, antispasmodic and regulating action can lift the mood and balance even the most extreme emotional states of anxiety, depression and stress. It has been shown to relieve mental and emotional fatigue.
  • Bergamot essential oil, by relieving fear and calming anxiety, brings a person to a place of relaxation, inducing good sleep. It helps slow the heart rate and lower blood pressure.
  • Though the mechanism for why bergamot oil reduces anxiety is not completely understood, it's thought to be due to the release of neurotransmitters that tone down the normal response to stress.

Bergamot

7. Cedarwood

Research published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology says that cedarwood essential oil contains cedrol, which has been found to have a sedative effect, potentially making it useful for insomnia.

  • Research findings also suggest that in humans, the upper airway and the lower airway both react to cedrol. The presence of the two reaction pathways may be the reason for the sedative effect.
  • In another study, when cedarwood was placed on towels near the pillows of older adults with dementia, they slept longer.

Cedarwood

8. Vetiver

The strength of vetiver lies in its emotional effects.

  • If you're nervous or high-strung, vetiver can calm you down. Its sedative and relaxant properties help to deepen cellular respiration.
  • This promotes rest and relaxation and hence it's helpful as a sleep aid. 
  • It is an immune and circulatory stimulant, which explains its ability to promote the production of red blood cells and to release tension within the body.
  • Vetiver is said to be especially helpful for dealing with long-term, stressful situations. It eases muscular aches, and soothes joint pains. Its restorative properties stabilize and promote relief of chronic stress, anxiety or panic.

Vetiver

Tips for buying essential oils

When purchasing essential oils for sleep, here are some guidelines from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center:

  • Essential oils from a bath or general store may be of questionable quality; shop for oils in a specialty store, staffed by salespeople with aromatherapy training.
  • Quality oils, which are light and heat sensitive, will be in a blue or brown light protective glass.
  • Labeling on the bottle should provide both the common and botanical names for the oil.
  • Steer clear of concentrated oils with rubber eyedroppers, since the oils react with the rubber, causing it to break down and contaminate the oil.

Rules for using essential oils

When using essential oils, there are a few basic rules to remember: 

  • Keep essential oils and blends in lidded, dark-glass bottles.
  • Store them in a cool, dark place, away from light and heat.
  • Always ensure the bottle top or the container lid is secure to avoid spillage.
  • Keep all essential oils and blends out of reach of children and pets.
  • Wash hands thoroughly before and after using essential oils.
  • Avoid all contact with the eyes. If any essential oil accidentally gets into the eye, wash the eye immediately and seek medical advice.
  • Don't apply essential oils directly to the eyes, up the nose, in the ears, or to genital areas.
  • Don't apply undiluted essential oil over large areas of the body, unless under the direction of a professional.
  • Always conduct a skin test before use, if you're prone to sensitivities or allergic reactions to fragrance ingredients.

Conclusion

Essential oils are natural and, when chosen and used correctly, safe and beneficial for your health. But they're also powerful, and deserve respect and careful use. If you have a medical condition, always discuss this with your physician before using aromatherapy oils for sleep.

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Dr. Pulyk Nataliya Omelanivna

Dr. Pulyk Nataliya Omelanivna is an Internal Medical Expert who is based out of Ukraine. With a special interest in internal medicine Dr Pulyk graduated from the Ternopil National Medical Academy in Ukraine, in the year 2001. Between the years 2002-2009, Dr Pulyk worked as an emergency physician. Her years of work as an emergency physician gave her immense exposure to a range of patients and an opportunity to learn on the job, and gather extensive experience.

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