What are essential oils?

Essential oils, put simply, are the essence of plants. They can be made in a few different ways — whether it’s cold pressing or distillation — and what happens is that the oils and aromatic chemicals are extracted from the plants so that you have a concentrated substance. These essential oils pull the aroma from a plant, whether it’s lavender, chamomile, or plenty of others, and are often used in things like aromatherapy. 

Because essential oils capture the essence of the plants they come from, the potency, when absorbed into your body, connects with your limbic system (the part of your brain that handles emotion and memory) to induce behaviors. Essential oils are commonly used for things like sleep, stress relief, and sometimes even pain relief. They’re inhaled or rubbed on the skin but should never be swallowed, as they’re not safe for digestion, despite coming from plants. But what are the best essential oils for sleep and relaxation? You’ll just have to keep reading.

Do essential oils really induce sleep?

Essential oils have been studied here and there as a natural sleep aid. These studies have proven that essential oils have a positive effect on helping people sleep, including those in specialized groups like dementia patients and those with heart problems. One study from 2005 looked specifically at lavender essential oil and studied young men and women with no current sleep issues. Researchers concluded that the lavender oil could be considered a mild sedative because of its effects. 

Some of these essential oils also help relax your mind and body, which can, in turn, help you sleep. Because these oils are connecting with the emotional part of your brain, they’re targeting lingering stress and anxiety, and by helping to alleviate that, you could possibly sleep better.    

Ways of using essential oils for sleep 

  • Diffuser: You can get a diffuser to put your essential oil in that will slowly let the oil into the air. This way you can breathe it in before bed and as you’re sleeping.
  • On your feet: Some people have found that rubbing essential oils on the bottoms of their feet and then putting socks in will help them. Just make sure to put the socks on so that you’re not getting oil everywhere in your bed and mix your essential oil with a carrier oil (like jojoba or coconut).
  • In a bath or shower: If you take a bath or shower before bed, you can either use soap made with essential oil or put a couple of drops of oil in the bathwater. This way you’re breathing it in right before bed.
  • On your pillowcase: You can also put a few drops of oil on your pillowcase so you’re breathing it in before bed, just make sure it’s not too close to where your face will be, as it can irritate your skin.

The Best Essential Oils for Sleep

  • Lavender oil: When it comes to what essential oils are good for sleep, lavender oil is far and wide the most recommended. It’s been studied and proven to help induce sleep, and it can be used in a variety of ways.
  • Bergamot oil: Bergamot oil has also been studied alongside lavender and proven to help induce sleep as well as provide higher-quality sleep.
  • Ylang-ylang oil: This oil has been proven effective in inducing sleep, and one study linked it to better-quality sleep among those with heart conditions.
  • Chamomile oil: Just like the tea, chamomile oil can help with sleeplessness, as it can relax you and help you fall asleep.

Are there risks to using essential oils for sleep?

The biggest risks of essential oils come with ensuring you’re using them properly. Take care when applying essential oils to your skin. Because they’re so concentrated, they can easily irritate your skin. If you choose to put the oil on your skin, mix it with a gentler oil, known as a carrier oil. These are oils like jojoba or coconut oil. A 1:1 ratio of oils should suffice, but you should do a patch test before putting any larger amount of essential oil on your skin. Try it in a small spot to see if you have any reactions before proceeding with anything else. 

You should also never ingest essential oils. Though they come from plants, they are toxic if you consume them. Inhaling the aromatic oils is not a problem, but they’re not something that should be drunk or added into any foods. Aside from these two concerns, essential oils are pretty friendly to use. They’re natural so it’s unlikely there will be any reactions to diffusing them or adding them to your bathwater. They are toxic to animals, though, so make sure you keep them away from your pets, as well. 


Do essential oils really work for sleep?

Yes, essential oils can help you sleep better. They’ve been proven as a natural sleep aid, because they can help relax you and induce sleep.

Which essential oils are sedative?

Lavender oil is a great sedative oil. It’s been proven in sleep studies as a go-to essential oil to help even those who don’t experience sleep issues.

What scents help you sleep?

Lavender, bergamot, and ylang-ylang are all scents that could help you sleep. Each of these as an essential oil is a potent scent that can calm you and induce sleep.