Sleep is so foundational to good health as it provides an opportunity for the body to rest and repair itself. Learn which are the best essential oils to help you sleep, and experiment with some targeted diffuser blends and topical applications.
Sleep is so fundamental to good health, yet frustratingly it is something far too many people struggle with. I’ve had more than my share of waking feeling utterly exhausted, before the day even begins!
Insomnia is defined as having difficulty falling or staying asleep, or having non-restorative sleep, leaving you waking feeling unrefreshed.
This can consequently cause daytime sleepiness, and make for an incredibly unproductive day at work.
Common causes of insomnia include poor sleep habits (such as caffeine intake, exercising late at night or shift work), mood disorders (such as anxiety), stress and adrenal fatigue, worry about not getting enough sleep or yet another day of fatigue, some health disorders and medications.
Globally the prevalence of insomnia is around 30% of the adult population, and here in New Zealand, the hypnotic medication Zopiclone features on the list of Top 20 Medicines by Prescriptions .
This drug, along with some benzodiazepines, are only ever intended for short term use (four weeks or less), due to the fact they can induce dependence. Let’s not mention the common side effects (dry mouth, headaches and fatigue) or the fact that these medications do not allow the body to reach the deep stages of sleep.
Guys, this is big. You probably know that we cycle through both REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM sleep throughout the night. In healthy adults, sleep typically begins with non-REM sleep, in which there are three stages, before entering an REM episode. A complete non-REM-REM cycle lasts on average for between 90 and 120 minutes .
The stages of non-REM move from light to deep sleep – characterised by delta waves. If sleeping pills are preventing us from actually entering deep sleep, then our bodies are deprived of the opportunity to repair and renew themselves.
As this study so beautifully puts it: prolonged sleep curtailment and the accompanying stress response invoke a persistent unspecific production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, best described as chronic low-grade inflammation, and also produce immunodeficiency, which both have detrimental effects on health.
Because these medications have such undesirable effects, it really is worth exploring natural solutions first to see if you find something that works for you. Thankfully there is a lot on offer to turn to – from ensuring you have proper sleep hygiene, to relaxation techniques, meditation, herbal medicines, flower essences and of course, essential oils.The top essential oils for sleep and stressed, over-active minds - recipes and more here! Click To Tweet
How essential oils can support healthy sleep patterns
Essential oils contain compounds that have well-known relaxing properties. As you diffuse them, they traverse the air and excite the olfactory nerves in your nasal cavity as you breath them in.
Signals are transmitted to the limbic system – the part of the brain that governs your autonomic nervous system control. These signals trigger the release of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. With this, a sense of safety and calm sets in, and the body moves from its ‘fight or flight’ response into ‘rest and digest’ parasympathetic dominance.
Lavender will probably be the first oil you think of when it comes to sleep, because it has been the most well studied. However, there are a multitude of others that can support you in various ways.
Oils to sedate, relax and calm
- Roman Chamomile
- Ylang Ylang
- Clary Sage
- dOTERRA’s Lavender Peace or ‘Restful Blend’*
*Lavender Flower, Cedarwood, Ho Wood Leaf, Ylang Ylang Flower, Marjoram Leaf, Roman Chamomile Flower, Vetiver Root, Vanilla Bean Absolute, Hawaiian Sandalwood Wood.
Oils to relieve stress, worry and an anxious mind
- Wild Orange
- Sweet Marjoram
- doTERRA’s Peace or ‘Reassuring Blend’*
*Vetiver Root, Lavender Flower, Ylang Ylang Flower, Frankincense Resin, Clary Sage Flower, Marjoram Leaf, Labdanum Leaf/Stalk, Spearmint Herb.
Oils to ground and calm
- doTERRA’s Balance or ‘Grounding Blend’*
*Spruce Leaf, Ho Wood Leaf, Frankincense Resin, Blue Tansy Flower, Blue Chamomile Flower, and Osmanthus Flower essential oils in a base of Fractionated Coconut Oil.
Oils to clear the air, relieve congestion and prevent interrupted sleep (snoring, sleep apnoea)
- Lavender (specifically, to neutralise mould spores in the air, a common trigger for allergies and asthma)
- doTERRA’s Easy Air or ‘Respiratory Blend’*
*Laurel Leaf, Eucalyptus Leaf, Peppermint Plant, Melaleuca Leaf, Lemon Peel, Cardamom Seed, Ravintsara Leaf, Ravensara Leaf essential oils.
How to use essential oils for sleep
You can use these essential oils via aromatic inhalation or topical use. Because the oils are so potent, they work well applied to pressure points.
Topical applications for sleep
Some suggestions for a relaxing evening ritual:
- try diluting in fractionated coconut oil (dilution chart here) then applying to the pulse points on your wrists, and inhaling deeply before bed
- try massaging your feet with diluted oils before bed
- dissolve a cup of Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) in a bath, then add a few drops of Lavender or Lavender Peace (dilute in a tablespoon of coconut oil first). Soak for about fifteen minutes then jump straight into bed
Diffuser blends for sleep
Here are a few ideas for diffuser blends to use before bed. Around 5 drops per blend should be adequate to diffuse for an hour as you drift off to sleep – some diffusers will have a timer and switch themselves off. Most of these blends are balanced in the sense they contain a top, middle and base note.
- 2 drops Bergamot, 2 drops Roman Chamomile, 1 drop Sandalwood
- 1 drop Wild Orange, 2 drops Lavender, 2 drops Patchouli
- 1 drop Wild Orange, 2 drops Lavender, 2 drops Frankincense
- 2 drops Geranium, 2 drops Lavender, 1 drop Frankincense
- 2 drops Lavender, 2 drop Balance, 1 drop Sandalwood
- 1 drop Bergamot, 1 drop Geranium, 1 drop Peace, 2 drops Clary Sage
- 2 drops Lavender, 2 drops Easy Air, 1 drop Patchouli
Fill a 30ml spray bottle with boiled and cooled water (to avoid microbial growth), then add 5 drops each of Lavender and Roman Chamomile. Shake vigorously and spray onto your linen before bed. This is a great one to pack when you are travelling.
My Personal Favourites
My absolute favourites would have to be Bergamot, Roman Chamomile and Sandalwood. If I have a bad night’s sleep, it is usually due to stress and a frantically over active mind. I am after all, a classic Vata constitution and a born ‘worrier’ – I can legit blame my genes for that one! (If that interests you, read more here).
When I crack open a bottle of Bergamot, I literally feel my mind start to slow and relax. I find it uplifting but not stimulating. like other citrus oils, Bergamot has been shown to have a positive effect on mood, particularly if you are anxious or have a ‘monkey mind’ – with thoughts circling on repeat. When inhaled, bergamot oil has been shown to reduce work-related stress , anxiety  and the stress hormone cortisol .
Roman Chamomile smells just like the sweet fresh flowers, it makes me feel like exhaling and softening. Sandalwood smells woody and sweet, and incredibly exotic (I’ve also been enjoying a drop of this one in my face cream – it has an affinity for the skin).
How to buy essential oils
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and that it has given you some ideas. I have found that it isn’t just the use or application of the oils, but the entire evening ritual that helps you unwind and relax before bed. I like to turn my Himalayan rock salt lamp on, pop on my diffuser, turn down my sheets (hotel-style!), and warm the room up before bed. I often have a bath with my Epsom salts, then anoint myself with a few drops of lavender on the wrists. All these little moments are forms of self-care that help communicate to the body: we’re safe, we’re ok, we got this, we can sleep now.
If you know you’d love to get on them right away,
I’ll guide you through how to purchase them here.
If you’d like to chat further,
you can book a free consult with me here.
And if you’re local to me in Auckland and would like to come along to a class,
have a look at my timetable here.
Always read the label and use as directed. If symptoms persist, see your healthcare professional.