Sleep deprivation isn’t something to brag about. Between 50-70 million adults have a sleep disorder which contributes to the 100,000 deaths that occur each year in US hospitals
The good news is that using essential oils for sleep might be the all natural method you’ve been looking for to get better rest for you or your children.
Since you’re up anyway, why not stick around and find out which oils you can use tonight to help for some deep sleep?
In this article, I’ll be going over the top 11 essential oils to calm your nerves, ease your insomnia, and get you tucked in for a good nights sleep.
I’ve also included a section specifically for your children/toddlers.
The Best Essential Oils For Sleep
There are about 300 commonly available essential oils, and many of those are believed to promote relaxation.
In part, this is due to the positive emotional response to smelling a pleasant aroma. However, essential oil constituents also have direct, physiological effects on our bodies.
Among the relaxing and calming essential oils, a handful are specifically recommended for promoting sound sleep. This isn’t just anecdotal evidence either — there have been multiple scientific studies to back up the claim that oils like lavender or chamomile, in fact, help with sleep.
Here’s a list of 11 essential oils that are particularly suitable for deep sleep:
- Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
- Roman Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis)
- Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
- Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis)
- Spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansi)
- Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin)
- Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanoides)
- Neroli or Petitgrain (Citrus aurantium var. amara)
- Ylang ylang (Cananga odorata var. genuina)
- Clary sage (Salvia sclarea)
- Frankincense (Boswellia carterii)
Let’s jump into each oil.
The valerian herb is one of the most mentioned when it comes to herbs that help you sleep. It has been used for years for sleep disorders, emotional problems, gastrointestinal upset, and more.
The medicinal magic of this plant lies in its roots. People prized this as ‘magic’ in ancient times because, in all of the varieties that exist, there seems to be some sort of hypnotic qualities to them.
The volatile oil of this plant is also made through steam distillation of the roots. The oil is a calmative nervine with soporific and sedative effects that are quite powerful for most people.
This oil should not be used with antidepressants or other sedatives. It should also not be used if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Just like the herb itself, it blends well with hops, lemongrass, lavender, vetiver, and more.
If lavender is the king of oils, Roman Chamomile is the queen. This oil is one of the few that is safe for use around babies and can ease them into dreamland as well. It is a perfect oil to diffuse when anyone in the family has sleeping issues.
This is a calmative oil with sedative properties and it mixes beautifully with most of the oils on this list. Whether the issue is exhaustion, stress, nerves, depression, anxiety, or just lack of sheep to count, this form of chamomile can help you.
We couldn’t have a list without lavender on it. This oil is one of the best essential oils for sleep.
It is also one that you should have on hand for everything from bug bites to depression and anything else you can think of in between. It is good in a diffuser or in massage blend recipes. Lavender oil pairs well with a wide variety of other oils.
This oil mixes exceptionally well with lavender and in any blend to help sleep that benefits from a citrus aroma. It is a favorite for sleep blends for many people because of its fresh and uplifting scent.
Sweet orange is especially useful for sleep issues that are caused by stress and depression.
Not many people know, but spikenard is closely related to valerian. It is even sometimes referred to as Indian valerian root, and is often used as a substitute when valerian is not available.
Nard, as it is sometimes called, smells similar to valerian oil, and blends well with lavender, patchouli, vetiver, and spice oils.
Even people unfamiliar with oils often recognize the unmistakable scent of patchouli. There are also two groups of people: those who love it and those who hate it.
Obviously, if you are in the latter, this will not be a good sleep inducing oil for you.
If you enjoy the scent, you will find it blends well with neroli, petitgrain, sweet orange, vetiver, clary sage, lavender, and ylang ylang.
This is a deeply relaxing oil that works to promote sleep in times of nervous tension. Combining vetiver and lavender is a favorite natural insomnia remedy among oil users.
Vetiver also blends well with patchouli, clary sage, and ylang ylang.
Neroli or Petitgrain
Both of these oils come from the same tree and provide many of the same benefits. With their fresh scent, they work in citrus essential oil blends or woodsy blends.
The oils help stress-related issues and work well on the nervous system. Neroli is quite expensive, so petitgrain may be a more feasible choice for regular use.
This is one of the most relaxing oils to diffuse for sleep. It goes well in woodsy essential oil blends and has a strong effect on the nervous system.
Use this in blends with vetiver and you will be enjoying a deep sleep in no time.
Word of caution: this oil can give some people headaches when it is too strong in a blend, so start with very little.
This form of sage is a nervine and sedative sleep oil. It has a lower toxicity than garden sage so is preferable for many uses in aromatherapy.
If your lack of sleep is due to nerves, headaches, respiratory or digestive issues, or depression, try clary sage.
For restful sleep, diffuse it with lavender, frankincense, and citrus oils.
This oil is well known for its ability to aid in concentration, during meditation and its overall calming effect on the body. It is perfect to add to your mixes for sleep.
Many people like the scent of this aromatherapy oil. It is one of the most relaxing oils to diffuse for sleeplessness. Frankincense blends well with lavender, vetiver, and citrus oils.
If you are leery of using citrus oils in bedtime blends, try adding a couple drops of this oil and see if you enjoy how it modifies their scent.
Essential Oils for Insomnia
Out of the oils profiled above, there are a few that are especially sleep inducing.
To aid sleep in times of insomnia and exhaustion, use blends containing Roman chamomile, valerian, lavender, vetiver, ylang ylang, and petitgrain or neroli.
How to Use These Oils for Sleep (Methods and Recipes)
How you want to use the oils to help you sleep is up to you. Below are three effective methods you can use and a handful of mixes you can try for more restful sleep.
Diffusing oils for sleep
Add your favorite oils to your diffuser. It may take some experimenting to determine which oil, or oil blend, is the most helpful for you.
Keep in mind that the point of using these oils is to aid sleep, so don’t diffuse them and then go for a drive.
If you cannot sleep because you are sick, remember there are no hard rules to blending. For instance, if you have a cold, adding a couple of these oils to a eucalyptus diffuser blend could help you sleep as well as breathe better.
Diffuser Blend #1
- 4 drops Sweet Orange
- 2 drops Frankincense
- 1 drop Patchouli
Diffuser Blend #2
- 2 drops Lavender
- 2 drops Roman Chamomile
- 2 drops Vetiver
Make up your favorite blend and add up to five drops to a teaspoon of your favorite carrier oil to make a sleep massage oil.
If you are wondering where to apply essential oils for sleep, you can rub your massage oil on your chest and arms, where you will smell the peaceful scents as you drift off.
Keep in mind the correct dilution ratios when using mixes on the skin.
Massage Blend #1
- 3 drops Ylang ylang
- 1 drop Spikenard
- 1 drop Neroli
- 1 ounce carrier oil
Massage Blend #2
- 2 drops Sweet Orange
- 1 drop Clary Sage
- 1 drop Valerian
- 1 ounce carrier oil
Take a bath.
Baths are relaxing in themselves, and when you add essential oils, they can be downright heavenly.
Just like diffusing, it will depend on your personal preferences which you like the best.
You can try with a couple drops of a single oil in a teaspoon of carrier, and move on to other single oils to see what works best. Once you get an idea of the single oils you like, start blending them together.
Here are a couple examples of mixes you can try. Add your oils to a little carrier oil and swish into the bathwater.
Bath Blend #1
- 4 drops Lavender
- 4 drops Roman Chamomile
Bath Blend #2 (very strong & sedating – only use right before bed)
- 2 drops Ylang Ylang
- 2 drops Valerian
- 2 drops Lavender
- 1 drop Spikenard
- 1 drop Vetiver
You will find a favorite mix of bedtime oils in no time!
Are these oils safe for kids?
In figuring out which oils are safe for kids, I referred to “Essential Oil Safety” by Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young. This book is the most authoritative text on the topic.
According to this book, the following 9 oils have no known hazards or contraindications if used properly, and should be safe to use with kids.
- German chamomile
- Roman chamomile
- Sweet orange
- Clary sage
- Ylang ylang
The key is that you use these oils properly.
At which age can you start?
There are various recommendations from experienced aromatherapists on when you can start using essential oils with kids.
For example, aromatherapist Leslie Moldenauer recommends avoiding the use of essential oils, both topically and by inhalation, for babies under a few months of age. She also recommends only using essential oils topically on kids after the age of two.
Robert Tisserand also writes in “Essential Oil Safety” that kids up to three months old are “at greater risk of skin sensitization [from topical use of essential oils] due to the immaturity of their skin”.
On the other hand, he isn’t entirely opposed to the use of certain essential oils (such as the ones listed above) in very light dilutions, even on newborns.
How should you diffuse essential oils to help your kids sleep?
The first way you can actually use essential oils to help your kids sleep is by inhalation.
Inhalation is the gentlest way to use essential oils, and yet it can be surprisingly effective.
An easy way to do this is simply to put a few drops of essential oil onto a cotton ball and place this next to your kids’ pillows. The oil will gradually evaporate and allow your kids to fall asleep more easily and to stay asleep during the night.
You can also opt for a diffuser, a little gadget that vaporizes essential oils throughout the room.
Many diffusers have a setting where they turn on and off regularly, and using this is a great idea (for example, 15 minutes on, one hour off).
Diffusing continuously throughout the night is both unnecessary — the body adapts after a while — and might lead to a too-high concentration in a closed room.
How should you use oils topically with your kids?
A second way to use essential oils is topical application.
Basically, this means taking an essential oil, mixing it with a carrier, and spreading it on your kids’ skin before they go to bed.
You don’t need to cover your kids in oil to help them sleep — a bit on the chest and shoulders should be enough. Other parts of the body (back, or the feet) are also ok.
The main thing to know is you need to dilute essential oils adequately before applying them to the skin. Using essential oils undiluted can cause allergic reactions, and even if this doesn’t happen, undiluted use will dry out your kids’ skin unnecessarily as the oils evaporate.
So what’s a safe dilution for the oils above? Here’s a breakdown by age, taken from “Essential Oil Safety”:
What do these percentages mean in practice? Well, there are about 100 drops in a teaspoon, 3 teaspoons in a tablespoon, and 2 tablespoon to an ounce. Based on this, here’s a table listing the number of drops of essential oil you need for a given concentration in various amounts of carrier:
It’s unlikely you will get these measurements precisely right — I don’t know how you’d measure 0.6 of a drop, and the truth is that drops of essential oil will vary in size anyhow.
The point here is that it takes a very small amount of essential oil to make a recommended dilution, particularly for younger kids. The difficulty of measuring this out exactly (unless you’re making a really big batch) is another reason for avoiding topical use with babies.
What can you use as a carrier?
I mentioned before you should dilute essential oils in a carrier.
As you might know, essential oils don’t mix with water. They need a fatty substance, such as an oil, in order to dilute.
Most commonly, this is going to be a vegetable oil — you can use almond oil, or jojoba oil, or coconut oil. As long as it’s made up of fatty acids, it will dilute essential oils.
If you’ve got a fragrance-free cream or lotion (one that’s oil-based), you can also use that as a carrier for the essential oils.
How should you add oils to a bath?
A third way to use essential oils to help your kids sleep is to add a few drops to your kids’ evening bath.
This can help your kids relax and wind down in anticipation of bedtime.
It’s important to point out again that essential oils do not dilute in water, even if it’s hot and there’s a lot of it.
So how should you add essential oils to a bath?
One option is to dilute them in a carrier oil. This will remove the risk of irritating your kids’ skin; however, the oily blend will just sit on top of the water.
To really disperse the essential oils throughout the bath water, you’ll need to use a surfactant (a substance that can bind both water and oil).
Your shampoo or shower gel already contains surfactants. You can also use a substance like castile soap. Simply pre-mix your essential oils with one of these, and then add the blend to your kids’ bath.
Essential oils are excellent natural remedies for sleep disorders. If you want to finally relax and get the sleep you deserve, pick an oil or two and start figuring out which ones work best for you.
This list isn’t exhaustive, and there are plenty of other oils that promote sleep. For instance, hops (humulus lupulus) is well known as being helpful for insomnia. However, it should be avoided during times of depression.
Sandalwood (Santalum album) is another excellent choice, but is over-harvested. As the tree must reach a maturity of 30 years before it is ready for production of oil, it shouldn’t be your first choice in any circumstance.
As I always say, essential oils are a highly personal experience.
Now that I have given my picks, what about you?
Do you agree with this list or have a favorite blend you want to share?
I would love to read it after I get a little sleepy time myself!