Top 10 Essential Oils for Better Sleep

Last Updated February 6, 2024

Dr. Waiz Wasey Fact checked by Dr. Waiz Wasey

Do you remember what the first thing people complained about when they fell ill in the last two years was? Let us remind you: it was the loss of sense of smell. Not being able to smell can impact our wakeful experience, from appetite to focus. An unpleasant smell, on the other hand, can have an impact on our sleep.

top 10 essential oils for better sleep

Our response to smell during sleep is reduced. But many research studies have shown that sweet and foul smells can stimulate our brains and affect our quality of sleep. In fact, scents and fragrances are a critical part of our daily lives if we pay close attention, and aromatherapy can be helpful.

Let's discuss some of the essential oils (and their benefits) that would help you sleep better.

Which scent is best for sleep?

More than looking for a particular scent, you should be looking at which fragrance will align with your personality or the mood you want to be in.

You can choose a scent based on what you are feeling right now and how your day went. You can start this way – Choose a bottle, put three drops of essential oil in it, and get a feel for it. If you like it, you can use it. But before that, try to check for any allergies. Here’s a handy list for you to sort your suitable scent for a good sleep.

Close up of a young redhead woman sleeping in a field of flowers

For the ones who love floral fragrances

1. Roman Chamomile - In ancient times, it was known for its hypnotic properties. Roman Chamomile helps you relax and induces sleep in less time than other essential oils or fragrances. It has a light, fresh fragrance like an apple, which is also a reason why Chamomile helps to unwind and fall asleep.

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2. Ylang Ylang - It is extracted from the flowers of a tropical tree that grows in the Philippines, Indonesia, and parts of Australia. It comes with a heavy, sweet smell with notes of fruits and rubber. It can boost mood and reduce depression, thereby indirectly enhancing sleep. Ylang-Ylang works best when mixed with Lavender or Jasmine, making the mood floral and romantic. Studies have shown that it can improve sleep through its many properties.

Ylang-Ylang flower (Cananga odroata) with towel in spa theme for relaxation and sleep

For the ones who believe in the Herbal Power

3. Lavender - It is a Mediterranean plant with flowers and oils both used for medicinal purposes. It reduces anxiety and relaxes the muscles in our bodies. Antibacterial and antifungal in nature, Lavender is good for people with mild insomnia and restlessness.

4. Rosemary - It has both calming and energizing effects on our bodies and minds. In several studies, it was found that Rosemary promoted relaxation, boosted alertness, and improved memory. It blends well with Geranium, Peppermint, and Cedarwood, or with spice and citrus fragrances. As per studies, the properties of Rosemary help students the most.

5. Peppermint - Minty and refreshing, Peppermint has this inherent quality within it that can soothe away your tension. Not only that, but it can also be used to treat colds and coughs because it works as a decongestant. Peppermint’s effects have even shown the ability to improve sleep quality for cancer patients. The only caveat with Peppermint is to look for any allergies, as it comes with a strong scent.

woman listening to music with headphones and smartphone sitting in a green forest leaning on a tree

For the ones who like to chill outside

6. Cinnamon - Cinnamon is spicy and sweet, warm and fruity, and a perfect antioxidant for your brain and your body. It is generally derived from the bark and leaves of trees, so it has a woody flavor. If going out helps lift your mood, then Cinnamon is the best fragrance for you. It increases attention, improves serotonin levels, has anti-insomnia benefits, and makes you happy.

7. Eucalyptus - It has a very distinct middle note that has a combination of mint, honey, and citrus elements. It has both a relaxing and relieving nature, with a fresh and clean aroma. Nothing fancy about it, but it works for your sleep. The best part is that you can mix it with a wide range of fragrance choices, like lemongrass, lemon, rosemary, lavender, cedarwood, and peppermint.

Hiking man in the forest

For the ones who like little adventures in the woods

8. Cedarwood - Mentioned in the Bible as the Cedar of Lebanon, Cedarwood is one of the oldest known aromatics, and it comes with a rich, ancient history. A few drops of Cedarwood essential oils in your surroundings can enhance your concentration while decreasing hyperactivity.

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Cedarwood's fragrance is emotionally grounding, so it is considered good for detoxifying negative emotions from the mind. With its woodsy smell around, you would feel as happy and calm inside your home as you feel outside, especially when you go for a contemplative walk in the woods.

9. Sandalwood - Like Cedar, the trees of Sandalwood are also one of the ancient trees mentioned in the scriptures. Mostly found in the regions of Southern India and parts of Australia, Sandalwood is one of the most expensive fragrances in the world due to its scarce availability. Sleep surveys indicate Sandalwood can help combat sleep issues, especially among those with cancer diagnoses. Sandalwood aroma can also be good for chronic hypertension patients, as it reduces blood pressure and improves the sleep-wake cycle. With its rich, woody, and earthy scent, it can calm down nerves, reduce nervousness, and be a good cure for one’s frequent depressive episodes.

10. Marjoram - Mild and sweet, Marjoram comes in minty and woody notes. It has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. In folklore and modern scientific research, Marjoram has come across as a familiar herb that is beneficial in cases of indigestion and irregular menstrual cycles. People often confuse its smell with Oregano. But one can identify Marjoram with its sweet smell and excellent expectorant properties. It combines well with Lavender and Rosemary.

What types of essential oils cannot be mixed together?

Peppermint and Lemon give off a bad odor, and Grapefruit and Lemon could cause irritation to those with sensitive skin. There are several such examples that would differ according to different people’s expectations. So how do you find out?

The thumb rule for blending essential oils is that the aroma and feel should be pleasant to your mind and skin. Try not to experiment with harsher, citric tones at the start. Instead, begin by creating a layered fragrance with top, middle, and base notes.

How fast do essential oils work?

Pretty fast, but only in layers if you are inhaling them. We will come to other usages later.

Let's first understand how the diffuser works with your choice of essential oils.

Top notes evaporate first. So here, you can choose lavender, lemongrass, and eucalyptus.

Middle notes linger, so choose a more comfortable and less intruding smell like jasmine or chamomile.

Base notes are what create the ambiance around you. Even when you are not around or have returned from an exhausting day at your office, this fragrance will greet you like a family member who's always around but never pushy. Cedarwood or Sandalwood could be your ideal choice for the base note.

But how do you know the exact amount of essential oils in your blend? For starters, every drop of a base note should be mixed with two drops of the middle note and three drops of the top note.

What essential oils should we avoid in general?

Camphor and Peppermint. Or, for that matter, oils that are more on the citrus side and those with strong fragrances. Although most of the essential oils are produced in such a way that they are potentially safe for adults, kids, and people with critical lung or skin conditions, you always need to check for allergies first.

Important note: You should always consider the advice of a healthcare professional and look for the comfort of those around you when using essential oils as perfumes.

How often should you use essential oils?

You should use it no more than 2-3 times a day. Even when you are diffusing it before sleep, a 30-minute session is good enough to calm you down, even if you are only keen on feeling fragrance. If you want to feel more moisture, then you should use a humidifier.

Do not go blasting essential oils all day around your place. Overexposure can disturb your sleep and might lead to a headache. So use wisely and in moderation.

What are the negative effects of essential oils?

Only using essential oils cannot fix your sleep. In fact, overdosing on the fragrances of essential oils for a long time can cause inflammation and asthmatic symptoms.

Exercise, healthy food, and less stress can help you sleep better. Remember, good smells only aid you in sleeping. Over-reliance on it can be reduced by taking it in small doses at fairly regular intervals. But before you go all ga-ga with these fragrances, check them for sensitivity.

How do I test my essential oils for sensitivity?

The best way to know your sensitivity is to go for a skin patch test. Just apply a few drops of any essential oil of your liking to your inner elbow. Paste a band-aid over the test area and wait. Now remove the band-aid after a while. If you see any signs of irritation, itchiness, or inflammation, then you need to be alert about the usage of that essential oil you applied to your skin.

Sometimes the allergic reaction is not immediate and can take days to appear. In that case, you will have to be conscious about the use and exposure to that particular essential oil or oil blend. Sneezing, headaches, and shortness of breath should prompt you to stop using it and consult a healthcare professional right away.

How do you use essential oil before sleep?

There are two recommended ways to use essential oils - You can inhale them or rub them on your skin (mostly your wrists).

A diffuser is better for slowly spreading essential oils around your place. Turn it on an hour before you call it a night. You can use a humidifier if you want to spread it around all the rooms of your place more vigorously.

Or, you can rub a few drops on your feet and hands. If your nose and chest feel congested, then you can rub a mix or blend of essential and carrier oils. The best ratio would be one drop of essential oil in a spoonful of carrier oil like coconut or olive oil.

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Essential oils are part of aromatherapy, which relies on your sense of smell. But the most important part is that essential oils need to be chosen based on your personality and body type. And every mix of essential oils could be unique in its own way. You can personalize it with individual fragrances and notes that are long-lasting. If used in the right ways, essential oils can supercharge your day and relax your nights. Pick your combinations and start experimenting.

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Disclaimer: What is said in this article has been referenced from multiple sources and is intended only for educational and informational purposes. Please note that no content in this article is a substitute for professional advice from a qualified doctor or healthcare provider. Always consult an experienced doctor with any concerns you may have regarding a health condition or treatment, and never disregard any medical suggestions or delay in seeking treatment because of something you read here.

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