It’s well-known that restful sleep is one of the best things we can do for our overall health and well-being. But too many of us aren’t getting the sleep we need; reports show that over a third of Americans aren’t getting the recommended hours of sleep every night (at least 7 hours).
The reasons for this are many. Some people can’t sleep because of stress and anxiety, while others may have chronic pain that keeps them up at night. But no matter what the reason, your mental health is bound to take a hit if you’re chronically sleep-deprived.
Some people may choose to take psychiatric medications to help them sleep, but that’s just one option. Essential oils can also help you sleep better and longer. Although we need more research, many studies conducted so far support the use of essential oils for sleep and mental health. In addition, essential oils are easy to find and usually come with little to no side effects.
Here, we’ll explain five of the most effective essential oils for sleep, and how you can use them to improve your overall mental health.
Four essential oils for sleep
Getting enough restful sleep every night is essential to your health. Essential oils are one way you can relax your body and help yourself fall asleep.
Although the research on essential oils and sleep is still limited, there are some essential oils with promising evidence supporting their use for better sleep. Here are four of the best ones.
Lavender essential oil
Lavender essential oil has been used for generations to help people relax. And there are scientific studies that support lavender’s calming properties. Lavender essential oil also has sedative effects, which may help you get to sleep faster.
One review published in 2019 found evidence that lavender essential oil can improve the length and quality of your sleep. A randomized control trial from 2020 also found that aromatherapy with lavender essential oil helped people with major depressive disorder improve their sleep quality. Another randomized control trial found that lavender essential oil significantly improved sleep quality for postpartum women.
On top of its benefits for sleep, lavender essential oil may also:
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Decrease systolic blood pressure
- Reduce inflammation
- Reduce pain
- Protect against bacteria
- Help in the treatment of scars and burns
- Improve brain function
Since lavender may also have a positive effect on symptoms of depression and anxiety, it could promote sleep in this way, too. Both anxiety and depression can prevent you from getting quality sleep.
Chamomile essential oil
You may have had a cup of chamomile herbal tea to calm your nerves. The sleep-promoting effects of chamomile tea have been well documented.
Chamomile essential oil, which is derived from the same group of plants, has also been found to have relaxing properties that could help with sleep.
We need more thorough research to be able to definitively say that chamomile essential oil can help you sleep. One study found that aromatherapy, using a combination of chamomile, lavender, and neroli essential oils, reduced anxiety and improved sleep.
Keep in mind that there are two types of chamomile plants: Roman chamomile and German chamomile. Roman chamomile is the type that has been used for relaxation and stress relief. In another review, chamomile essential oil (along with other types of essential oils) calmed anxiety.
This essential oil may be a good choice for you if your inability to sleep is due to anxiety.
Jasmine essential oil
Jasmine is a family of shrubs and vines that has small, usually white flowers. Jasmine essential oil is made of this very fragrant flower. Jasmine is a common scent in cosmetics and perfumes, but it also has several mental health benefits as well.
One study found that jasmine essential oil had a sedative effect (including decreasing heart rate), which can help people to relax and fall asleep. Another review reported that a randomized control trial using jasmine essential oil helped people improve their sleep quality.
However, other studies have found that jasmine essential oil has an energizing effect which helps relieve symptoms of depression. As with any essential oil, try it out and be mindful of how the scent affects you. If depression is behind your sleep problems, this could be a big benefit.
Cedarwood essential oil
Cedarwood essential oil has a woodsy scent because it is derived from the bark of the cedar tree. This could be a good option for people who don’t enjoy floral scents like lavender or jasmine.
Cedarwood essential oil contains a compound called cedrol, which has been documented to have sedative properties. For example, one Japanese study found that cedrol helped improve sleep quality for older adults with dementia.
Older studies have also found beneficial effects of cedrol for relaxation for younger people. In one study, cedrol activated the parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for the relaxation response) for groups of middle-aged women across three different countries.
For the biggest benefit, try to use cedarwood essential oil for at least 20 nights, which is the amount of time the researchers studied its effects in the previous study.
How to use essential oils for sleep
To see a benefit from using essential oils, use them consistently. Using essential oils one night may not make a big difference, but you may start to see improvements in your sleep after using them consistently over a period of time.
The most common, and safest, way to use essential oils for sleep is by using a diffuser. An essential oil diffuser is any device that breaks down essential oils and diffuses the aroma into the air. For example, some simple diffusers work by heating the essential oil with a small candle. Other electronic diffusers nebulize or evaporate the essential oils into the air.
To use a diffuser, simply add a few drops of the essential oil you’ve chosen. Due to the popularity of essential oils, diffusers are easy to find and purchase.
Some people use essential oils topically, by applying them on certain areas of the skin (like your wrists or palms). Keep in mind, however, that essential oils are not regulated by the FDA. Some people also have allergies to certain essential oils.
If you choose to use essential oils topically, do a patch test first to make sure you’re not allergic before applying them to large areas of your body. If you’re prone to allergies or skin reactions, it may be a good idea to speak with your doctor first.
You should never ingest essential oils, as this can cause uncomfortable reactions.
Start your aromatherapy routine around half an hour before your bedtime. Diffuse or apply the essential oils and allow the aroma to lull you to sleep. Many people choose to use a combination of different essential oils to help them sleep, and research supports this.
Other ways to improve your sleep
Essential oils may be one effective way to get more restful sleep, but there are also other habits that are important to implement. These are called sleep hygiene habits, and practicing them can make it much more likely to get restful sleep every night.
Some of the most helpful sleep hygiene habits you should try to implement include:
- Make your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary. It should be kept dark, quiet, and cool (but not too cold). In addition, reserve your bed for only sleep and sex; avoid doing other activities like scrolling social media or catching up on work.
- Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, including on weekends. This will train your body to know when it’s time to start getting ready for bed.
- Create a calming bedtime routine. Essential oils and aromatherapy can be part of this routine.
- If you find yourself tossing and turning without being able to sleep for over 15 minutes, get out of bed. Find a calming or boring activity to do outside of your bedroom, and try to sleep again after 5 or 10 minutes.
- Avoid electronic screens for around an hour before starting your bedtime routine.
- Get plenty of exercise during the day, but don’t exercise too close to bedtime.
- Address underlying mental health issues, like anxiety, when necessary.
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If you’re struggling to get restful sleep, then this is bound to affect your overall mental health. Whether trouble sleeping is the cause of your mental health challenges or because of them, our clinical team at The Center can help.
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