Essential Oils

If you’re reading this and live in an area that would be considered “modern” or “industrial,” there’s a 70% chance that you don’t get the sleep that you need every night. In America alone, an estimated 50 – 70 million people suffer from sleep disorders or sleep deprivation and we literally have an epidemic on our hands! What if I told you that using the best essential oils for sleep could help reverse this trend?

Would you believe me?

There’s a lot that we can say about the research data out there, but it cannot be stressed enough that pharmaceutical sleep aids are not the answer.  People across the globe have traditionally used natural remedies like essential oils for sleep, and we need to get back to our roots before sleep disorders ruin everyone's health!

In this article you will learn:

  1. Sleep Disorder Epidemic
  2. The Great Coffee Dilemma  
  3. The Medical Approach for Sleep Disorders  
  4. How Essential Oils Can Help
  5. What is the Best Essential Oil for Sleep?
  6. A Note About Anxiety
  7. The Best Essential Oils for Sleep  
  8. Other Natural Tips to Promote Good Sleep

Sleep Disorder Epidemic

Before we dive into how to use the best essential oils for sleep, we need to understand why so many people struggle getting rest at night.

Ever since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published their landmark study in 2013, it has become glaringly obvious that we have a sleep disorder epidemic on our hands that has significant ramifications on our health. (1) At first glance, it may be easy to dismiss sleep deprivation as something that only causes us to be “groggy” or feel tired. Nothing could be further from the truth! Sleep literally affects every aspect of the abundant life and not getting the necessary amount every night can absolutely cripple us physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and professionally.

Some of the more common problems related to not getting enough sleep are:

  • Trouble concentrating
  • Decreased judgment
  • Increased irritability
  • Difficulty in performing daily activities
  • Hemostatic and nerve function and dysfunction
  • Mood imbalance
  • Caffeine and drug addiction
  • And much more!

The effects of moderate sleep disturbances don't just affect insomniacs, but can be similar to actual “sleep deprivation” on life and health quality.

Essential Oils Starter Kit

The Great Coffee Dilemma

For most people, a cup of coffee in the morning and mid-afternoon keep them going relatively strong during their workday, but this isn't sustainable. As nutritionist and hormone expert Magdalena Wszelaki points out, there are several side effects to consider before making coffee a daily habit. “If you are suffering from thyroid issues, Hashimoto’s, adrenal fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, hot flashes or hormone-related conditions,” Wszelaki states, “it’s important to be fully aware of the ‘other side of coffee' and make an educated decision whether it is good for you.”

Some of the lesser-known facts about coffee:

  1. Increases blood sugar levels
  2. Creates sugar and carbohydrate cravings
  3. Contributes to acid reflux and damages gut lining
  4. Exhausts the adrenals
  5. Worsens PMS and lumpy breasts
  6. Gluten-cross reactive food
  7. Impacts the conversion of thyroid hormones
  8. Increases the risk of miscarriages
  9. Highly inflammatory
  10. Contributes to poor bone health and osteoporosis
  11. Can cause insomnia and poor sleep

Coffee is never the answer to fatigue, and simply inhaling peppermint for an energy boost during that mid-day crash at work can help you break the coffee habit; which why I recommend preventative ways to using essential oils for sleep.

The Medical Approach for Sleep Disorders

When caffeine doesn't work, many people suffering from sleep disorders resort to over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids. Unfortunately, more patients than ever with sleep disorders are being prescribed sedative-hypnotic drugs like benzodiazepine, which were originally designed to reduce anxiety, to help them sleep.

Data published in the British Medical Journal states, “An estimated 6%–10% of US adults took a hypnotic drug for poor sleep.” (2) That is a ton of people, especially considering the side effects!

Hypnotic use has been associated with a 35% increase in developing cancer, and patients receiving hypnotics are more than 4 times likely to die than people who are not on the drugs. It appears that the dosage plays a key role, but “even patients prescribed fewer than 18 hypnotic doses per year experienced increased mortality, with greater mortality associated with greater dosage prescribed.” (3)

In addition to the increased cancer risk, the problem with prescribing sedative-hypnotic drugs like benzodiazepine is two-fold: benzodiazepines are highly addictive and interact with neurotransmitters like GABA.

It is interesting to note that benzodiazepines are rarely the sole drug of abuse, because people usually combine them with other drugs to increase the effect. It is highly common for drug abusers to add in pain killers like opioids to boost the euphoric effects. Among them, Valium and Xanax are most popular.

If you or a loved one are currently taking benzodiazepines, note that they don’t seem to be addictive within the first few months of use, nor does tolerance or difficulties in stopping the medication settle in. However, after several months of regular use, you’re likelihood to develop addiction, tolerance and withdrawal symptoms significantly.

How The Best Essential Oils for Sleep Can Help

Essential oils are transdermal (meaning they penetrate the skin) and work on the body’s physiology in a variety of ways. This means that you can affect your body’s biochemistry when applying them topically in a similar way as when taking them internally or inhaling them via diffusion.

As research suggests, topical application may actually be one of the most effective methods for people with sleep disorders as the chemical components of lavender have been shown to enter the blood stream within 5 minutes of massaging the oil on the skin. (4) The calming and relaxing effects of lavender essential oil have a one-two punch when applied topically because of the direct benefit on the brain when the volatile organic compounds are inhaled and through the skin! (4)

The 1992 study that proved this, also uncovered that maximum concentration levels were observed within 20 minutes. Don't worry, it's not like the sedative properties last forever.  Within 90 minutes most of the lavender was eliminated.

Essential Oils for Sleep to the Rescue!

Unlike common sleep aids and benzodiazepines, there are virtually no side effects when people use essential oils for sleeping. In the words of a 2014 systematic review of the literature, “A majority of the study findings suggested a positive effect of essential oils for sleep. Lavender was the most frequently studied essential oil. No adverse events were reported.” (5)

In fact, oils can possibly help get people off of drugs!

Since a clinical study dating back to 1995, for example, we have known that sleep duration significantly decreases in older patients who are dependent on benzodiazepines. However, once lavender essential oil aromatherapy was introduced into their lives, their sleep quality and duration can be restored to previous levels, in spite of not being on the drugs. According to the researchers who conducted this landmark research, “This study suggested that ambient lavender oil might be used as a temporary relief from continued medication for insomnia and reduces the side-effects of these drugs.” (67)

Note of caution, be sure to never take yourself off of benzodiazepines without medical guidance because the side effects can be quite severe.

What is The Best Essential Oil for Sleeping?

Does this mean that lavender is the best essential oil for sleep? Before we jump to premature conclusions, let’s keep these facts in mind from the 2014 review of the literature I mentioned above:

  • Lavender is the most frequently studied essential oil in research trials.
  • One of the few other oils evaluated for sedative purposes is Baccharis uncinella, which is used by the Laklaño Indians in Santa Catarina, Brazil. (8)
  • Lavender and Baccharis uncinella are not the only essential oils for sleep. Though, until we have more research at our disposal, we’re limited to reading anecdotal testimonials online about other oils.
  • “No adverse effects” were uncovered by the University of Minnesota when they evaluated 15 studies (11 of which were randomized controlled trials) that examined hypnotic effects of essential oil inhalation in the scientific literature to date.

With that said, tucked away in the collection of lavender-sleep studies are golden nuggets suggesting that other oils can also have a profound effect on sleep quality

In 2013, for example, the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine published an article that evaluated the effects that aromatherapy had on anxiety, sleep quality and vital signs within an intensive care unit (ICU) patient population. (9) The researchers blended lavender, roman chamomile, and neroli with a 6 : 2 : 0.5 ratio and discovered that this aromatherapy (AT) strategy  “significantly” lowered anxiety and improved sleep quality compared with conventional nursing intervention. Interestingly, blood pressure was also lower in the AT group. This should give hope to people with cardiovascular disease-related insomnia as the connection between the two is well-established in the literature. (10)

More recently, the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine published a systematic review reporting that these oils are also superbly effective at helping people's insomnia: (11)

  • Angelica archangelica rad. (angelica)
  • Cananga odorata (ylang ylang)
  • Chamaemelum nobile (Roman chamomile)
  • Citrus aurantium var. amara (neroli bigarade)
  • Cistus ladaniferus (labdanum)
  • Citrus bergamia (bergamot)
  • C. limon (lemon)
  • Citrus reticulata (mandarin)
  • Citrus sinensis (sweet orange)
  • Cuminum cyminum (cumin)
  • Juniperus communis fruct. (juniper berry)
  • Lavandula angustifolia (lavender)
  • Litsea cubeba (may chang)
  • Melissa officinalis (lemon balm)
  • Myrtus communis (myrtle)
  • Ocimum basilicum (basil)
  • Origanum majorana (sweet marjoram)
  • Ravensara aromatica (ravensara)
  • Thymus vulgaris ct. geraniol, ct. linalool (sweet thyme)
  • Valeriana officinalis (valerian)

Best Essential Oils for Sleep

A Note About Anxiety

It is important to point out that anxiety is not only a primary cause of sleep disorders, it's also a side effect. Meaning, that anxiety can cause sleep deprivation and sleep deprivation can cause anxiety, thus creating a viscous cycle that is challenging to stop. (12)

The research about anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) essential oils is much more robust than sleep studies and we see that the systematic reviews of the literature suggests that these oils are the most potent in managing anxiety: (13)

  • Angelica archangelica rad. (angelica)
  • Cistus ladaniferus (labdanum)
  • Citrus aurantium var. amara fol. (petitgrain bigarade)
  • Citrus aurantium var. amara per. (orange bigarade)
  • Citrus bergamia (bergamot)
  • Citrus sinensis (sweet orange)
  • Cymbopogon martinii (palmarosa)
  • Eucalyptus staigeriana (lemon-scented ironbark)
  • Lavandula angustifolia (lavender)
  • Litsea cubeba (may chang)
  • Ocimum basilicum (basil)
  • Origanum majorana (sweet marjoram)
  • Pelargonium graveolens (geranium)
  • Pogostemon patchouli (patchouli)
  • Valeriana officinalis (valerian)

There are other studies suggesting that these oils also have significant calming effects: clary sage, lemon, roman chamomile, rose, rose-scented geranium, sandalwood and ylang ylang. (14, 15)

Inhalation and topical application of these oils during a panic attack or during stressful times can help considerably!

Using Essential Oils for Sleep

As we've seen, most of the research discussed focuses on topical and inhalation benefits of using essential oils to calm the mind, body and to help people sleep better. Primarily lavender is the case study, but other oils can surely be of help.

Keep in mind that everyone's biochemistry is different and what works for me may not work for you. It is critical for you to follow your intuition and listen to your body. Essentially, any oil that helps calm the mind and body will help reduce sleep disturbances. Same with other anti-stress techniques like prayer, meditation, Tai Chi, exercise and well-balanced nutrition. When you find something that “works,” stick with it and then try to switch things up periodically.

Diffusion – the easiest and arguably the most effective approach is to put a few drops of any of these oils above (or a homemade) blend) in your diffuser before you go to bed. Some nice diffuser blends you might want to try are:

  • 2 drops ylang ylang, 1 drop bergamot, 1 drop lavender, 1 drop sweet marjoram, 1 drop roman chamomile and 1 drop valerian
  • 2 drops lavender, 1 drop clary sage, 1 drop of ylang ylang and 1 drop vanilla
  • 2 drops geranium, 1 drop sweet marjoram, 1 drop of patchouli and 1 drop sweet orange
  • 2 drops roman chamomile, 1 drop rose and 1 drop palmarosa

Topical – another effective strategy is to simply apply these key oils over certain parts of the body – particularly the trigger points – like the bottoms of the feet, on the wrists, behind the knees and behind the ears on the mastoid bone or on the back on the neck.

Be sure to use with a good carrier oil, and create a 2-3% dilution that is considered safe by most experts:

  • 1% dilution: 6 drops of EO per oz of carrier oil (1% of 600 drops is 6)
  • 2% dilution: 12 drops of EO per oz of carrier oil (2% of 600 drops is 12)
  • 3% dilution: 18 drops of EO per oz of carrier oil (3% of 600 drops is 18)

If you are more comfortable working with tablespoons, 1 oz. = 2 tablespoons and there are 300 drops of EO in a tablespoon.

  • 1% dilution: 3 drops of EO per tablespoon of carrier oil (1% of 300 drops is 3)
  • 2% dilution: 6 drops of EO per tablespoon of carrier oil (2% of 300 drops is 6)
  • 3% dilution: 9 drops of EO per tablespoon of carrier oil (3% of 300 drops is 9)

Misting Spray – another nifty trick is to make a DIY Sleep Spray. Using some of the same oils above, simply

  1. Add 20 drops of essential oil into a glass spray bottle.
  2. Fill the remaining 4oz bottle with water.
  3. Shake well.
  4. Mist your pillow before bedtime to help aid sleep and provide a restful night.

Other DIY Hacks – try making your favorite DIY recipes with these sleepy time essential oils. It's a great way to calm the body and the mind. Here are some recipes for you – but remember, just use the oils and blends above to give you the desired calming result:

Other Natural Tips to Promote Good Sleep

Ask any chiropractor and they will tell you that sleep position is as important as all the other factors we've discussed. If your body is not in a truly “restful,” relaxed posture, your sleep will definitely be dampened and you'll end up with a kink in your neck or back. According to chiropractor Dr. David Jockers, here are some key dos and don'ts:

  • Sleeping facedown requires an individual to have their head turned to the side.
  • Sleeping face up with a large pillow underneath your head will cause a hyper flexion and protraction of the neck.
  • One of the best positions is sleeping on your back with a specific posture pillow customized to help improve the cervical curve.
  • Another great sleeping posture is lying on your side in a fetal-like position with hips and knees flexed about 45 degrees.
  • It is important to have pillow support under the neck to keep the head level and face in a neutral position. 
  • Also, it is critical to have a pillow between the knees which assists the body in keeping proper pelvic integrity.

There are a lot of other tips out there in addition to using the best essential oils for sleep and optimizing your sleep posture. I have found these 9 Ways To Hack Your Sleep For Optimal Health And Rest published by pharmacist Dr. Izabella Wentz to be especially helpful:

  1. Track your sleep quality – using an app like SleepCycle will help you keep a good diary, which will give you the tips you need to truly hack your sleep!
  2. Wake up at the top of a sleep cycle – the difference between waking up groggy and being refreshed can simply be a matter of changing up WHEN you get up.  Wake up from a deep sleep and you'll feel crummy, wake up on the top of your sleep cycle and you'll feel great. The SleepCycle app can act as an alarm clock and you wake you up at the right time for your internal clock!
  3. Fill up with fat at dinner – good healthy fats are long-burning fuel sources that help you sleep through the night and fuel your brain. Grass-fed butter, coconut oil and MCT oil are great choices.
  4. Prime with protein – during the night, our muscles relax, repair and need protein to regenerate. It is key to consume healthy, easy to digest proteins for dinner to help this process along.
  5. Turn down the lights – sleeping in the absolute dark is best. Unlike our ancestors who lived by the yellow and orange light provided by the moon and stars and fire, we are inundated with bright blue light all around us. Blue light sources are the sun (designed by God to keep us awake and alert), TVs, cell phones and other electronic devices. Ever notice how looking at your phone or watching TV at night makes your eyes pop wide open and gives you a jolt of energy? Softer lights (like yellow and orange) on the color spectrum help us relax and get us ready for sleep. Use apps like f.Lux for your computer that automatically change the blue screen to orange as the sun sets, dim your cell phone brightness and try to keep the house as dark as possible at night.
  6. Don’t exercise near bedtime – highly energizing, it's best not to exercise right before bed, unless you're enjoying some relaxing yoga or breathing exercises, etc.
  7. Don’t drink coffee past the afternoon – according to the sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus, “It can take as much as 8 hours for the caffeine in a single cup of coffee to leave your system.” So, it's a good idea to be caffeine-free by 2 p.m. to protect your ability to fall asleep.
  8. Go to bed before your second wind – it has been said that 1 hour of sleep between the hours of 10:00 pm and 2:00 am has the same effect on your body as 2 hours of sleep after 2:00 am because of our natural circadian rhythm. This seems logical as most people become naturally tired around 10:00 pm or so. What's the risk of staying up late? If you choose to stay awake past this time, you will often experience a cortisol-driven “second wind.” Our body regulates hormones around midnight and people will find themselves up until 2:00 am or so unless they get to bed earlier.
  9. Bring down your stress – as we've seen above, stress, anxiety and sleep disorders go hand in hand. Focusing on mental and emotional balancing strategies like prayer, meditation, Tai Chi and deep breathing are key to getting a good night's sleep.

Safety & Drug Interactions

Are you sure you're using essential oils safely and effectively? Are you confused by dilutions and conversions? 

Let me help you by taking out the guesswork. Download my FREE dilution chart guide HERE!

When it comes to drug interactions and contraindications, there are literally textbooks devoted to the study of essential oil safety and, as a trained researcher and doctor, I think it’s important to note that there is virtually no research out there discussing how essential oils interact with drugs in long-term human clinical trials. This means that essential oil safety is still a wild frontier in the science community and no one really knows (for certain) how essential oils will interact with drugs or your body.

Nonetheless, properly diluting your essential oils is fundamental to safety and effectiveness because they are highly concentrated plant compounds. To help you along your journey, I have a created an easy-to-use dilution guide that you can download for FREE to make sure that all of your topical applications are safe and effective for the entire family. 

CLICK HERE to download my free Essential Oils Dilution Chart! 

As with as medicine and natural therapies, this is only a guide and be sure to discontinue use if any adverse reactions occur and consult your physician immediately.


Essential Oil Dilution Chart