Do Essential Oils Promote Good Sleep?

The right aroma may help you drift off faster. Discover how certain scents can make sense at bedtime.

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation

The power of smell is an increasingly popular area of research as scientists study ways in which certain scents can connect a person with various memories from childhood, and how particular aromas can evoke a range of emotional and physical responses.

Some of these scents can be found in essential oils, concentrated formulations of aromatic plant compounds that are growing in popularity, as more people look for natural remedies to ease the mind, aid relaxation, and even soothe pain. In fact, essential oil-based aromatherapy is now used by some hospitals as a supplement to traditional medical care to help manage post-operative discomfort after surgery, and in other cases it is used to promote better sleep at night.

Essential oils come in a wide variety of scents including lemon, peppermint, rosemary, sandalwood, and tea tree. To create these oils, the leaves, seeds, and roots of each ingredient are processed to release the strongest extracts. The resulting oil is then added to lotions, candles, sachets, and other home and bath products.

Some essential oils act as invigorators to boost a person’s energy level; others such as lavender, vanilla, and jasmine have been shown to reduce anxiety, stabilize blood pressure, and improve overall sleep quality. They are frequently used in an aroma diffuser, but can also be experienced by placing a drop or two on bed sheets or spritzing onto a small cloth that is then placed under the pillow on the bed.

Interestingly, while one essential oil can be beneficial to sleep, a combination of several oils may be even better: a blend of multiple essential oils (clary sage, lavender, and marjoram) was found to be more effective at improving sleep quality than lavender oil alone.

Along with the essential oils believed to directly impact sleep, several other oils, such as Mexican bay leaf and the desert plant Cistanche tubulosa, may have mood-enhancing effects, indirectly improving sleep by decreasing feelings of depression.

While there is no guarantee that using essential oils will get you to sleep through the night, there’s little downside to trying them. At the very least, your bedroom will smell delightful.