The Essential Oils Proven to Improve Sleep (and How to Use Them)

Martin Reed | April 18, 2017

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Aromatherapy oils for sleep

In 2015, a systematic literature review and meta-analysis found that aromatherapy is an effective method for promoting sleep. Here are seven essential oils that can help you sleep, as well as instructions for how to use them:

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Lavender

Lavender helps to alleviate insomnia symptoms and to reduce anxiety. In fact, one study concluded that a lavender oil supplement is just as effective at alleviating general anxiety as one-half milligram of lorazepam.

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Bergamot

Bergamot is an essential oil produced from the rind of the bergamot orange. It has a light orange fragrance with floral undertones. A 2015 study found that bergamot helped reduce anxiety and stress.

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Ylang ylang

Ylang ylang is extracted from the flowers of the Indonesian cananga tree. Researchers found that this oil’s sweet floral aroma promoted calmness and relaxation and may relieve symptoms of stress and depression. Ylang ylang should be avoided while pregnant.

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Sweet orange

Sweet orange comes from the sweet orange group that includes blood oranges and navel oranges. This essential oil is extracted from the peel of the fruit and has been found to reduce anxiety.

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Clary sage

Clary sage is an essential oil obtained from the leaf and flower of the clary sage plant. It has a musky, bittersweet floral aroma. A 2015 study found that inhalation of clary sage oil had an antidepressant-like effect. Clary sage should be avoided while pregnant.

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Patchouli

Patchouli is an earthy, spicy essential oil that smells slightly smoky. It is derived from the leaves of the patchouli herb, which is part of the mint family. A preliminary study published in the Journal of Natural Medicines found that patchouli oil has a sedative effect and may help promote sleep.

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Roman chamomile

Roman chamomile, an essential oil extracted from chamomile’s daisy-like flowers, has a rich, sweet, apple-like aroma. One study found that inhaling Roman chamomile increases drowsiness and promotes calmness. However, this oil can also be an irritant if applied directly to the skin.

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Applying essential oil to the skin

Before you use essential oils, make sure that you dilute them first. To apply topically, mix a few drops of essential oil with a carrier oil, such as almond oil. Perform a small patch test before applying the mixture to a larger area of your body.

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Diffusing essential oil

One of the best ways to enjoy essential oil as a sleep aid is to use a dedicated diffuser. However, you can also add a few drops of essential oil to a cotton ball and place it next to your pillow, or add a few drops into a water spray bottle and then spritz your sheets with the mixture.