Essential Oils for Sleep & Relaxation

Author: Jillian Foster   Date Posted:20 February 2019 

The use of essential oils in everyday life is gaining more and more popularity. If you are new to aromatherapy it can be a little bewildering knowing which oils are used in different ways. Here we look at our top oils for sleep and relaxation and the different ways you can use them.



Lavender oil has long been a favourite for its calming properties. Research has now shown that lavender essential oil can significantly improve sleep quality. By adding a few drops of lavender oil to your pillow every evening before bed you can drift off to dreamland and get a good night’s sleep.[i] [ii]

In addition to improving sleep quality, lavender can also help reduce mild anxiety levels. Inhalation of lavender essential oil daily for 15 days has been shown to reduce levels of mild anxiety.[iii] One study showed the use of lavender oil fragrance at a dental reception effectively reduced patients’ state of anxiety.[iv]  Pop some oils in your bag and take a sniff when feeling anxious or overwhelmed throughout the day and remember to take them to your next visit to the dentist.



A warm, woody scent that is both grounding and calming. Cedrol, the component of cedarwood that gives it its smell, produces a sedative effect and may be effective in managing stress.[v] Various studies have been conducted in different countries with similar results of sleep inducing effects. [vi]



Described as a mix of citrus and floral aromas, Neroli is often combined with other essential oils in aromatherapy sleep formulas; it has been shown to aid sleep quality and nervous unrest.[vii] One study conducted in post-menopausal women showed it was beneficial in improving their quality of life related to menopausal symptoms including reducing stress levels.[viii]




Many of us are aware of chamomile flowers as a tea for calming the nerves and helping us settle off to sleep; well chamomile essential oil also exhibits the same benefits. An active component of chamomile oil called apigenin binds to GABA receptors and has a mild sedative effect. Bisabolol, another active substance present, works on relieving muscle spasms which can help reduce nervous tension.[ix]


Pink grapefruit

The fresh smell of grapefruit oil can be soothing and is known to relieve stress and bring on feelings of peace and relaxation. A Japanese study found the inhalation of grapefruit oil in conjunction with other oils, improved mood and reduced stressful feelings due to its effect on the sympathetic nervous system influencing brain activity in healthy adults. [x]



This oil has a deeply calming action and is used most often for emotional balance. The delicate and light scent can have a calming effect on the mind making it great for emotional stress and for helping induce sleep.


Ways to use essential oils for sleep and relaxation:

There are multiple ways you can use essential oils in your home and on yourself for sleep and relaxation.

  • Add them to a diffuser and inhale the aroma
  • Place a couple of drops of essential oil on your pillow to inhale throughout the night whilst you sleep
  • Add a few drops of essential oil to a bath and soak in it
  • Make a mist with essential oil and water and spray as needed
  • Mix the essential oil with a carrier oil such as jojoba oil and apply to your wrists, temples or the soles of your feet
  • Combine a few drops of essential oil to a carrier oil and get someone to give you a massage
  • Add a few drops of essential oil to a cotton ball and place on your bedside table


We recommend patch testing essential oils before use and discontinuing if sensitivity occurs. Avoid eye area. If pregnant consult your doctor before use. Do not ingest essential oils. Keep out of reach of children and pets.


[i] Karadag E, Samancioglu S, Ozden D, Bakir E. (2017). Effects of aromatherapy on sleep quality and anxiety of patients. Nurs Crit Care. 2017 Mar;22(2):105-112. doi: 10.1111/nicc.12198. <Sponsor unknown>

[ii] Faydalı S, Çetinkaya F. (2018). The effect of aromatherapy on sleep quality of elderly people residing in a nursing home. Holist Nurs Pract. 2018 Jan/Feb;32(1):8-16. doi: 10.1097/HNP.0000000000000244. <Sponsor unknown>

[iii] Karadag E, Samancioglu S, Ozden D, Bakir E. (2017). Effects of aromatherapy on sleep quality and anxiety of patients. Nurs Crit Care. 2017 Mar;22(2):105-112. doi: 10.1111/nicc.12198. <Sponsor unknown>

[iv] Zabirunnisa, M., Gadagi, J. S., Gadde, P., Myla, N., Koneru, J., & Thatimatla, C. (2014). Dental patient anxiety: Possible deal with Lavender fragrance. Journal of Research in Pharmacy Practice, 3(3), 100–103. . <Sponsor unknown>

[v] Sadachi H. Nagashima Y. et. al. 2007. Effects of Cedrol on the Autonomic Nervous System and Survey of Sleep and Stress in USA. J Jpn Cosmetic Sci Vol.31, No.3, pp. 148-152 (2007) <Sponsor unknown>

[vi] Yada Y. Sadachi H. Nagashima Y. Suzuki T. 2007.  Overseas Survey of the Effect of Cedrol on the Autonomic Nervous System in Three Countries. J. Physiological Anthropology 26 (2007) 3. <Sponsor unknown>

[vii] Dyer J. Cleary L. et al. 2016. The use of armoasticks to help with sleep problems: A patient experience survey. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice Vol. 22, February 2016, pp. 51-58 <Sponsor unknown>

[viii] Choi, Seo Yeon, Purum Kang, Hui Su Lee, and Geun Hee Seol. 2014. Effects of inhalation of essential oil of Citrus aurantium L. var. amara on menopausal symptoms, stress, and estrogen in postmenopausal women: a randomized controlled trial. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2014. Sponsored by Korean government and Institute of Nursing Research, Korea University Grant

[ix] Sharafzadeh S. Alizadeh O. 2011. German and Roman Chamomile. J. Applied Pharm Sci 01 (10);2011:01-05 <Sponsor unknown>

[x] Haze S. Sakai K. Gozu Y. 2002. Effects of fragrance inhalation on sympathetic activity in normal adults. Jpn. J. Pharmacol. 90, 247-253 (2002). Sponsored by Shiseido Co., Ltd..


Written by Jillian Foster

Jillian (BHSc Naturopathy) is a qualified naturopath who believes through a healthy and balanced diet and lifestyle, we have the power to influence our health and the health of future generations. With a passion for herbal medicine, Jillian loves helping people find the right solution for their health needs and educating people on how they can lead a healthy and happy life. 

Jillian enjoys keeping active with her two young children and baking them delicious and healthy treats.

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