We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission Here’s our process.
Healthline only shows you brands and products that we stand behind.Our team thoroughly researches and evaluates the recommendations we make on our site. To establish that the product manufacturers addressed safety and efficacy standards, we:
- Evaluate ingredients and composition: Do they have the potential to cause harm?
- Fact-check all health claims: Do they align with the current body of scientific evidence?
- Assess the brand: Does it operate with integrity and adhere to industry best practices?
- Lavender: Eden Botanicals High Elevation Lavender Essential Oil
- Chamomile: Eden Botanicals Roman Chamomile Essential Oil
- Bergamot: Vitruvi Bergamot Essential Oil
- Cedarwood: Eden Botanicals Virginia Cedarwood Essential Oil
- Valerian: Mountain Rose Herbs Valerian Essential Oil
- Ylang ylang: Vitruvi Ylang Ylang Essential Oil
- Eucalyptus: Cliganic USDA Organic Eucalyptus Essential Oil
- Peppermint: NOW Foods Peppermint Oil
Essential oils have a wide range of uses. Many people swear by the benefits of these concentrated plant extracts for anxiety and stress relief, improved mood and concentration, pain relief, clearer skin, and more. People also commonly use essential oil compounds to promote relaxation and sleep.
You may not be conscious of it, but sleep is one of the most important ways you spend your time. Without enough quality sleep, your brain and body don’t get the time they need to rest, recover, and prepare for the day to come.
If you experience insomnia or find yourself regularly lying awake for other reasons, you’ll eventually start to notice some effects of sleep deprivation. Over time, sleep loss can have a serious impact on your health.
Not everyone finds essential oils helpful. Still, people who prefer to avoid over-the-counter sleep aids often find that aromatherapy, or the therapeutic use of these compounds, offers a natural way to improve sleep.
Read on to learn more about essential oils known to benefit sleep and relaxation and get tips on using them safely and effectively.
Essential oils are derived from various parts of plants. Since many plants produce them, the vast array of available options can leave you somewhat overwhelmed.
If you’ve already started looking into aromatherapy, you might have noticed that certain oils appear to have several uses. How do you know which is right for you?
Certain oils might have a slightly different effect from person to person, but for the purposes of this article, we focused on essential oils generally recognized to promote relaxation and sleep. Here’s how we narrowed down the options:
- Essential oil type: We included essential oils known to have benefits for relaxation and sleep.
- Expert interviews and research: We reviewed scientific evidence to get more insight into whether these essential oils have proven benefits for sleep. We also talked to Jo Sahlin, a licensed massage therapist in Olympia, Washington, who has experience in aromatherapy.
- Availability: We included essential oils available to purchase online from trusted retailers.
- Quality and transparency: Reputable brands that sell quality oils should offer a certificate of analysis (COA) or safety data sheet, on their website or upon request. We listed essential oils from brands that provide this documentation.
Prices for essential oils can range widely, depending on the oil itself, its quality, and where you make your purchase. Oils are generally sold by milliliters in small bottles. They’re highly concentrated, so you only need a few drops.
We’ve given prices for the oils we recommended, broken down as follows:
- $ = under $10
- $$ = $10–$20
- $$$ = over $20
- Price: $$
- Bottle size: 15 mL
- Main uses: relaxation, calm, and anxiety relief
The benefits of lavender, in plant or oil form, are widely recognized. This herb is often included in perfumes, soaps, lotions, and even teas, so there’s a good chance you’ve encountered it before. Many people enjoy its floral fragrance, and the appealing scent alone can help the relaxation response take effect, Sahlin explains.
Lavender essential oil can also help ease anxiety, promote relaxation, and calm the mind before bed. Several scientific studies have explored the use of linalool, the main component in lavender, for anxiety relief and sleep:
2015 studyof 79 college students found that lavender aromatherapy and healthy sleep habits improved sleep quality. The researchers say that lavender and healthy sleep habits are safe and effective first treatment choices for sleep issues.
small 2017 studyfound evidence to suggest that several essential oils, including lavender, appeared to help improve sleep and reduce early morning awakening in older adults with dementia.
- According to another
2017 study, lavender essential oil helped relieve anxiety and improve sleep quality in intensive care patients with heart disease.
If you’d like to give lavender essential oil a try, we recommend this lavender oil from Eden Botanicals. Reviewers describe it as fragrant and pure. Even if you sometimes find the scent of lavender a bit harsh, this particular oil might still work for you. Some reviewers who say they often find blends of lavender too intense call this one natural, sweet, and crisp.
- Price: $$
- Bottle size: 5 mL
- Main uses: sleep, anxiety relief, and pain relief
Getting a good night’s sleep can prove difficult when you have a hard time relaxing and setting aside the day’s worries. But if you’ve ever drifted off after a soothing cup of chamomile tea, you might already have some firsthand knowledge of chamomile’s benefits for relaxation and drowsiness.
Sahlin explains that you’ll encounter two different varieties: German and Roman chamomile. Roman chamomile is recognized as a mild sedative, so it may have slightly more benefit for sleep. It’s also gentle enough that it’s safe for children, Sahlin says.
Note that essential oils are meant for external use only, so you won’t want to put them in your bedtime tea.
However, evidence suggests the oil form can also help calm anxiety and promote better sleep:
- According to a
2013 study, an aromatherapy blend of lavender, Roman chamomile, and neroli essential oils helped ease anxiety and improve sleep for intensive care patients. Research from 2022suggests that chamomile can help promote relaxation and has been used to treat nervousness and insomnia.
- According to a
2016 review, chamomile may help with anxiety symptoms and has been shown to help manage depression and sleep problems in postpartum women.
Reviewers love the mild fragrance of this Roman chamomile essential oil, saying it helps promote calm and relaxation before bedtime and works well in a nighttime bath.
- Price: $$
- Bottle size: 0.3 fluid ounces (8 mL)
- Main uses: improved mood, anxiety, and stress relief
You’ll recognize the scent of bergamot if you’ve ever had a cup of Earl Grey tea. Bergamot orange peel, or extract, is what gives the tea its unique fragrance and flavor. This essential oil has several potential benefits, including pain relief and inflammation relief.
Citrus essential oils, generally speaking, tend to get more use as energy boosters than relaxation agents. Still, there’s some evidence to suggest bergamot essential oil can help improve sleep quality:
- According to a
small 2015 study, some people being treated for cancer reported getting better sleep after aromatherapy. Participants could choose between two different blends, one of which contained bergamot and sandalwood essential oils.
2019 studylooked at sleep quality in 42 cardiac rehabilitation outpatients. Patients who slept with cotton balls infused with lavender, bergamot, and ylang ylang at the side of their bed reported getting better sleep and waking up less frequently compared to study participants who received a placebo.
Reviewers praise the calming, refreshing fragrance of Vitruvi’s bergamot essential oil. This oil may work best for sleep when blended with other relaxing oils, including clary sage, ylang ylang, or melissa (lemon balm).
You’ll definitely want to avoid using this oil on your skin, unless heavily diluted, since it can increase your sensitivity to sunlight. (We’ll get into more safety considerations below.)
- Price: $
- Bottle size: 15 mL
- Main uses: skin conditions, anxiety and stress relief, and sleep
If you prefer a natural, woodsy fragrance to floral or citrus scents, cedarwood essential oil may offer a better option for relaxation, reduced stress, and better sleep. A few different types of cedarwood essential oil exist, and some, like Virginia cedarwood essential oil, come from trees that are actually junipers.
Limited evidence supports the benefits of cedarwood oil for insomnia:
- Animal research from 2020 suggests cedrol, a primary component in cedarwood essential oil, may have a sedative effect and may help reduce anxiety.
A small study from 2017suggests an aromatherapy blend of Virginia cedarwood, cypress, Japanese cypress, and pine oil could help improve sleep quality in older adults with dementia.
- According to an
animal study from 2018, Virginia cedarwood essential oil appears to help relieve anxiety and stress.
Reviewers describe the fragrance of Virginia cedarwood oil as smooth, warm, and slightly sweet, saying it inspires nostalgic memories of an heirloom chest or a cedar closet. Avoid using it directly on your skin, since it may increase photosensitivity.
- Price: $$
- Bottle size: 5 mL
- Main uses: sleep, relaxation, and anxiety and tension relief
Another prominent player in sleepytime tea blends, valerian is widely recognized for its calming, sedative effect.
Beyond helping you feel grounded and tranquil enough to drift off to sleep, valerian essential oil might also improve the quality of your sleep:
2020 reviewconcluded that valerian may help promote sleep and reduce anxiety.
- A small 2021 study suggests that taking valerian root extract by mouth for 30 nights may significantly improve the sleep quality of patients after heart surgery.
One drawback of valerian? Not everyone finds the pungent scent appealing. You might prefer to blend it with another essential oil, such as lavender or cedarwood, for a more pleasant fragrance.
- Price: $$
- Bottle size: 0.3 fluid oz (8 mL)
- Main uses: anxiety and stress relief, relaxation, pain relief, and improved mood
This essential oil has a strong, sweet floral fragrance that some describe as almost fruity. If you prefer a lighter, delicate fragrance, you may find ylang ylang a little heavy.
While research doesn’t specifically point to its benefits for insomnia relief, evidence suggests it has many other benefits, including relief from anxiety and stress and improved relaxation. Other research includes:
- A small 2013 study of 29 healthy men suggests that ylang ylang aroma may reduce heart rate and blood pressure, and promote calm and relaxation.
small 2014 studyfound that using ylang ylang in aromatherapy treatments may help ease anxiety and promote self-esteem.
2022 animal studysuggests that ylang ylang essential oil may relieve pain from nerve damage (neuropathic pain) and pain-related anxiety symptoms.
This essential oil may irritate sensitive skin, so it’s best to use with caution and avoid applying directly to your skin. It’s also toxic to cats and dogs, so keep aromatherapy materials out of their reach.
When purchasing ylang ylang essential oil, you may notice it comes in different scent potencies. Reviewers say this option has a light and sweet, but still potent, scent. Many recommend blending it with other oils, such as cedarwood, lavender, and lemon.
- Price: $
- Bottle size: 10 mL
- Main uses: congestion relief, pain relief, sleep
You might be familiar with how difficult it is to fall and stay asleep with a stuffy nose or chest congestion. Eucalyptus oil can help clear your airways and relieve other symptoms of cough, cold, and other upper respiratory tract infections.
According to research from 2021, eucalyptus oil may ease pain and reduce inflammation — and a
This strongly scented essential oil is certified organic and comes with a 90-day satisfaction guarantee.
- Price: $
- Bottle size: 30 mL
- Main uses: headache, pain relief, decongestion, sleep
Another minty aroma that may help you get much-needed refreshing sleep by relieving discomforts like headache, cough, and cold is peppermint oil. This essential oil may also ease congestion, reduce pain, and relieve symptoms of digestive disorders.
A review from 2015 highlights that peppermint oil may help treat headaches, itchy skin, inflammation, infections, congestion, pain symptoms, and other health problems. According to
A small study in 2021 also found that peppermint may improve memory and sleep quality and reduce stress and anxiety in college students.
Reviewers seem to love this peppermint oil from NOW Foods, saying it lasts a long time and smells great.
Other oils to consider
There’s less evidence to support the benefits of these oils for sleep and relaxation. However, anecdotal reports suggest many people still find them effective, especially when blended with other essential oils:
- clary sage
Sahlin recommends marjoram, neroli, and clary sage essential oils, in particular.
|Lavender oil||• relaxation|
• anxiety relief
|Chamomile oil||• anxiety relief|
• pain relief
|Bergamot oil||• improved mood|
• stress relief
• anxiety relief
|Cedarwood oil||• skin conditions|
• anxiety relief
|Valerian oil||• sleep|
• anxiety relief
• tension relief
|Ylang ylang oil||• anxiety and stress relief|
• pain relief
• improved mood
|Eucalyptus oil||• congestion relief|
• pain relief
|Peppermint oil||• headache|
• pain relief
If you’ve never used essential oils before, you might wonder how to get started. Do you just open the bottle and take a whiff?
You sure can, but you have other options, too. And remember, when smelling any new product, it’s always wise to waft the fragrance rather than inhale directly.
Essential oil diffusers offer a simple way to try aromatherapy for sleep.
If you already have a diffuser, or you’re planning to purchase one, simply add a few drops of your preferred sleep oil or custom oil blend to the diffuser as bedtime approaches.
This diffuser can run in your bedroom as you sleep, or you can set it up to run as you begin to relax and wind down before bed. It’s recommended to use diffusers only intermittently, so you might want to consider a diffuser with a timer if you plan to leave it on at night.
Keep diffusers away from pets and small children. If you live with children or pets, make sure you only diffuse oils they can safely inhale. When in doubt, always talk to your child’s healthcare professional or your veterinarian.
If you prefer not to inhale essential oils through a diffuser, you can give yourself some DIY aromatherapy by adding a few drops of essential oil to a handkerchief, washcloth, fabric scrap, or cotton ball. Let it dry and then keep it nearby as you relax before bed. You can even tuck it into your pillowcase or leave it by your bedside.
You might hear a recommendation to add a drop or two of certain oils, like lavender, to your pillowcase. This may be safe, strictly speaking, for certain oils, but Sahlin cautions that this could irritate delicate facial skin. Instead, once you’ve done a patch test, try adding the drops to your pillow and then covering it with a clean pillowcase.
If a warm bath is part of your nighttime routine, you can ease yourself toward drowsiness with an essential oil bath.
“Heat will activate the oils and contribute to the feeling of drowsiness,” Sahlin explains.
She recommends diluting 3 drops of essential oil with 1 tablespoon of liquid soap or a carrier oil. Swirl the diluted oil into the bath before getting in. Avoid adding essential oil directly to the bath without first diluting it, since this can cause skin irritation.
“If you don’t have a bathtub, try a large bowl for a relaxing foot bath,” she suggests. “If you don’t have access to essential oils, you might try lavender or chamomile tea bags in your bathwater instead.”
Many people find self or partner massage relaxing, even without the added benefit of oils.
For a relaxing essential oil massage before bed, mix a few drops of your preferred oil with a tablespoon of skin-safe carrier oil.
“Massage the diluted mixture onto your chest, soles of your feet, shoulders, back of your neck, or any tense areas,” Sahlin recommends. “When using oils topically by massaging them into your skin, you may see a longer-lasting effect as your skin absorbs the oil throughout the night.”
A note about dosage and dilution
Many essential oils can’t be applied directly to your skin. It’s always safest to dilute essential oils with a carrier oil if you plan to use them on your skin.
- For a massage blend, combine 1 Tbsp of your preferred carrier oil with 2 to 3 drops of essential oil. Avoid touching the undiluted oil.
- You can add essential oils to a diffuser without diluting them. Your diffuser will have instructions for safe use.
- You don’t need to dilute oils before adding them to fabric or cotton balls for evaporated inhalation. Just be careful not to touch the oil until the cloth has dried.
When choosing essential oils for sleep, you’ll want to consider a few additional factors beyond the type of oil. Here’s what to keep in mind as you shop:
Quality and transparency
Some, but not all, essential oil brands will have a COA, safety data sheet, or both for the essential oils on their website. These documents break down the components in the oil and outline any potential hazards or safety risks. They confirm that the essential oil you purchase contains exactly what it’s supposed to, and nothing more.
Transparent essential oil retailers will stand behind the quality of their product by making this documentation readily available. If you can’t find these documents on the essential oil product page, you should be able to request them from the retailer. Mountain Rose Herbs, a trusted retailer of essential oils, will email any product documents you request, for example.
Other important guidelines:
- Check the label: Look for ingredients, country of origin, and the plant’s full name in Latin. Pure essential oils will have no ingredients added.
- Look at the bottle: Essential oils should come packaged in dark glass bottles to ensure their quality over time.
- Purchase from known retailers: Avoid buying essential oils from unknown sources, especially when the company doesn’t offer a COA or any safety data information.
Since different plants may cost more to grow, harvest, or extract, essential oils vary widely in price. The price for a specific oil usually won’t vary too much between reputable brands, unless one brand offers a particularly high quality of oil. Essential oils made from higher grades of lavender, for example, may cost a little more than standard lavender essential oil.
Let’s say you’re shopping around for bergamot essential oil. The price for a 5-mL bottle may vary by a few dollars among several reputable retailers, but it’ll probably stay within the same general price range.
If you find a very low price, proceed with caution and look for a COA to make sure the oil is pure. You might save a bit of money, but cheaper essential oils may come diluted with unnecessary ingredients. Some of these components might even make them less effective.
You can purchase essential oils in different amounts, depending on your needs.
Some retailers offer small bottles of certain oils at a lower price, often just a few dollars. This gives you the option to try the scent and determine whether it works for you before you commit to a larger purchase.
Other brands may also allow you to request a sample of a particular essential oil when purchasing.
Don’t forget your carrier oil
As mentioned above, if you’re planning to use essential oils topically, you’ll need to dilute them with a carrier oil. Using a carrier oil helps reduce the chance of skin irritation.
You can purchase a carrier oil specifically to use with your essential oils, but you might already have a solid option at home. Try jojoba, sweet almond, grapeseed, olive, or sunflower oils.
While essential oils can have a lot of benefits, they also do pose some safety risks.
These tips can help you use essential oils safely and effectively for sleep:
- Many essential oils come from nontoxic plants, but that doesn’t mean they’re safe to eat. Their high concentration makes them unsafe for consumption, so take care to avoid ingesting them and only use them externally.
- Some essential oils for sleep, like bergamot and cedarwood, may increase sensitivity to sunlight. Always check whether an oil is considered phototoxic before applying it to your skin.
- Always keep essential oils away from your eyes.
- Read up on an essential oil before you make your purchase. If you have sensitive skin, allergies, or underlying health conditions, you may want to talk with your doctor before trying essential oils.
- If you plan to add oils to a diffuser, make sure those oils are safe for any roommates, children, partners, or pets.
- If you’re pregnant, it’s best to talk with your doctor before trying essential oils, even if you’ve used them safely in the past.
- Always dilute essential oils before using them on your skin. The rate of dilution might depend on the strength and type of your oil, but 1 Tbsp of carrier oil for each drop of essential oil is a general guideline.
Always make sure to do a patch test before trying a new essential oil. Here’s how:
- Dilute the essential oil in a carrier oil. For patch tests specifically, some recommendations suggest using 1 drop of essential oil for 30 drops of carrier oil.
- Apply a small amount of the diluted oil to your inner elbow or forearm with a cotton ball or swab.
- Cover the area with a bandage to keep it clean and dry for 1 to 2 days.
- Alternatively, apply the oil directly to the bandage and then attach the bandage to your forearm.
- If you don’t experience any redness, swelling, itching, or other skin irritation after 24 to 48 hours, the essential oil is likely safe for you to use.
Is it okay to use a diffuser every day?
Yes, you can use a diffuser daily. That said, you should be careful not to have oils diffusing continuously throughout the day. It’s best to diffuse oils for no more than 30 to 60 minutes at a time and to make sure your diffuser is located in a well-ventilated area.
Can essential oils be used on your skin?
You can use essential oils on your skin, but they should be diluted first using a carrier oil. This will help you avoid skin irritation. You can also do a patch test on a small part of your skin to see how it responds.
Also, it’s important to wash your hands after using essential oils, especially before touching parts of your face like your eyes and ears, as this could cause irritation or an adverse reaction.
Is peppermint good for sleep?
Evidence supporting peppermint’s usefulness as a sleep aid is limited, although one
Additionally, if a headache or symptoms of a digestive issue are interfering with your sleep, then peppermint may be helpful.
While essential oils can’t replace medical treatment from a trained healthcare professional, they may have some benefits as a natural remedy. Many people use them to fall asleep faster and get better sleep.
To use essential oils safely and maximize their benefits for insomnia or any other condition, always follow safety precautions. It’s also a good idea to talk with your healthcare professional before giving them a try.
Crystal Raypole has previously worked as a writer and editor for GoodTherapy. Her fields of interest include Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health. In particular, she’s committed to helping decrease stigma around mental health issues.