Sleep is a hot topic right now. Arianna Huffington, cofounder of “The Huffington Post,” has even started a "sleep revolution" to help more people realize the benefits of getting a good night's sleep. Contrary to popular belief, the more you skimp on sleep, the less productive you are and the worse off you are overall.

So sleep is in, but how can you make sure you get a better night of sleep? If you don’t want to use over-the-counter and prescription medications, an essential oil is just one type of all-natural sleep aid you can choose.

In general, essential oils can have many different benefits, such as weakening certain viruses and strengthening the immune system to soothing feelings of anxiety. Essential oils can also be a powerful way to help you relax and sleep better.

Although research on the use of essential oils is limited, lavender essential oil is widely recognized as a natural sleep aid. For example, a 2005 study assessed how lavender essential oil affected 31 young, healthy sleepers.

Researchers found that lavender increased the amount of slow- and deep-wave sleep in participants. All participants reported feeling “higher vigor” the next morning.

Leah Outten, a mother of five who uses essential oils in her home, swears by doTERRA’s Balance. Balance is a blend of different oils, including:

  • spruce needle and leaf
  • ho wood
  • frankincense resin
  • blue tansy flower
  • blue chamomile flower

Sometimes, Outten pairs the Balance blend with lavender essential oil. Together, she says the oils promote feelings of relaxation and drowsiness and help her fall asleep quickly.

Clary sage oil may also help with relaxation. Researchers in a 2013 study found that when the oil was used in a diffuser, it helped women undergoing urodynamic examination relax more effectively.

You can experience the aromatic effects of these essential oils in a number of ways. For example, doTERRA recommends applying Balance to the soles of your feet, wrists, or palms at the beginning and end of the day to help you feel calm and relaxed. Lavender and sage can also be applied directly to the skin.

Before applying an essential oil topically, be sure to dilute your essential oil with a carrier oil. Applying undiluted essential oils to your skin can cause irritation. Common carrier oils include coconut, jojoba, and extra virgin olive oils. As a general rule of thumb, you should use 1 teaspoon of carrier oil for every 1 drop of essential oil.

You can also add 2-3 drops of these essential oils to a diffuser. This will release the scent into your home.

If you prefer not to leave your diffuser running, you may consider adding a few drops of essential oil to your pillowcase shortly before bedtime. This will allow the scent to linger throughout your sleeping hours.

It's important to treat essential oils with caution. Before applying these oils over large areas of skin, be sure to do a patch test.

Dilute your chosen oil and apply the mixture to a quarter-sized amount of skin to do a patch test. The inside of your arm is usually a good place to do this. Wait 24 hours to see if you experience any irritation or discomfort. If you don’t, you should be safe to apply the mixture over a larger area.

You shouldn’t ingest essential oils. This may cause unpleasant side effects, such as upset stomach and nausea. Children, women who are breastfeeding, and women who are pregnant should exercise caution when using essential oils.

You may also wish to make a few lifestyle changes to improve your sleeping habits:

  • Don’t ingest caffeine after 2 p.m.
  • Try to eat earlier in the evening, especially if you have a medical condition that interferes with your sleep, such as acid reflux.
  • Completely unplug for one hour before bedtime. The blue light in phones and screens interferes with your body’s melatonin production. Melatonin is a chemical your brain produces that regulates sleep.
  • Establish a bedtime ritual. This can signal to your brain that it's time to wind down and help set your body into sleep mode. Simple strategies, such as taking a warm bath and changing into pajamas can often do the trick.

If these lifestyle changes aren’t doing the trick, you should consult your doctor. They can work with you to determine what’s causing your poor sleep and recommend the regimen or treatment option that’s best suited for you.

If you want to start using essential oils, consult your doctor. Some oils may interfere with medications that you may be taking or cause an allergic reaction.

Once you have your doctor’s approval, do your research. Essential oils aren’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so it’s crucial to seek out a brand that you trust. You can usually find essential oils in holistic health stores and through online providers, such as Amazon.

If you plan to apply your chosen oil to your skin, remember to dilute the oil first. You should also do a patch test. This can prevent undue irritation and inflammation. If you begin experiencing any unusual side effects, you should discontinue use.

Keep reading: Tips to sleep better »