Can't Sleep? Try These 5 Best Essential Oils for Sleep

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Sleep: That thing we all “have to” do. That most coveted of conditions, though often the most avoided, or the most difficult to achieve. One thing is for certain, when it’s time to lie down and close our eyes to replenish, we would all like two things… for it to be easy to fall asleep, and to awaken hours later feeling refreshed.

Yet, according to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Americans spent $32.4 billion on sleep aids in 2012 alone, with 8.6 million people reporting they took medications for sleep just in the month of July 2013. WebMD reports that between a third and a half of all Americans “have insomnia and complain of poor sleep.”

Something is clearly going wrong if so many people are sleeping so badly. But surely taking a pill to fall asleep faster isn’t that big a deal, right? Well, unfortunately it’s not that simple.

Pharmaceutical sleeping medications, as most modern medications, come with a host of side effects, with some being known to be addictive and eventually even affecting memory and attention span. Of course, not all sleeping pills are alike. Some are actually meds aimed at reducing anxiety, some depress the central nervous system and are sedative, some affect melatonin or brain chemistry, and others simply make it easier to fall asleep.

Common side effects of prescribed sleeping pills include:Trouble Sleeping? Try These 5 Best Essential Oils for Sleep

  • Burning or tingling in the hands, arms, feet, or legs
  • Changes in appetite
  • Constipation
  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty keeping balance
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth or throat
  • Gas
  • Headache
  • Heartburn
  • Impairment the next day
  • Stomach pain or tenderness
  • Uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body
  • Unusual dreams
  • Weakness
  • Changes in blood pressure/heart rate

You can also be allergic to sleeping pills, risking more serious reactions from difficulty breathing, to vomiting, and even to anaphylactic shock. In any case, you should never mix these pills with alcohol.

With so many risks, why do so many Americans take meds to help them sleep?

Sleep is Vital to Your Health

Sleep is as essential to your health as food and water. Yet we don’t often make getting a good night’s sleep enough of a priority. We even make it harder to sleep properly by incorporating things like caffeinated drinks, or huge amounts of screen time into our lives, both of which affect our brain chemistry and sleep cycles. Not to mention what stress and late nights can do to a body.

So how much sleep do you need?

The National Sleep Foundation conducted a two-year study, comprising 18 leading scientists and researchers. They published their results in 2015, listing their findings on the minimum amounts of sleep humans need at each age.

The recommended number of hours are:

  • Newborns: 14 – 17 hours
  • Infants: 12 – 15 hours
  • Pre-Schoolers: 10 – 13 hours
  • School Aged Children: 9 – 11 hours
  • Teens: 8 – 10 hours
  • Adults & Young Adults: 7 – 9 hours
  • Older Adults: 7 – 8 hours

Repeatedly not getting enough sleep leads to “sleep debt.” Chronic sleep debt can have serious repercussions on your health, including:

  • lowered immune system
  • decreased concentration or alertnes
  • weight gain
  • higher risk of diabetes
  • loss of libido
  • accelerated aging
  • increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer

In fact, according to the National Sleep Foundation, adults who sleep fewer than six hours per night are twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack over those who sleep six to eight hours a nightregardless of age, weight, smoking or exercise habits.

Also worrying is the correlation between sleep and cancer. The types of cancer most frequently connected to higher risk are prostate, colorectal, and breast. It’s also worth noting that sleep apnea is connected to a higher risk of any type of cancer.

A 2013 study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention “identified a twofold risk of developing prostate cancer in men with sleep insomnia.” A study published in the journal Cancer in 2010, reported that those that sleep less than six hours a night have a 50% higher risk of colorectal cancer, while a 2012 study suggests inadequate sleep is connected with both cancer recurrence and the risk for more aggressive breast cancer.

Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep

Now the question arises: If we need sleep for our health and prevention of more serious diseases, and sleeping medications come with risks and harmful side effects themselves… what can we do to ensure a good night’s rest?

Glad you asked. Here are some top tips for a better sleep:

  1. Stick to a sleep schedule. This means you stick to the same times to wake up and sleep, evenTips for a better night's sleep on weekends. Doing so will help your body clock to regulate, and assist in both falling and staying asleep at night.
  2. Have a bedtime ritual. Allow a good 30 minutes for a relaxing routine activity that is free from technology. Separating your bed/sleep time from activities that cause stress, anxiety, or excitement will make it easier to fall and stay asleep. This includes avoiding bright lights, and “screens” (TV, mobile devices, computers, etc.)
  3. Avoid naps. If you have sleeping problems, don’t nap, particularly in the afternoon. While it’s true a power nap can be useful, for those that have problems falling asleep at night, avoiding naps can help.
  4. Daily exercise. National Sleep Foundation suggests vigorous exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep. Even light exercise is beneficial.
  5. Assess your sleeping space. It may seem obvious but your bedroom needs to promote a good night’s sleep! This includes evaluating the temperature, with the National Sleep Foundation suggesting a cool 60-67 degrees F being optimal. Noise (including your partner’s snoring) should be diminished as much as possible. Consider ear plugs, white noise machines, and other devices to block out sounds. To make the room as dark as possible, consider blackout curtains and eye covers/shades. Also be aware of allergens. A good air purifier can make a world of difference if you are sensitive.
  6. Spring for a good mattress. Pun intended! Again, it may seem obvious, but the mattress and pillows you use can make a huge difference in how well you sleep. Most mattresses have a lifespan of 9-10 years, if it’s good quality. Pillows can become worn out, too. Many advances have been made in the arena of memory and gel foam. Your sleep is a worthy investment in your health, not just a luxury.
  7. Use essential oils. These powerhouses of nature have a variety of health benefits, but there are a few that are well-known to help you sleep better. They include: rose, geranium, frankincense, orange, lemon, and lavender.

The 5 Best Essential Oils for Sleep

The 5 best essential oils for sleep The important thing to know is that high quality essential oils are 100% natural, with few side effects, if any. These oils are typically distilled from the leaves, flowers, and stems of plants, leaving a concentration of phytochemicals (naturally occurring plant chemicals) that are 40-50% more powerful than the plant itself.

While many people associate essential oils with aromatherapy, or even just making places smell nice, plants and their essential oils have been used for thousands of years in traditional medicine.

In recent decades they have been getting increased attention from researchers, in pursuit of proof to their efficacy for a wide range of treatments and conditions.

Essential oils have been proven beneficial for supporting the body with nearly every physical ailment under the sun, including digestive problems, anxiety, depression, pain, bacterial infection, viruses, headaches… and even sleep.

While there are several essential oils that can aid with getting a better night’s sleep, here are a few of the best:

Rose and Orange:

A 2014 study showed significant effects from the inhalation of rose and orange essential oils reporting it “induces physiological and psychological relaxation.” A 2014 review looked at the effects of orange essential oil on insomnia and anxiety, citing positive results, while rose oil has had notable sedative effects in studies on mice, gerbils, and humans.

Geranium:

This lovely smelling essential oil has been long recommended for women in childbirth, due its relaxing effects. It was also seen to improve the sleep for those suffering from rhinitis (allergies) in a 2015 study conducted at Chung-Ang University in Seoul, Korea.

Frankincense:

This Biblically-famous essential oil has been said to be effective for anxiety and depression, calming the mind, as well as helping with insomnia.

In a study of cancer patients published in 2016, researchers found 64% reported improved sleep using “aromasticks” that included frankincense. One of the reasons frankincense essential oil may be so useful for helping sleep is its studied benefits for pain. A 2004 study published in Thailand reported oil of frankincense as one of the oils found to reduce both pain and anxiety in women in childbirth.

Lemon:

It may surprise you due to the invigorating smell of citrus fruits, but lemon oil has also been proven to be an effective sedative, with anti-anxiety benefits, too. In particular, a 2011 study tested these qualities on mice, in an attempt to understand why lemon essential oil is “one of the most popular compounds in Brazilian traditional herbal medicine.”

Lavender:

Lavandula augustifolia, known as “true lavender,” is well-known as a fragrance and flower. In the fields of complementary medicines, lavender essential oil is well known as a super-oil, especially when it comes to sleep. Happily, science backs this claim with study after study.

In particular, lavender essential oil has been reported as a natural remedy for mild insomnia, with no long-term side effects. A 2013 and 2015 study of ICU patients, both reported that lavender oil increased sleep quality and decreased anxiety.

Also in 2015, a study involving 79 college students investigated lavender oil on sleep, showing it did indeed improve sleep quality, with a “significant finding for waking feeling refreshed.”

How to Use Essential Oils for Improved Sleep

Inhalation:

Here are a few ways to enjoy the benefits of essential oils via inhalation.

  1. Put a few drops on a cotton ball, and place on your pillow.
  2. Place drops directly on your pillow.
  3. Purchase a cold diffuser. (Heat lessens the effects of these oils). Add drops of your favorite oils and fill your room with these wonderful fragrances.
  4. Place some drops of your chosen oil on your hands, and rub them together, while breathing in the aroma.
  5. Dilute with a carrier oil and place some directly behind your ears or at the base of your throat for a medicinal “perfume.” Essential Oil Recipes For Sleep
  6. Add some drops to your laundry at the last (cold) rinse cycle.
  7. Add drops of essential oil to your bath for a pleasant, relaxing, aromatherapeutic effect.

Skin:

Essential oils can be effective when absorbed through the skin. Of course, be careful to not stain clothing or delicate materials, never use close to sensitive areas (eyes, nose, genitals), and test for reactions on a small patch of skin before a full application. For all of the methods listed below, essential oils should be diluted with a carrier oil before being applied directly to the skin. Note that it takes approximately 20 minutes for oils to be fully absorbed.

  1. Rub your chosen oil on the bottom of your feet before bed. Even the tops of your toes, if reaching your feet is difficult.
  2. Place a drop behind your ears, or rub on the back of your neck. Under the breasts can be a good place, too.
  3. Create a DIY hand (or body) lotion by mixing a few drops of essential oils with a small scoop of jojoba or coconut oil.
  4. Add drops to a good olive oil or other good quality carrier oil and massage into your skin. Better yet, have your partner massage it into your skin for you!
  5. Add some drops to cream and soak your feet and hands.
  6. Create a personal spray diffuser by adding drops to a small spray bottle, with or without water and spritzing your skin.

Ingestion:

Some essential oils have been deemed safe for ingestion. Common sense is needed, and the guidance of a professional aromatherapist is best.

  1. Add a drop or 2 to your favorite drink.
  2. Place a few drops in about a tablespoon of juice or water, swish it around vigorously then quickly toss it to the back of your throat and swallow.
  3. Place a couple drops in vegan or vegetarian gel caps.
  4. Add to your smoothie or foods you are preparing. (Be sparing until you know the flavors you like, and each oil’s potency)

7 Essential Oil Recipes for Sleep

Here are some essential oil blends and recipes you can try out to help you sleep better. Blend the following oils together to use directly in the ways listed above in the “How to Use” section.

Essential Oil Sleep Blend #1

  • 15 drops lavender essential oil
  • 5 drops frankincense oil
  • 6 drops orange essential oil
  • 7 drops geranium rose essential oil

Essential Oil Sleep Blend #2

  • 3 drops geranium rose essential oil
  • 2 drops lavender essential oil

Essential Oil Sleep Blend #3

  • 1 drop lemon essential oil
  • 2 drops orange essential oil
  • 1 drop frankincense oil

Essential Oil Sleep Blend #4

  • 3 drops lavender essential oil
  • 3 drops orange essential oil

Essential Oil Sleep Blend #5

  • 3 tablespoons of milk or cream
  • 5 drops of geranium rose essential oil
  • 1 drop orange essential oil
  • 1 drop lavender essential oil

Add to a bath, or soak feet/hands

Essential Oil Sleep Blend #6

  • 3 tablespoons cream
  • 2 drops lavender

Add to a bath, or soak feet/hands

Essential Oil Sleep Recipe #7

  • A jug of water
  • 5-10 drops peppermint oil
  • 5 drops lemon
  • 5 drops orange
  • Stevia to taste

To make just a glass, add 1 scant drop each of peppermint, lemon, and orange oil. If this is too strong, apply oils to a clean toothpick and swirl in the water to provide just a hint of flavor.

A Word of Caution When Using Essential Oils

Essential oils contain potent plant chemicals. Despite their natural origins they should be used with care and optimally with the guidance of a qualified professional. To receive the most therapeutic benefits be sure to use only the highest quality, organic essential oils.


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Article Summary

  • A plethora of side effects are associated with sleeping pills.

  • Sleep is vital to your health. Adults should be getting 7-9 hours each night.

  • Not getting enough sleep can lead to serious repercussions on your health.

  • Adults who sleep fewer than six hours per night are twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack over those who sleep six to eight.

  • Tips for better sleep:

    • Stick to a sleep schedule
    • Have a bedtime ritual
    • Avoid naps
    • Exercise
    • Assess your sleeping space
    • Get a good mattress
    • Utilize essential oils
  • The 5 best essential oils for sleep are:

    • Rose and Orange
    • Geranium
    • Frankincense
    • Lemon
    • Lavender
  • Essential oils can be used by inhalation, topical application, or ingestion.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. I have been using a little topical Frankincense – just little mind you – the part that walks out of the bottle. That seems to be what makes me sleepy – ALL DAY!!!
    I have food allergies due to leaky gut which is due to Candida which is now healing. So I have been blaming this sleepiness on several other things.

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