Aromatherapy for Sleep

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Essential oils are oils that are extracted from plants and have their characteristic fragrance. They are typically obtained through a distillation process and are the basis of aromatherapy. Aromatherapy is a form of alternative medicine that uses specific scents to affect the amygdala and limbic system in the brain. Those areas deal with mood and memory. Proponents feel that aromatherapy can provide a wide range of benefits including relieving migraine pain and improving mood.

People also use essential oils for sleep. What essentials oils are good for sleep? Interestingly, many of them act as “adaptogens.” This means that they have different effects on different people. So, finding the right oils for sleep for you can take some experimentation. One essential oil that seems to be a very promising treatment for mild sleep issues is jasmine. A 2010 study found it to have the same molecular mechanism of action as commonly prescribed sleep medications.

Essential oils work in two different ways to address sleep issues. Some oils make it easier to fall asleep by calming the mind and relieving anxiety. Others help reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea and snoring by opening the airways. More research is needed to fully understand how essential oils work. However, studies to date seem to indicate that they can have positive benefits and may be an effective alternative to sleep medications with no side effects.

How to Use Essential Oils for Sleep

Essential oils can be purchased at health food stores, pharmacies, many retailers and online. However, not all essential oils are of the same quality. Those labeled as something other than “essential oil” (perfume or fragrance oil, for example) may be synthetic rather than natural. Higher-quality oils will typically have an indication that they are “therapeutic grade” or “non-GMO.”

Essential oils can be used in many ways, including:

  • Massaging a few drops onto the forehead, chest, neck, hands, wrists, toes or other parts of the body
  • Diluting with an air diffuser
  • Rubbing a few drops between the hands and inhaling the scent
  • Mixing the oil with Epsom salt and adding to a hot bath
  • Creating a spray

Ultimately, finding the best form of aromatherapy for sleep for you, like finding the best essential oil, may take some experimentation.

Which Essential Oils are Best for Sleep?

What essential oils are good for sleep? This varies by person. However, generally speaking, the best essential oils for sleep include:

  • Vanilla. This sweet scent can calm the nervous system and produce effects similar to a sedative. It is also effective in reducing restlessness and hyperactivity. Plus, it seems to provide relief from anxiety and depression.
  • Lavender. Lavender has sedative effects and is often one of the most widely used essential oils for insomnia. It is also the most studied of the essential oils, and has been shown to reduce anxiety and have a positive impact on depression. It may even provide pain relief.
  • Geranium and rose. These essential oils are known to have a calming effect when used as aromatherapy for sleep. They both reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Often they are used in combination with other essential oils.
  • Jasmine. Jasmine has a light, floral scent and is one of the most well-known essential oils for insomnia. Studies have shown that it reduces restlessness and improves sleep quality. It also helps control anxiety.
  • Sandalwood. Sandalwood has a rich, earthy aroma. Its use for anxiety relief and relaxation dates back to ancient times. Studies have shown that it can increase non-REM sleep and reduce wakefulness. However, it is important to note that sandalwood can produce a relaxed but wakeful state in some people, so it should be tested before nighttime use.

Some of the best essential oils that can help to reduce snoring include thyme, peppermint, eucalyptus, cedarwood, lemon, clove, and pine.

Through trial and error, many people are able to find the right essential oils for deep sleep.

Learn more about the services provided by the Sleep Center at Baptist Health.