Essential oils are a highly popular form of alternative medicine that have a wide range of practical and effective health benefits. Essential oils typically consist of a distilled form of the aromatic compounds that create the distinct scent of various plants, herbs, and botanical substances, and are extracted by blasting extremely hot steam through them to release the oils contained inside.
Used for thousands of years in a wide range of applications, essential oils are used to treat many different health conditions, from joint pain and headaches to anxiety and stress.
There are many clinical studies that have proven the potent healing powers of essential oils, with many modern scientific investigations finding that they are just as effective, if not more so, than many pharmaceutical medicines and topical chemical treatments.
One of the most frequently used applications of essential oils is as a sleep aid to promote healthy sleep hygiene. More than 30% of the total US population sufferers from at least mild insomnia, while fully half of the population state that they lost sleep due to stress and anxiety.
Essential oils have been proven to provide effective relief from insomnia and promote healthier sleep, offering individuals suffering from lack of sleep a pharmaceutical-free alternative to dangerous sleeping pills.
In this article, we’ll run through the 13 most effective sleep-enhancing essential oils and check out some of the clinical evidence that supports them, as well as take a look at some ways you can use essential oils around your home to improve sleep quality and regularity.
13 Essential Oils For Sleep:
Chamomile essential oil is derived from the common daisy flower, and several other daisy-like flowering plants. As one of the oldest herbal medicines known to mankind, chamomile can be used to treat chest colds, reduce inflammation, improve skin health, settle an upset stomach, and assist with menstrual pain.
A clinical study performed by Case Western Reserve University in Ohio in 2011 investigated the potential benefits of chamomile as a sleep aid and found that application of chamomile before sleep dramatically increased overall sleep health, reducing the physical symptoms of sleep inefficiency and even lowering depression.
While the study found that chamomile is great at helping with short term sleep issues, the effectiveness of chamomile essential oil diminishes over time, so it’s best for temporary sleep issue.
Vetiver is an essential oil derived from the Khus plant, which grows throughout Northern India. Vetiver essential oil has played an integral part in ancient Indian Ayurvedic traditional medicine for thousands of years, and is used to treat inflammation, remove skin blemishes, and improve ADHD, minimizing stress.
Vetiver essential oil was the subject of an intensive clinical investigation performed in 2016 by the Prince of Songkla University in Thailand. The study investigated the effects of an inhalant consisting of vetiver essential oil on the brainwaves that occur during sleep, and found that it was able to dramatically improve both REM length and consistency, resulting in more restful sleep.
Lavender essential oil is extracted from the lavender flower and offers a wide range of health benefits. It can be used to speed up the healing of burns and wounds, reduce the impact of painful headaches and migraines, and contains a high level of antioxidant compounds that can reduce oxidative stress. There have been multiple clinical investigations into the effectiveness of lavender essential oil in alleviating the symptoms of insomnia and poor sleep.
A 2015 clinical investigation performed by the Tehran University of Medical Sciences found that it can improve both sleep quality and length, while another clinical trial performed in 2017 found that when used in an aromatherapy diffusers in an ICU setting, lavender essential oil helps patients sleep better.
Bergamot essential oil is derived from the fruit of the bergamot orange tree, and has a distinct scent that you may recognize if you’ve ever had a cup of Earl Grey tea, which contains bergamot to create its unique flavor profile. Bergamot essential oil has powerful antifungal, antibiotic, antiseptic, and deodorant abilities, and is known as one of the most flexible and useful essential oils.
A meta-study performed by the Italian Medicines Agency in Rome in 2015 investigated the medical applications of bergamot essential oil and found that it has the ability to induce sleep, and speed up the rate at which individuals experiencing difficulty in maintaining regular sleeping habits fall asleep
5. Ylang Ylang
Ylang ylang essential oil is sourced from the flower of the cananga tree, which grows throughout the Indonesian islands. Ylang ylang essential oil has been shown to help protect the body from cardiovascular disease, increase energy levels, and assist with maintaining a balanced mood, but has shown a lot of promise as a sleep health enhancing oil.
A 2013 clinical study performed by the Medical Research Division of the Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine found that ylang ylang essential oil aromatherapy techniques are effective in promoting healthier sleeping patterns and lowering anxiety levels, which improves the frequency and regularity of sleep.
Marjoram essential oil is derived from the perennial herb of the same name and possesses pine-like and citrus like aromas. Traditionally, marjoram essential oil has been used for its potent libido-enhancing and aphrodisiac qualities, as well as an antiseptic compound used in the treatment of wounds and burns. It also helps to reduce joint pain due to its topical analgesic properties.
Sweet marjoram essential oil has been found to reduce sleep disturbances in individuals that suffer from chronic insomnia. A 2013 clinical investigation performed by the Epilepsy Research Center in Munster, Germany, found that marjoram extract is able to regulate sleep function in epileptic individuals that experience poor sleep due to their condition.
Sandalwood is a rich, aromatic wood that is harvested from the Santalum family of trees. Named thusly because the strong, antiseptic and antibacterial oils of the tree were ideal for creating footwear in ancient Roman times, the essential oil extract of sandalwood has a number of therapeutic benefits including improved memory function, anti-inflammatory properties, and deodorizing qualities.
Sandalwood is often used as an aromatherapy or incense aromatic due to its pleasant scent, but has been demonstrated to contain a number of volatile compounds that can improve sleep health. A 2007 clinical investigation performed in Japan found that sandalwood essential oil contains a chemical compound called santalol that is absorbed into the bloodstream via the olfactory membranes and is able to lengthen the restorative REM cycle of sleep, thus creating a more restful and beneficial sleep cycle.
Orange essential oil, as the name implies, is a distillation of the popular citrus fruit. Orange essential oils are extremely versatile, able to deliver anti-inflammatory effects both internally and externally, act as potent diuretics, provide antiseptic effects, and even act as an antidepressant that rebalances the serotonin levels of the brain to improve mood.
Orange essential oil has been proven in several clinical trials to contain a number of organic compounds that deliver anxiolytic, or anxiety-reducing abilities. A clinical investigation performed by the University of São Paulo in 2013 found that the anxiolytic compounds in orange essential oil can improve sleep quality, an investigation that is supported by an earlier 2002 study that proved the sedative benefits of orange essential oil.
Cedarwood is a powerful natural medicine that has been used by many cultures throughout the course of history for its potent healing and health-boosting abilities. Cedarwood essential oil contains a number of organic compounds, including alpha cedrene, beta cedrene, cedrol, thujopsene, and widdrol, all of which are able to deliver a wide range of benefits.
A 2003 clinical investigation performed in Japan found that cedarwood oil, when inhaled during sleep hours through an aromatherapy diffuser, delivers a gentle sedative effect that minimizes sleep disruption and promotes overall healthier sleeping schedules when compared to a pharmaceutical solution.
Unlike the previous essential oils on this list, valor essential oil isn’t composed of one single essential oil extract, but instead is a blend of several different oils. The formulation of valor essential oil depends on the manufacturer, but the most popular valor essential formulas generally contain black spruce, blue tansy, and frankincense essential oils.
The primary ingredient of valor essential oil is frankincense, of biblical fame. Frankincense is derived from the Boswellia carterii plant, and was demonstrated in a 2016 clinical trial to improve sleep health by up to 64% when used as an aromatherapy agent during sleeping hours.
Valerian essential oil is sourced from the flower of the valerian flower, which have been used as a perfume, incense, and natural medicine since the 16th century.
Valerian essential oil is used to treat indigestion, promote better heart health and minimize heart palpitations, boost skin health, and enhance cognitive ability. The sleep-enhancing abilities of the valerian plant are well established and have been demonstrated in multiple clinical trials over the last few decades.
A systematic review and meta-analysis performed by the University of California in 2006 concluded that valerian essential oil delivered a statistically significant improvement in sleep quality and length in more than 1000 patients over 16 different studies, making it one of the most well-tested sleep promoting essential oils available.
12. Calming Essential Oil Blends
There are many different blends of calming essential oils available on the market today. Most contain combinations of the above essential oils, while others leverage the anti-anxiety abilities of essential oils such as neroli oil.
One of the most common causes of poor sleep quality and insomnia is anxiety and an inability to calm down, so using an essential oil blend that contains a variety of different anti-anxiety oils is a great way to promote better sleep.
Calming essential oil blends are backed up by a large amount of scientific evidence. A 2013 clinical investigation found that aromatherapy with a lavender and chamomile blend delivers fast and effective relief from anxiety.
Another trial performed by the University of Alabama in 2009 found that the calming effect of lavender, rose, orange, bergamot, lemon, and sandalwood essential oils is able to significantly reduce the impact of anxiety attacks and provide powerful anxiolytic relief.
13. Anti Stress Essential Oil Blends
Like calming essential oil blends, anti-stress essential oil blends also have a potent ability to reduce the impact of poor sleep on the body. Stress has a profound impact on the ability of the body to sleep. The Sleep Foundation links stress as the primary cause of insomnia, attributing the hyperarousal caused by constant irritated stress states to the inability to maintain a regular healthy sleeping pattern.
Blends of different essential oils are able to deliver a more rounded sleep promoting effect. Combining chamomile essential oil, which delivers powerful short-term sleep benefits, with an essential oil like ylang ylang, which prevents muscle activity from disturbing sleep in deep sleep cycles, creates a powerful multifaceted sleep booster that minimizes stress.
Like anti-anxiety essential oils, anti-stress essential oil blends are supported by modern medical science. A 2009 Korean clinical stress investigation assessed the effect of essential aromatherapy stress treatment on a group of female high school students and found that it was able to significantly reduce stress response during high-stress exam periods.
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