What if we told you that you’re just a few drops away from relaxation, and a great night’s sleep? If you’re one of many who’s tried every remedy under the sun to sleep through the night, we’ve got one more that our team swears by - essential oils. Maybe you’ve seen it on Pinterest or heard a mention from friends, but you’re not really sure where to even begin. That’s why we turned to expert, Nina Lior Klopman to teach us the basics and share her favorite recipes for a good night’s sleep. The Maryland based nontoxic lifestyle expert and founder of The Make It Essential Co. recently shared her best essential oils how-to’s with Mind Body Green and we found her knowledge and routine so interesting, we thought we’d share, too… Is there anything worse than insomnia? Whether it's chronic or situational depending on stress levels, there's nothing worse than lying awake all night with your mind racing, wondering if you'll ever get to sleep as the minutes tick by. Trust me, I've been there, and it's the worst. Enter a fix I never saw coming but am so, so glad I found: A co-worker handed me essential oils, and my sleep (and life) has never been the same.
What are essential oils?Essential oils are the naturally occurring volatile compounds that exist in plants and protect them in their natural environment. You may think you’ve never come across them, but many common household products got their start with essential oil recipes—Coca-Cola and Vick’s VapoRub are just two examples. Using processes like steam distillation or cold-pressing (in the case of citrus fruits), we harness these compounds from the roots, leaves, stems, bark, fruit, flowers, and rinds of plants and pass their protective powers along.
How can essential oils help me sleep better?Scent memory is such a powerful force. Everyone can think of a smell that, once smelled, instantly transports them to a different time and place. When you consistently use the same essential oils to create a safe and calm sleeping environment, this theory goes, anytime you smell that blend, you’ll float away to that dreamy place you manifested. Any parent, doctor, or sleep expert out there can tell you about the importance of a sleep schedule for children. "They behave better! They focus better! They are healthier!" Speaking from personal experience, we have a consistent sleep schedule for my nearly 2-year-old daughter, and we’ve been following it since she was 2½ months old. Essential oils are a critical part of that process—my daughter now knows when it’s time to fill up the diffuser with our fave sleepy-time oil. And today, she’s the definition of a good sleeper. At some point along the way, we forgot what our parents taught us. Even armed with the oils, I know one day my daughter will suffer from sleepless nights. Life, school, work, parties, kids, etc., get in the way of the sleep schedules we learned so long ago. When you incorporate essential oils into your nighttime routine, you are arming yourself with a tool that enables you to create new rituals and keep up with them. I saw how well it worked for my daughter, so I started my own routine to improve my sleep issues. I now have my go-to oils and rituals for when I can’t quiet the noise of the day or when my insomnia or sleep paralysis flares up. I’m living proof that it’s not too late to teach an old zombie new tricks!
Want to create a sleep ritual of your own? Here's what you need.
- Essential oils (keep scrolling for a list of the best essential oils for sleep)
- An ultrasonic diffuser
- A carrier oil, like jojoba, fractionated coconut, almond, castor, etc.
- 4-ounce glass spray bottles and 10-mL glass roller bottles
Welcome home sprayWhen you get home, change into your comfy clothes and spray them with a grounding spray to help you make the transition from work to home. In a 4-ounce glass spray bottle, combine 20 drops each of clary sage and wild orange, and then fill to the top with water. Shake before use.
Personal calming scentsConsider making a "perfume" with essential oils that you can roll onto your inner wrists, behind the ears, or on the back of your neck throughout the day when you’re feeling stressed. The idea is that the more relaxed you are during the day, the better you may sleep at night. In a 10-mL glass roller bottle, combine 10 drops each of your favorite calming scents and then fill to the top with a carrier oil, such as:
- Petitgrain + Clary Sage
- Cedarwood or Frankincense + Petitgrain (a muskier, masculine option)
- Bergamot + Cedarwood
- Neroli + Vetiver
Sleepy-time diffuser blendsWhen it’s time to start your nighttime routine, or about an hour before bed, start diffusing a sleep blend in your bedroom to help you make the transition to slumber, such as:
- Lavender + Cedarwood + Bergamot
- Vetiver + Cedarwood + Roman Chamomile
- Neroli + Lavender + Frankincense
Facial massageThis is a great technique from essential oil guru Hope Gillerman: In a 10-mL roller bottle, combine 5 drops each of lavender, frankincense, and cedarwood, and fill with jojoba oil. Shake before use. Roll a couple of swipes around the edges of your face, and smooth the essential oil from cheekbone to chin with the heel of your hand, moving down and then forward along the line of your jaw. Massage your temples gently.
Tissue trickLie down in bed and put a drop or two of your fave calming essential oil (cedarwood, neroli, lavender) on a tissue. Gently move the scented tissue from one nostril to the other for 10 breaths. Bonus: Incorporate deep breathing practices, like ujjayi, to take your relaxation to the next level. Soon you’ll be sleeping as well as my daughter and not wandering around like a zombie (or trapped in bed like one, as I once was)!
Which essential oils are best for sleep?There are a ton of different essential oils that help for sleep, and since essential oils are based on chemistry, you should experiment to find the oils and blends that work best for you. Pay attention to the quality of the oils you’re purchasing, especially if you’re considering using them with children. Here are some of the top essential oils for sleep and why they may transform your sleep routine: A citrus oil (and a key ingredient in Earl Grey tea), bergamot lifts the mood and helps cultivate a worry-free attitude. Use this one when feelings of stress or self-doubt are preventing you from feeling at ease.
CedarwoodI don’t do sleep blends without cedarwood—it’s so relaxing and helps create a grounded, clear space. It’s also a very useful oil when you need to calm your emotions and blends well with bergamot and vetiver.
Clary sageThis was my gateway oil, the oil that pulled me out of the zombie revolution! A study of patients undergoing a urodynamic evaluation (methods that estimate bladder and urinary function) showed that clary sage lowered blood pressure levels associated with stress significantly in patients who had smelled clary sage during treatment versus almond oil (the control).
FrankincenseThis oil is biblical and has been used for thousands of years in meditative and ancient therapeutic practices; it’s particularly helpful at preparing your mind to shift into peace and tranquillity.
LavenderLavender is the No. 1 oil to #calmallthethings and is the most frequently cited oil in research tying essential oils to improvement in sleep quality and mood.
NeroliI love recommending this oil for those who have trouble with feelings of anxiousness/winding down. Scientists conducted a test on gerbils, which indicated that those exposed to neroli showed comparable levels of reduced anxiety as those exposed to Xanax—indicating that neroli may indeed produce anti-anxiety effects.
PetitgrainThis is a great alternative for those who don’t like the smell of lavender, as it possesses a similar chemical profile (high in linalool).
Roman chamomileI'm pretty sure everyone out there knows about chamomile tea’s benefits for sleepy time! This oil is super floral and gentle and great to use with babies.
VetiverThis oil is thicker than molasses and interacts with your limbic system to help release deeply rooted tension and lull you to a state of relaxed sleep.
Wild orangeNormally an uplifting scent, when paired with lavender, this combo is especially great at calming and soothing your mood (and is particularly good for babies).
Bonus oilsCypress is a great oil to incorporate into your routine if you deal with any nasal/respiratory difficulties while sleeping. Try juniper berry when your kids are dealing with night terrors/disturbances (i.e., dreaming about zombies). Essential oils can be an incredibly transformative asset in helping you shift gears, wind down from a busy day, and create an ideal sleeping environment and routine. If you’re not sure where to get started, just pick one essential oil for sleep that smells good to you, and make a commitment to incorporate it into your nighttime routine every day. Before you know it, you’ll be less zombie and more of that well-rested god/dess you are meant to be! And if nothing else, at least you’ll smell good. Have you tried essential oils? Tell us in the comments which ones are your favorite!