Smell Your Way to Sleep

According to the American Sleep Association, 35% of American adults get less than the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Many people blame stress and the inability to wind down as reasons why they can’t sleep. Perhaps it’s time to return to nature for help.

Essential oils extracted from plants have been used for therapeutic purposes, healing, and sleep for centuries. Naturally occurring aromatic compounds are sourced from a plant’s flowers, leaves, seeds, roots, and other parts.

In recent years, researchers have sought to better understand and quantify essential oil’s effectiveness in improving sleep. Let’s take a look at lavender:

  • A 2005 study concluded the 30 participants in the study experienced deeper and longer sleep and reported feeling “high vigor” following their nights while in the lavender infused sleep study.
  • In a study of 31 hospitalized patients, administration of lavender odor showed a trend towards improved quality of daytime wakefulness and more sustained sleep at night
  • In another study of people with mild insomnia, Lavender was proven to be an excellent natural remedy to decrease the amount of time it took to fall asleep and improve overall sleep quality.

How Do Essential Oils Improve Sleep?

Your nose knows (and remembers). After repeated use, scent memory kicks in, and your body will associate the scent of lavender (or the scent of another calming  essential oil or blend) with relaxation and sleep.

Calming Oils & Blends

As mentioned above, lavender can improve sleep quality and is useful in treating mild insomnia. Lavender has been shown to reduce anxiety, making it a great essential oil to include in a sleep routine for those who experience mind racing or the effects of stress late in the day.

Bergamot essential oil reduces anxiety and stress, signaling to your system that it is time for bed by slowing your heart rate and lowering your blood pressure.

Cedarwood is a wonderful woodsy oil shown to decrease heart rate and blood pressure . Cedarwood helps release melatonin, the body’s natural sleeping hormone, which cues the body to slow down and prepare for sleep.

The oils mentioned above can be used individually or combined to form an effective, aromatic blend.

4 Easy Ways to Use Essential Oils

  1. Put a few drops of lavender or oil of choice on a cotton ball and place in a floor vent. The circulation system of your home will push the scent into the air.
  2. Dilute a few drops of essential oil with water in a small spray bottle. Spray into the air.
  3. Lie down in bed and put a drop or two of your favorite calming essential oil (cedarwood, neroli, lavender) on a tissue. Gently move the scented tissue from one nostril to the other for 10 breaths.
  4. Run a warm bath and add 6-8 drops of Lavender essential oil.Vigorously agitate water. Add 2 Cups of Epsom salts to help disperse the oil throughout the water. Step in and soak for 12-15 minutes to maximize relaxation.

Essential oils are generally considered safe to use; however, it’s always good to check with your doctor about using essential oils along with other lifestyle changes to help improve the quality and duration of sleep.

The more sleep is studied, the clearer it becomes that sleep is the 3rd pillar of health and wellness. Matthew Walker, researcher and author of Why We Sleep, states “Without good sleep, the other two pillars, diet and exercise, crumble. Sleep is not just for rest; it is instrumental to learning, mood and energy levels, regulating hormones, preventing cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes, slowing the effects of aging, and increasing longevity.”

Essential oils smell nice and may be the one thing that might help you drift off to sleep faster, keep you asleep longer, and allow you to wake feeling rested and energized the next morning.



Dayawansa, S., Umeno, K., Takakura, H., Hori, E., Tabuchi, E., Nagashima, Y., . . . Nishijo, H. (2003, October 31). Autonomic responses during inhalation of natural fragrance of Cedrol in humans. Retrieved June 4, 2019, from

Goel, N., Kim, H., & Lao, R. (n.d.). An Olfactory Stimulus Modifies Nighttime Sleep in Young Men and Women. Retrieved June 4, 2019, from

Hudson, R. (2005, January 13). The value of lavender for rest and activity in the elderly patient. Retrieved June 4, 2019, from

Lewith, G. T., Godfrey, A. D., & Prescott, P. (2005, August). A single-blinded, randomized pilot study evaluating the aroma of Lavandula augustifolia as a treatment for mild insomnia. Retrieved June 4, 2019, from

Stafford, T. (2012, March 13). Future - Why can smells unlock forgotten memories? Retrieved June 4, 2019, from

Takeda, A., Watanuki, E., & Koyama, S. (2017). Effects of Inhalation Aromatherapy on Symptoms of Sleep Disturbance in the Elderly with Dementia. Retrieved June 4, 2019, from

These Four Simple Strategies Can Help You De-Stress Before Bedtime. (n.d.). Retrieved June 4, 2019, from

Watanabe, E., Kuchta, K., Kimura, M., Rauwald, H. W., Kamei, T., & Imanishi, J. (2015, February 19). Effects of Bergamot (Citrus bergamia (Risso) Wright & Arn.) Essential Oil Aromatherapy on Mood States, Parasympathetic Nervous System Activity, and Salivary Cortisol Levels in 41 Healthy Females. Retrieved June 4, 2019, from


Information presented by W(h)ealth should not be relied upon to determine diet, make a medical diagnosis, or determine treatment for a medical condition. The information is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Consult a doctor and/or medical professional before making any health changes, especially any changes related to a specific diagnosis or condition.

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