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Aromatherapy for Insomnia & Sleep Disturbances

Updated on March 8, 2011

Not getting a good night's sleep can wreak havoc on your waking life. Insomnia comes in two forms-the inability to fall asleep or the inability to stay asleep (when tired and given adequate opportunity)-and both respond extremely well to the use of aromatherapy. Using essential oils to soothe and relax your body and mind can provide the relief you need, without the use of prescription medications or over-the-counter drugs.

Many essential oils can aid in relaxation, but there are a few that are particularly conducive to sleep itself. These oils are especially suited to the treatment of insomnia, as they soothe the nervous system and the anxiety-ridden brain alike. They will not knock you out, as some medications do, nor leave you drowsy in the morning. Aromatherapy will not "put" you to sleep. It simply builds a bridge, as it were, between you and the rest you need and deserve, enabling you to cross into that state in a gentle, natural way.

Tools for Better Sleep

Essential Oils for Insomnia

You may have had it recommended to you to try (or may already practice the ritual of) having a cup of chamomile or peppermint tea before bed. This home remedy actually has real merit, as dried chamomile and peppermint contain a small amount of their respective essential oils. Of course, to use the pure oil itself is much more effective.

A few other light, floral oils can also be particularly helpful for insomnia. These include:

  • essential oil of lavender
  • essential oil of jasmine
  • essential oil of melissa
  • essential oil of neroli
  • essential oil of sweet marjoram

Methods of Application

To gain the full benefits of these oils, I recommend drawing a bath in the evening and adding 5-10 drops total of whatever oils you choose. (Once you have discovered which oils work best for you, you may want to mix your own blend, and use 5-10 drops of that.) The warm water allows for steam inhalation, while it opens pores and allows the oils to enter the body transdermally.

If your lifestyle or schedule does not allow for a warm bath, blend 5-10 drops of essential oil (or a combination of them) into 2 or 3 tablespoons of carrier oil (jojoba, sweet almond, apricot kernal, even extra-virgin olive oil) ahead of time, and store in a clean, dry, airtight container out of direct sunlight. At bed time, or a few minutes before, rub a few drops of this mixture on your temples, wrists, and sternum (breastbone). Both the carrier and essential oils will be absorbed into the subcutaneous layer of fat, and thus enter your bloodstream, while the oil rubbed on your sternum and temples provide a soothing scent as you fall to sleep.

If you have particularly sensitive skin, or do not like the feeling of oil on your skin in bed, go the route of inhalation alone. Either put several drops of essential oil into a pot of boiling water (after removing from heat) and inhale the steam, use an aromatherapy diffuser, or sprinkle 2-3 drops of pure essential oil on a handkerchief or fabric scrap and tuck inside your pillowcase. Prior to sleeping, you can also burn a homemade aromatherapy soy candle. Just remember to blow it out before you actually climb into bed and drift off. =)

Whichever oils you choose, or whatever method of application you find you prefer, you can feel good about your decision to use aromatherapy, rather than drugs, to provide you with relief.


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    • Keeley Shea profile image

      Keeley Shea 6 years ago from Norwich, CT

      Great Hub! I am going to try some of these. I love most of the smells already but hadn't incorporated them into a bedtime routine. Thanks for writing a very educational hub!

    • profile image

      Andy Johnston 8 years ago

      This explains why there are so many lavender scented products for the bedroom. I hadn't realized that the scent encourages sleep. Good info.

    • bccs profile image

      bccs 10 years ago

      cool really helps.. :) thumbs up!

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 10 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks Maddie... Guess I'll just try the trial and error method for now.. :-)

    • AuraGem profile image

      AuraGem 10 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Thank you for the info Maddie. I might try the sandalwood suggestion as an alternative! First time I have heard of a reed diffuser.

      Smiles and Light

    • Maddie Ruud profile image

      Maddie Ruud 10 years ago from Oakland, CA


      Because essential oils are extracted precisely to be 100% pure... nothing added, just the "essence" of their source, they do tend to be highly concentrated.  This is why we dilute them in carrier oils, water, or wax (as with candles).  The solution, if they seem overpowering, is simply to use fewer drops of essential oil per tablespoon of carrier.  This is something that you have to discover by trial and error, depending on the desired effect.

      For the gentle scenting of one's home, for example, I'd recommend a reed diffuser, which disperses scent very gradually and unobtrusively.  You may also prefer the lighter, fruity or floral scents to heavier (and darker-colored) oils like cedarwood, sandalwood, or, say, thyme.

      Hope this helps!


    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 10 years ago from Georgia

      Maddie, as for aromatherapy, when using oils and such, usually they are a tad strong. Where can one find a very lightly scented oil, that is virtually unnoticeable when in the room and not too strong when you walk in a room... Is there a kind?

    • Brent's Thoughts profile image

      Brent's Thoughts 10 years ago

      interesting read. my personal suggestion would be to buy a treadmill.

    • profile image

      AuraGem 10 years ago

      A delightful hub! Added some more info to my store of knowing a lttle about aromatherapy. Also, for some reason I find the scents of sage relaxing, yet have found nowhere that actually says that. I am an odd one, because I tend to find floral scents a little too sweet.

      Happy New Year!

    • siddhinfo profile image

      Shrihari Sawant 10 years ago from Goa (India)

      Good Hub I like it and happy New Year to you

    • Maddie Ruud profile image

      Maddie Ruud 10 years ago from Oakland, CA


      Thanks for reading.

      As for my qualifications, I am nationally certified in therapeutic bodywork and massage, and an internationally certified aromatherapist. Hope you'll try some of these remedies.

      Happy surfing!

    • profile image

      Earthwings9 10 years ago

      Maddie, good work where do you find your info? Do you post info for others sites? I see you are promoting ESSENTIAL OILS. Or do you spend hours surfing the web sites like I do?

    • Athlyn Green profile image

      Athlyn Green 10 years ago from West Kootenays

      Interesting article, Maddie,

      In my alternative health articles I've often touched on the soothing properties of lavender.

      In Nova Scotia, we actually have a lavender festival, which I'm eager to attend next year!