Aromatherapy for sleep and relaxation has been used for centuries. Despite this, we are still overly stressed and sleep-deprived.
Our sleep duration needs can vary throughout our lives. An infant’s needs range from 10-16 hours.1 Children and young adults come in a close second with a need for 8-12 hours, and adults typically need seven hours.1 However, we are not getting the recommended amount of sleep each night for optimal health. 2,3
Numerous chronic diseases and conditions are linked to a lack of quality sleep. Sleep deprivation also increases the risks of motor vehicle accidents4 and mistakes made at work. Some of the chronic diseases and conditions include
- type 2 diabetes,
- cardiovascular disease,
- and depression. 5
Common Causes of Poor Sleep
There are many reasons someone may be struggling with quality sleep. Sometimes the reasons are medical like
- restless legs syndrome,
- mental health or neurological issues,
- hormonal dysfunctions,
- or sleep apnea. 6
Other times, there may be modifiable lifestyle factors that can be addressed. Of course, it is imperative to see a doctor for a clear diagnosis of the problem, but there are interesting studies on supporting better sleep.
Aromatherapy is “an alternative therapy that is generally defined as the application of essential oils to cure symptoms associated with discomfort and illness.” 7
It is important to address that this common definition is outdated, and aromatherapy is considered a complementary modality, not an alternative to treatments or therapies.
While aromatherapy is gaining popularity for health issues like stress management and improving sleep quality, there still needs to be more scientific research to back up the claims. 8
Products to support sleep
One aromatherapy product shown to help support relaxation and sleep is lavender essential oil.9 Lavender essential oil is one of the most studied essential oils in clinical trials.
Lavender contains active ingredients shown to relax the nervous system. 9 It has been shown using lavender essential oil (LOE) can help reduce symptoms of stress commonly associated with poor sleep. 9,10
Some of symptom reductions associated with LOE use are:
- muscle tension,
- and insomnia.9,10
Other essential oils that could aid in improving sleep are bergamot, chamomile, cedarwood, and clary sage.11
Lifestyle factors to help you sleep
Developing a sleep hygiene plan (that incorporates aromatherapy products) can help improve sleep quality. A sleep hygiene plan encompasses the bedroom environment and the daily routines that promote consistent and uninterrupted sleep. 12
Factors to include in a sleep hygiene plan are as follows.
- Set a sleep schedule. Get up at the same time every day and go to bed at the same time each night.
- Have a nightly routine. Keep a consistent evening routine that includes no electronics after 2-3 hours before bed. Dim the lights and wind down for at least thirty minutes before bed.
- Practice healthy daily habits. Go outside daily, consistently exercise, limit caffeine to mornings, do not smoke, and limit alcohol consumption, especially close to bedtime.
- Optimize your bedroom setting. Include calming scents such as lavender in your bedroom.
Quality sleep is mandatory for good health. An established sleep hygiene plan and exploring ways to incorporate essential oils into your days and nights can help you meet sleep targets.
While we may all have those off nights of not sleeping well—developing and adhering to a sleep hygiene plan can help limit those nights and help improve our health, relationships, and society.
- How much sleep do I need? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/how_much_sleep.html. Published September 14, 2022. Accessed October 28, 2022.
- Adults – sleep and sleep disorders. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/data-and-statistics/adults.html. Published November 2, 2022. Accessed October 28, 2022.
- High School Students Sleep Data. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/data-and-statistics/high-school-students.html. Published September 14, 2022. Accessed October 28, 2022.
- Gottlieb DJ, Ellenbogen JM, Bianchi MT, Czeisler CA. Sleep deficiency and motor vehicle crash risk in the general population: a prospective cohort study. BMC Med. 2018;16(1):44. Published 2018 Mar 20. doi:10.1186/s12916-018-1025-7
- Sleep and chronic disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/chronic_disease.html. Published September 13, 2022. Accessed October 28, 2022.
- Key sleep disorders – sleep and sleep disorders. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/key_disorders.html. Published September 13, 2022. Accessed October 28, 2022.
- Yogi W, Tsukada M, Sato Y, Izuno T, Inoue T, Tsunokawa Y, Okumo T, Hisamitus T, and Sunagawa M. (2021). Influences of lavender essential oil inhalation on stress responses during short-duration sleep cycles: A pilot study. Healthcare 9:909. https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare9070909
- Aromatherapy. Mount Sinai Health System. https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/treatment/aromatherapy. Published 2022. Accessed October 30, 2022.
- Gürler M, Kizilirmak A, and Mürüvvet B. (2020). The effect of aromatherapy on sleep and quality of life in menopausal women with sleeping problems: A non-randomized placebo controlled trial. Complementary Medicine Research 27:421-430 DOI:10.1159/000507751
- Cheong MJ, Kim S, Kim JS, et al. A systematic literature review and meta-analysis of the clinical effects of aroma inhalation therapy on sleep problems. Medicine. 2021;100(9):e24652. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000024652
- Ryan T. The Best Essential Oils for Sleep. Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/best-essential-oils-for-sleep. Published April 13, 2022. Accessed October 28, 2022.
- Suni E. Sleep hygiene. Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene. Published September 29, 2022. Accessed October 28, 2022.