Lavender or Chamomile? Essential Oils for Sleep and Relaxation
Aromatherapy is often snubbed as a tool to aid sleep, despite its soothing, mood-enhancing properties. Our sense of smell can play a key role in rest — and essential oils are a simple way to tap into this. Easy to introduce into your evening ritual, aromatherapy can inspire relaxation and prepare the body and mind for quality sleep.
But with so many essential oils available it can be hard to know which one to choose to improve sleep and relaxation. This guide will distil the research and outline the best essential oils to help you sleep soundly at night.
How do essential oils support sleep?
When you smell something, the body’s olfactory nerve transmits a signal to your amygdala and limbic systemi — areas of the brain that are responsible for memory and mood.
This is why smell can play such an important role in improving your sleep health. Information from your other senses travels first to another region of the brain called the thalamus, which redirects sensory data to other parts of the brain that trigger the body’s sensory perceptions.ii Smell, on the other hand, traverses directly to the brain’s memory and emotion centre. This explains why aromas can instantly evoke a strong memory or feeling.
With this in mind, we can use essential oils to relax the body, calm the nervous system, and support the reduction of stress, anxiety, and low mood — helping to improve our sleep hygiene.iii
What essential oils are best for sleep?
To aid quality rest and improve overall sleep hygiene, we recommend incorporating the following essential oils into your evening routine.
With floral, sweet notes and balsamic undertones, lavender is used for its soothing qualities. Research suggests that this calming fragrance quiets the nervous system by reducing heart rate, blood pressure, and skin temperatureiv — processes that occur as the body naturally transitions into sleep.
A 2016 study assessed the effects of lavender on students experiencing sleep trouble.v Students were divided into two groups: one group received the lavender inhalation patch and practised sleep hygiene, while the other group were given a placebo patch and also practised sleep hygiene for five consecutive nights. The findings revealed that lavender had a positive effect on daytime vibrancy, energy, and sleep quality, positioning it as an effective natural aid for insomnia.
An earlier study even suggested that lavender essential oil could improve sleep quality. Researchers examined how lavender essential oil impacted 31 young, healthy sleepers.vi The findings concluded that lavender elevated levels of both slow and deep-wave sleep in subjects.
A trio of aromas for the body and mind, Relaxing Blend is a soothing aroma to encourage relaxation and support sleep. This essential oil is comprised of the sleep-enhancing fragrances clary sage and geranium, as well as lavender (see above).
Clary sage supports sleep by helping to reduce stress and anxiety. A study found that inhalation of clary sage oil calmed the breathing and reduced blood pressure of women with who were undergoing an assessment for urinary incontinence.vii The results advocated inhaling clary sage oil as a tool for relaxation.
On the other hand, geranium helps to quiet the mind in moments of agitation. In one study, researchers examined the effect geranium essential oil inhalation had on women in labour for the first time. The findings highlighted that geranium oil had a soothing effect and was able to curb the anxiety associated with the first stage of labour.viii
Rose Geranium & Chamomile
A blend of rose geranium and chamomile flower, Rose Geranium & Chamomile is calming aroma to promote relaxation and quality rest.
In a clinical setting, the scent of rose geranium has demonstrated immense promise in soothing anxiety, enhancing relaxation, and reducing stress — all of which are critically important for preparing the body for rest.ix
Chamomile is also known for its stress-relieving and sleep-enhancing properties. A natural sedative, studies have illuminated chamomile’s effectiveness at managing symptoms of stress and anxiety, making it especially conducive to sleep.x
How to use essential oils for sleep?
You can use aromatherapy for sleep in many different ways, including:
Dilute your fragrance with a carrier oil, such as Grapeseed oil, then apply it topically to pulse points — neck, temples, behind the ears, and even the crown of your head
Add to massage oil, like Colladeen Visage Body Oil, and rub all over your body
Sprinkle a few drops on your pillow
Use an aroma diffuser, such as Zenbow Diffuser, Esta Diffuser, or Liv Diffuser
Add a few drops to a hot bath (lavender oil only)
If you’re experiencing sleep trouble — particularly if it’s triggered by anxiety or stress — aromatherapy can be a useful way to relax the body and mind and encourage quality rest.
You can find more information on naturally improving your sleep, as well as common sleep conditions and treatments, on our dedicated sleep health resource.
Nierenberg. C. (2019). The Science of Essential Oils: Does Using Scents Make Sense? Livescience.com. Available online: https://www.livescience.com/52080-essential-oils-science-health-effects.html
ScienceDaily. (2019). Sensory function: Thalamus enhances, stores sensory information: Important brain network for processing sensory perceptions elucidated. Available online: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160121110929.htm
Koulivand. P., Ghadiri. M.K. & Gorji. A. (2013). Lavender and the Nervous System. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 1-10.
Lillehei. A., Halcón. L., et al. (2016). Well-Being and Self-Assessment of Change: Secondary Analysis of an RCT That Demonstrated Benefit of Inhaled Lavender and Sleep Hygiene in College Students with Sleep Problems. Explore. 12(6), 427-435.
Goel. N., Kim. H. & Lao. R.. (2005). An Olfactory Stimulus Modifies Nighttime Sleep in Young Men and Women. Chronobiology International. 22(5), 889-904.
Seol. G., Lee. Y., et al. (2013). Randomized Controlled Trial for Salvia sclarea or Lavandula angustifolia: Differential Effects on Blood Pressure in Female Patients with Urinary Incontinence Undergoing Urodynamic Examination. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 19(7), 664-670.
Fakari. F.R., Tabatabaeichehr. M., et al. (2015). Effect of Inhalation of Aroma of Geranium Essence on Anxiety and Physiological Parameters during First Stage of Labor in Nulliparous Women: a Randomized Clinical Trial. Journal of Caring Sciences. 4(2), 135-141.
Mohebitabar. S., Shirazi. M., et al. (2017). Therapeutic efficacy of rose oil: A comprehensive review of clinical evidence. Avicenna journal of phytomedicine. 7(3), 206–213.
Cho. M., Min. E., et al. (2013). Effects of Aromatherapy on the Anxiety, Vital Signs, and Sleep Quality of Percutaneous Coronary Intervention Patients in Intensive Care Units. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 1-6.
Olivia Salter has always been an avid health nut. After graduating from the University of Bristol, she began working for a nutritional consultancy where she discovered her passion for all things wellness-related. There, she executed much of the company’s content marketing strategy and found her niche in health writing, publishing articles in Women’s Health, Mind Body Green, Thrive and Psychologies.