What are the Best Essential Oils for Insomnia

Sleep may be the least understood of our processes. This is a shame when you think about it because it is crucial. Presumably, most of us have suffered from insomnia at some time and recognize the shorter-term effects. We feel sluggish or even nauseous. Our memories become impaired, and we tend to eat more. Oddly insomnia has even been proven to contribute to weight gain (de Mendonça, 2021) and diabetes (Ogilvie, 2019).

Whether depression or anxiety causes insomnia or vice versa is controversial, but medical experts agree there is a link.

Trying to get to sleep is such a frustrating thing. Rather than the peacefulness, we might otherwise have taken for granted, we are tossing and turning and getting extremely aggravated with the wretched pillow.

Essential oils can be helpful, but aromatherapy has yet to become mainstream. This is potential because medicine control laws prohibit us from labeling our goods as Insomnia. I agree with them. Why I can’t sleep at night is different.

There can be many reasons for sleeplessness, from worrying to being angry to being in pain or, my personal favorite a full moon.

I know! It sounds mental, doesn’t it, but for a large sector of the community – mainly women, I’m presuming, the moon can become a significant obstacle to sleep.

Sleep is a perfect example of when a qualified aromatherapist will serve you much better than simply using your oils. That said, we felt this would be an excellent opportunity to drill down, get to know our oils on a much deeper level, and start to think about aromatherapy in a much more dynamic way.

Recommended Reading: The Importance of Relaxation

Primary and Secondary Insomnia

There are two types of insomnia, with many subgroups. 

So what are primary and secondary insomnia?

Primary insomnia is when the sleeplessness is the actual “dis-ease.” 

Secondary insomnia means you are being kept awake by another condition, so for example, lying in one place is painful if you ha arthritis, so you keep waking yourself up. Here, the sleeplessness is secondary to arthritis.

This is an important distinction because if you have secondary insomnia, relaxing oils will not sort the problem out; dealing with pain and stiffness would be a better place o start. 

So, here’s where many trainee aromatherapists start to panic a bit because we have just created a paradox. There are lots of oils we might want to use for pain, like rosemary, which is good for nerve pain but refreshing and will wake you up. Grapefruit too, and most of the citruses are more daytime darlings in fact, I’d even go as far as to say morning birds! 

What we’ll find then is we might need two preparations. First, we’ll perhaps go heavy on the lavender and juniper in the day to calm arthritis because we want juniper to detoxify the joints. However, we might want to knock the juniper on the head a couple of hours before we go to bed because it is a diuretic. Hopping to the toilet several times a night completely defeats the object.

All our oils will be night-time warriors and used this way; there are enough to be helpful, but not too many to be scary.

Recommended Reading: 10 Best Essential Oils for Sleep: No More Sleep Deprivation

Sleep Hygiene

While the essential oils play the starring role in the treatment, they will have to have a rather large supporting cast, and most of that comes in the form of clean living.

Removing any stimulants you might be using if you can is essential. It’s a destructive cycle; when you don’t sleep, you have to get some caffeine inside you to get through the day, but we’ve all been there. The problem is you could be making things worse. Remove caffeine gradually, though, because withdrawal causes horrible headaches and jitters. Maybe allow them in the morning, but promise not to have them after lunchtime.

Giving the bedroom a good going over can be very helpful. A clean and decluttering can have astonishing effects on our stress levels. Have the room cool rather than too warm, and consider whether a new pillow or mattress may also be helpful.

Try to close down screen time and anything stimulating a couple of hours before bed. Instead, try a little yoga, light exercise, meditation, a warm drink, and a soothing bath.

Lastly, more exercise during the day relieves you to sleep better too.

What are the Best Oils for Insomnia?

1. Lavender Essential Oil

Lavender essential oil is restful and soothing, calming, and analgesic. It would always be the first essential oil I would always consider if somebody had problems with sleeplessness. Essential oils have a cumulative effect. That is, their effects grow stronger the more that you use them. So it makes sense to use lavender in lots of different ways throughout the day to bring the body into a much calmer state by the time you get to bedtime.

I’m a big fan of aromatic baths; however, it’s essential to vary the oils you use to help you sleep. Hopefully, you have been reading enough of my articles to know that while essential oils do not have side effects, they have many main effects. For example, using lavender essential oil in the bath will instruct the skin to make it less of the protective barrier oil called sebum. Put simply, using lavender essential in the bath for too long will eventually dry your skin. So rotate it with oils like frankincense, geranium, chamomile, and vetiver.

We can’t put all our eggs in one basket by saying always have a bath because not everybody bathes. My husband thinks it’s a barbaric practice and describes it as me “wallowing in my filth.” If you’re not a bather, perhaps add lavender essential oil to a lotion or massage oil and rub it onto your neck or wrist. I’d add marjoram, but we’ll come to that momentarily.

I’m not a fan of using diffusers before bedtime because they are left unchecked as you sleep however one drop of lavender essential oil on your pillow can be beneficial. We don’t understand why this helps, yet we know that one of the problems processes the body switches off when we sleep sense of smell. This is why we have fire alarms. So you can’t smell smoke. However, rodent trials show that animals that inhale lavender as they sleep, sleep longer and fall asleep quicker. So lavender is continuing to affect them somehow. We just don’t know how! 

Maximum Dilution - 3%

Safety - Not suitable for use in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.

Recommended Reading: How To Use Lavender Oil For Sleep?

2. Chamomile Essential Oil (Roman)

Chamomile up essential oil is soothing and anti-inflammatory. By anti-inflammatory, I mean inflamed joints and skin but perhaps in the case of sleep, most importantly, inflamed tempers. If you are raging, then chamomile is going to help your mood.

I always say that the chamomile oils sing: “Whatever will be will be.” It’s a tremendously liberating essential oil for worriers. If you have an exam or are worried about money, chamomile essential oils help you loosen your grip.

Either of the chamomiles works well. I use Roman chamomile simply because it’s a little less expensive than German chamomile. However, either will do.

It is antispasmodic, so it can be helpful if there is cramping. Menstrual cramps, leg cramps, stomach cramps.

To me, chamomile seems to be the most gentle of all the essential oils. I like to use this on children. It doesn’t carry the same concerns of drying your skin as lavender. It’s far more soothing to itchy skin, so if somebody's got a skin condition that keeps them awake, this would be my choice.

Maximum Dilution - 3% 

Safety - Not suitable for use in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.

Recommended Reading: Nature’s Most Soothing Gift: Roman Chamomile Essential Oil

3. Marjoram Essential Oil

Marjoram has a profoundly soothing effect on the central nervous system and seems to be able to affect the internal body clock. Combine it with one or a couple of the other best essential oils for insomnia - I usually put it with lavender and geranium - and after a couple of weeks, your body clock seems to come back into alignment. 

It comes from the same family as oregano, so it still has that tremendous antibiotic nature, so it’s a great oil to use if you can’t sleep because you are coughing, for example. 

Like myrtle, it’s an excellent oil for kids who are upset. It always feels like that can’t-quite-catch-your-breath sobbing that they do. And, of course, it’s perfect for delicate runny noses! 

No need to keep it just for them, though; it’s like a great big hug when the world seems to be kicking your a*s. 

Lovely and gentle. Lovely and safe.

Maximum Dilution - 3% 

Safety - Not suitable for use in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.

Recommended Reading: Marjoram vs Oregano Essential Oil: They Both Differ and Overlap

4. Rose Essential Oil

I’m always a little reluctant to add rose because VINEVIDA doesn’t stock it yet, and it is a very pricey oil. But, that said, sometimes there just isn’t a substitute.

Often I’ll say use geranium instead. It’s just as good as a rose for hormonal support and the skin - well, almost as good at least. 

Geranium will be very helpful here, but it works differently. 

Rose has a proven hypnotic action that means it relaxes you into sleepiness and helps you to sleep longer too. The clinical trial proved this was a rodent trial (Rakhshandah, 2006); however, the researchers merely gave shape to what we already knew. This is certainly true of why rose is one of the best essential oils for insomnia.

There’s a gentleness to rose, a cooling nature for the skin, and warming to the heart. So when I feel hurt, I always use a rose. 

Incidentally, if night sweats are plaguing you or the night air is too warm get yourself a spritz of rosewater. I find it helps a lot.

Maximum Dilution - 3% 

Safety - Not suitable for use in the first 37 weeks of pregnancy.

5. Geranium Essential Oil

While geranium is not one of the best essential oils for insomnia, it is absolutely top of the pops for stress. It’s relaxing without being hypnotic, so it’s great to wear on an aroma pendant all day. Get calmer and calmer, then sleep.

I’ll often wear geranium when I am out and about.

Specifically, I find geranium essential oil useful when the worries are about money. I’ve no idea why it works that way. Perhaps, one day we’ll see those money problems processed by one specific brain area. Regardless, geranium just calms them right down. It’s gorgeous. 

In medical astrology - the old way of doing prescriptive medicine, Rose and geranium essential oils are ruled by Venus. Funnily enough, so is money, but also love. Affairs of the heart are tended carefully by both rose and geranium. They are very good at healing broken hearts. 

Maximum Dilution - 3% 

Safety - Not suitable for use in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.

6. Frankincense Essential Oil

Frankincense is comforting. It slows your breathing, relaxes you, and helps you feel protected by divinity. A recent rodent trial helped to put flesh on the bones of why it helps stress so well. The researchers were able to prove that it clawed back sleep deficits. (Okano, 2019) Rather than never catching up on that hour of lost sleep, the frankincense made the body pick up that missing hour of rest and repair it the next night. The body felt restored because it was. The frankincense had allowed it to catch up. 

Maximum Dilution - 3% 

Safety - Not suitable for use in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.

Recommended Reading: Top 5 Frankincense Essential Oil Blends – The Best Uses of the Most Recommended Oil Blends

7. Patchouli Essential Oil

Patchouli and vetiver are probably some of the oldest herbal medicines known to man. We can find records of these being used to help sleeplessness that go back 5000 years. The Ayurvedic Rig Veda discusses their benefits for healing the body. 

It’s not an essential oil you see researched for sleep that much, probably because its effects on mosquitos will be more critical. That said, patchouli has a beautiful grounding nature to it. It draws the energy from the head down into the body. It slows the thoughts, making them treacle-like and languid. 

Patchouli makes you feel heavy, slow, and relaxed. It’s one of the best essential oils for insomnia when the thoughts keeping you awake are about sex. It’s a natural aphrodisiac, but rather than make you want it more; it just makes you want to sin into the bed and let go. 

Maximum Dilution - 3% 

Safety - Not suitable for use in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.

Recommended Reading: What Oils Do Patchouli Essential Oil Blends Well With? Here Are The Best Options

8. Vetiver Essential Oil

Patchouli is heavy; vetiver is about ten times heavier! So tranquil, so soothing, and incredibly relaxing. 

That said, I’m not that much of a fan of using vetiver on its own. Vetiver and geranium now that’s something special! A word to the wise, though, blend them into a carrier oil before adding them to your bath. Remember that oil and water don’t mix, so if you use it undiluted, all you get is a rather un-nerving dark brown blob following you around the bath!!!

Maximum Dilution - 3% 

Safety - Not suitable for use in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.

Recommended Reading: How To Use Vetiver Oil

9. Clary Sage Essential Oil

Now, is this one of the best essential oils for insomnia if you just can’t sleep…no, it’s relaxing, but nothing to write about. But if you’re not sleeping because of restless legs, then this is the bee’s knees. Like chamomile, it has an antispasmodic nature that is blissfully relaxing to cramping. 

There are a few provisos with clary sage. First, I’d recommend avoiding it if you are perimenopausal. It’s fabulous for menstrual problems and post-menopausal conditions. But it’s estrogenic; it can lay havoc with that hormonal window. 

In addition to clary sage, I’d recommend adding some Epsom salts to your bath or taking a magnesium supplement. Magnesium is the off switch for me, a lifelong sufferer of restless legs. 

Maximum Dilution - 3% 

Safety - Not suitable for use in the first 37 weeks of pregnancy.

Recommended Reading: Blending with Clary Sage

10. Valerian Essential Oil

Now we are into the big hitters. 

Valerian’s action is proven to be exerted through the benzodiazepine receptors. It is incredibly relaxing and will numb you into a profound sleep. There are two downsides to using valerian. First, it smells like an older man’s socks, so you will want to blend it with something else.

I love valerian, lavender and geranium. The other pitfall you will have is you might wake up the following day and feel a bit dizzy. There is a feeling of being drugged with valerian. Everyone has their feelings about whether that’s a good thing. 

I’d recommend using valerian as an emergency measure, but then retraining your body with rose or marjoram. Incidentally, give it a bit of time too. If it doesn’t work on the first day, use the valerian again the next night and the next. Give it a good week to do its work. 

Maximum Dilution - 3% 

Safety - Not suitable for use in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.

11. Spikenard Essential Oil

I’m always a bit reluctant to know whether to put spikenard in these articles because it is so precious now. It's an endangered species that yields tiny amounts of oil in a country of some of the poorest people on Earth. This is an oil that should be treated like liquid gold. Not that you’d often use it for the sake of it, I guess, because if Valerian is the older man’s socks, then this is his week-old underwear!!! It’s not the most incredible smell on Earth, that’s for sure, but for sleeplessness because of fear, nothing else comes close. 

I always describe the time you would choose spikenard as a cartoon cat. You know how he is so startled, his hairs on end, popping eyes, and his claws ready to explode that’s when you use spikenard. 

It’s an incredible oil for trauma, shock, and when you are terrified to close your eyes. 

You’ll only need a small amount. It comes from the same botanical family as valerian and exerts similar effects. 

Maximum Dilution - 3% 

Safety - Not suitable for use in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.

How To Use Essential Oils for Sleep


For me, having an aromatic bath will always be the first choice. 

The body's muscles relax in the warmth, and as the pores open, that gives you a million gateways into the body for the oils. The steam also carries relaxing volatiles to the brain. 

To do this, simply blend your essential oils into a teaspoon of carrier oil and add it to the water. Carrier oils can be dangerous if you are not steady on your feet as you get out of the tub. Since they only need to be diluted into some fat, how about adding them into some milk? So Cleopatra and incredibly nurturing to the skin.

Essential oils need 19 minutes to get into the skin, so you’ll need to stay there for twenty minutes to get the full effects of the oils.


Great in the day and to help you wind down in the evening, but do not leave diffusers running at night. 

Aroma Pendants

Again, brilliant in the day for dealing with tension and getting yourself calm. Please do not wear these in bed.

Massage Oils 

The perfect wind down at the end of the day, but also, why not use a small amount in your pulse points and back of the neck, just to get the oils doing their job as you sleep?

Recommended Reading: Best Essential Oils for Anxiety: De-Stress Yourself


Take some time out to relax. Use your oils, most certainly but find ways to slow your mind. We live in an environment where our brains are continually being stimulated, not to mention the past three years of collective trauma. Use essential oils for insomnia to start looking after your body to restore time to rest and rejuvenate.

Remember that oils have so many other central effects, and not only will you begin to enjoy more peaceful nights but also generally have a more relaxed mental attitude.

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