Essential Oils For When You Just Can't Fall Asleep

Molly Longman

In this crazy world full of honking horns and warm pillows, it can be hard to get the sleep you need. Doctors and sleep specialists can give you tricks, tips, and remedies for falling asleep, but there’s also a homeopathic tactic that some people swear by: Essential oils.

You can add them to your bath, spray them onto your pillow, diffuse them, or apply them directly to your skin to soak up the benefits. Elena Brower, an essential oils educator at dōTERRA and author of Practice You: A Journal, says it's most effective to dab the oils on the soles of your feet. “That’s where you have the most nerve endings capillaries,” Brower says. “It’s a very sensitive part of your body… It’s one of the best ways to welcome the properties of the oil into the system.”

She recommends using the oils sparingly, always diluting them, and trying a patch test on your inner forearm before applying the oil topically. Once you know that you’re not allergic to the oil and your skin isn’t reacting to the area you tested it, you should be all set to apply the oils when you can’t fall asleep. You should see a doctor if you're having constant issues falling asleep, but there is some research backing the oils. One study published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that aromatherapy treatments using the essential oils lavender, roman chamomile, and neroli improved the sleep quality and anxiety levels of the 56 people studied.

But don't just douse yourself with any old essential scent — there are specific formulas and oils that will help you fall asleep, fast.

Sweet Marjoram

One study found that aromatherapy massages incorporating sweet marjoram oils could improve the sleep quality of nurses who worked night shifts. Massage the diluted oil into your feet and arms, or ask a friend or partner to massage it into your back, for sweet dreams.

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I asked Brower if there was one essential oil she'd chose to help with sleep if she could only pick one. "It would be vetiver," Brower says. "It’s a root that grows in Haiti, and you have to pull it up out of the ground. It requires a good deal of effort, and when you consider the energy of a root that grows beneath the ground, you are creating the same grounded [feeling] in the body when you apply a drop or two to the soles of your feet."

Brower says this can bring a restful night's sleep.


Valerian has been used to ease insomnia and restlessness since the second century A.D., but gained popularity in 17th century Europe, according to Mount Sinai Health System. Although they recommend to take it in a tea or tincture, the oil has gained popularity over the years.

Roman Chamomile

We all love a good chamomile tea before bed, but diffusing the essential oil before bed can further the benefits. Roman Chamomile is said to have a soothing or calming effect on the skin, mind, and body, according to dōTERRA's guidance.


Similarly to vetiver, cedarwood is said to have grounding properties, and dōTERRA's guidance recommends using it after a difficult day to relax.


"Lavender is one of the most calming," Brower says. "I find sensitizing oils make me very aware of myself and whether or not I’m taking care of myself. I use it whenever I need to relax my body or my mind. Very often, I’ll blend it in the diffuser with another [essential oil], especially the woods — sandalwood or cedarwood."

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