It’s no secret that fragrances can have a powerful effect on our mind and body. Maybe a certain perfume or cologne brings on feelings of happiness because it reminds you of your significant other. Or maybe the smell of baby lotion brings back a flood of blissful, happy baby memories (or possibly a screaming infant!). We, as humans, link many memories and emotions with specific fragrances.
Essential oils have been used and studied over the years for their ability to help people relax, reduce anxiety, and sleep better. These naturally occurring, aromatic compounds are found in the seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, and other parts of plants. They have a wide range of physical and emotional wellness applications.
Below, we discuss a few of the most studied and effective essential oils.
When inhaled, jasmine scent has been found to help people experience greater sleep efficiency, less movement during slumber, and overall better quality sleep. One study found that jasmine oil exhibits a calming effect and can act as a natural sedative by reducing heart rate and bringing on feelings of calm and relaxation.
For most people, the smell of vanilla evokes a sense of warmth and coziness. Research tells us that it can also help you to relax and feel happy, therefore, helping you to sleep better. In one study, people who smelled vanilla while completing a stress test had more stable heart rates and better blood pressure readings than those who took the stress test in an unscented room.
Valerian essential oil is one of the most studied oils in relation to sleep improvement. One study showed that valerian oil reduced sleep latency and wake time after sleep onset, for healthy adults in the home setting. Another study showed that rats who smelled valerian oil fell asleep faster and slept longer than those who didn’t. Additionally, valerian oil can also improve mood and reduce anxiety, which are often related to insomnia and other sleep disorders.
Many people appreciate the smell of lavender. Moreover, scientific evidence suggests that aromatherapy with lavender may slow the activity of the nervous system, improve sleep quality, promote relaxation, and reduce stress in people suffering from sleep disorders.
Studies also suggest that massage with essential oils, particularly lavender, may result in improved sleep quality, more stable mood, better concentration, and reduced anxiety. In one study, people who received a massage with lavender felt less anxious and more positive than those who received a massage without lavender.
If using therapeutic grade essential oils, try diluting with a carrier oil (such as coconut oil) and rubbing directly onto your skin. You can also dilute the essential oil, rub in on your hands, and take deep breathes while inhaling the aroma. Other ways to enjoy oils include diffusing them in an oil diffuser or placing a few drops in your bath water.
* It is important to note that essential oils aren’t for everyone. They are simply one option that has been found effective to help some people sleep better. Some people may be especially sensitive to their strong smells, which can lead to headaches or nausea. Pregnant women are also advised to discuss essential oils with their doctor before beginning use.