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5 Essential Oils for Getting Your Best Sleep

Recently in an Urban Zen class at Yoga Works, we had to choose between a handful of different oils to rub between our palms and inhale as we laid in a super cozy pose bolstered up and covered in blankets. The lights were turned low and it was getting dark outside and raining. The entire experience was enough to lull you right into the most divine state of rest.

The teacher explained the different properties of each blend and why we would choose one of another. Here is a list of those oils and the benefits associated with each. Most of these can be easily ordered online or purchased at your neighborhood health food store or Whole Foods. Experiment with different ones and see which ones send you into your best sleep. And please let us know too! We love hearing from you.

Ylang Ylang

Springing from the branches of the cananga tree, native to Indonesia, ylang-ylang flowers produce an oil that is effective in reducing hypertension because of its sedative effects. Not only can it help you fall asleep faster, but a little aromatherapy with this oil can also alleviate stress and anxiety. Ylang-ylang also has the most beautiful, light, floral aroma that works wonderfully as a perfume or natural air freshener. Ylang-ylang shouldn't be applied directly to the skin, but it can be mixed with a base oil-- we recommend coconut oil, or even a moisturizing cream for a sweetly scented lotion.


Touted most often as the best essential oil for sleep and relaxation, lavender is a soothing scent that’s long been associated with restful sleep and is often used as a natural remedy for anxiety. Lavender is probably the most rigorously studied essential oil. A robust body of research shows lavender has anxiety reducing—or anxiolytic—effects, as well as beneficial effects on depression. Lavender can also help with pain relief, several studies show. One recent study showed aromatherapy using lavender oil reduced the need for pain medications in a group of 6 to 12-year-old children recovering from having their tonsils removed. Lavender also has sedative effects, meaning it can work directly to help you fall asleep. A number of studies point to lavender’s effectiveness for sleep: improving sleep quality, increasing sleep amounts, and elevating daytime alertness, including in people with insomnia.


Chamomile is one of the best known natural sedatives, which in turn, makes it one of the most brilliant essential oils for sleep. Whether it's being steeped to make tea or extracted in the form of an oil, chamomile's use as a sedative has been documented for centuries and is one of the most popular ways to fight off insomnia. The plant's potency isn't mere hearsay, however. Studies have shown chamomile's effectiveness in relieving stress and anxiety. Get your dose of aromatherapy by sprinkling a drop or two into steaming water and take 10 deep breaths. You'll be drifting off into your dreams in no time.


With a rich, woody, earthy scent, sandalwood has an ancient history of use for relaxation and anxiety relief. Scientific research indicates sandalwood can be effective in easing anxiety symptoms. Research has also shown sandalwood can have sedative effects, reducing wakefulness and increasing amounts of non-REM sleep. It can also help to relax cramped muscles that may be keeping you up at night.

It’s important to note: According to The Sleep Doctor, sandalwood has also been shown to increase wakefulness and alertness, even when it is also triggering physical relaxation. Everyone reacts to scents differently. Sandalwood may deliver sleep benefits for some people, while for others, it may promote wakeful, attentive relaxation. If that’s the case for you, sandalwood isn’t right for nighttime, but you can use it during the day to feel relaxed and alert.


Similar to sandalwood, this is a group of scents that can be stimulating or sleep-promoting, depending on your individual reaction and the type of citrus oil used. Bergamot, a type of orange, has been shown to relieve anxiety and improve sleep quality. Lemon oil has demonstrated anxiety and depression-relieving effects in research. Neroli, extracted from the blossom of a bitter orange tree, with its spicy, citric scent, is often used in perfumes. One study noted its ability to produce a calming effect, particularly when combined with lavender oil and chamomile. It's also effective on its own in reducing stress and blood pressure levels, particularly in women.

Citrus may help some people fall asleep more easily, while others may find these fresh, bright scents are relaxing, but not sleep-promoting. If citrus scents are stimulating to you, don’t use them before bed—but do consider using them during the day, to help you feel both refreshed and relaxed.

Now queue up your favorite Yoga Wake Up bedtime meditation, diffuse your favorite oils and.... Zzz. Sweet Dreams!