Learn about the best essential oils for sleep according to scientific research. Hint: one of them far outperforms the others!

Top 3 Essential Oils for Sleep 10

Learn about the best essential oils for sleep according to scientific research. Hint: one of them far outperforms the others!The real title of this article should be “The Top Essential Oil for Sleep and a Few Others that Might Just Help.” While lavender oil has been extensively studied for sleep, the same cannot be said for any other essential oil. Most other oils that have been studied have less than 3 studies to their name, and many have only one, barely credible study. So below, I’ve listed much of the research on lavender oil and then mentioned a couple other oils that have enough credibility to be listed as possible essential oils for sleep.

Pssst! Would you like to get access to my entire library of free resources?? Thought so. Just click here my friend.


Lavender is, by far, the most recommended essential oil for sleep, and for good reason. It is the only oil that has been convincingly shown to have a positive effect on sleep consistently through multiple studies.

In 2013, a review study found that four of the fifteen studies on essential oils (not all of them studied lavender) and sleep found a statistically significant positive correlation between lavender oil and sleep.  

Since then, there have been numerous more studies on lavender and sleep, such as this one on college students, and this one on postpartum women.

The best part about studies involving lavender is that they are often human studies. When it comes to any drug (and yes, essential oils are natural drugs), studying them in humans produces the most accurate findings. As you’ll see with other oils, human studies are not as common and thus are less reliable.

The most important finding here, though, is that the type of lavender matters significantly.

Lavandula angustifolia is the type of lavender with the sedative, sleep-inducing qualities reported in these studies. It is sometimes referred to as “Old English Lavender.” There are a few different types of lavender available for purchase from reputable retailers, including some with stimulating properties, so it’s important to make sure you’re buying the right type.

Related: Lavender Oil – Just the Facts

Related: Buy quality lavender oil from the company I trust most


This oil, usually derived from coniferous trees such as those in the pine family, is another of the most widely-recommended oils for sleep. You can find testimonials for it around pretty much every corner of the internet. People who swear it helps them sleep, or relaxes them, or has cured their incurable insomnia. But what does science say?

There is one, yes only one, study that I was able to find that mentioned a test of cedarwood oil for its sedative properties. (Doesn’t mean there aren’t more, just means I couldn’t find them).

So this one study, performed by a Japanese group, looks at the effect of cedrol (the main component of cedarwood oil) on rats. They found that the rats exposed to the cedrol (through inhalation) exhibited decreases spontaneous motor activity (i.e. they got sluggish and sleepy looking), and also increased sleeping time.

One study is good, but in the world of science it’s far from conclusive. What it allows me to say is that in combination with the testimonials, cedarwood oil has a reasonable chance of helping you sleep. The only side effect of trying it is a few less dollars in your pocket (it’s a pretty affordable oil), so why not? Let me know if it works for you, and we can add our two cents to the testimonials about it haha

Interestingly, this study used a blend of lavender and chamomile as a positive control (i.e. something they know will work for comparison), which leads us to the next bullet point…


Roman Chamomile

This has been a one of the most popular essential oils for sleep for quite awhile, and it’s use in herbal medicine dates back at least 5000 years. It’s also a widely available tea.

There are two major types of chamomile available currently: German (Chamomilla recutita) and Roman (Chamaemelum nobile). There are many chemical differences between these two plants and their respective essential oils, but the most applicable one to this article is that Roman Chamomile is the one that is known for it’s sleep properties. (you can read more about differences in this blog post).

While clinical studies are lacking, there are a few studies that suggest that roman chamomile has sedative and sleep-inducing properties. One study (referenced here; I can’t access the study itself) has claimed that those properties are due to flavenoids in the oil that bind to certain receptors in the brain.

There was also a study done on rats that showed chamomile extract as effective at promoting sleep. However this one is only an okay study because it fails to do a comprehensive statistical analysis of the data, so I take the results with a grain of salt.

Overall, though, Roman chamomile has a solid chance of being helpful for sleep, and with the amount of chamomile tea available in the world it should be pretty easy to try. Essential oil of chamomile can also be used for a stronger effect because it will be more concentrated than a tea.

What essential oils for sleep work for you? I’d love to hear your stories! Chat with me in the comments. 🙂

Pssst! Would you like to get access to my entire library of free resources?? Thought so. Just click here my friend.

About Rachel

Rachel is a blogger and Biophysics Lab Manager who lives in Clemson, SC (go tigers!). After studying conventional pharmaceuticals and how they target specific ailments, she applied that knowledge to figuring out how essential oils can work to treat the same ailments, and ended up creating the blog The Essential Girl. When she’s not blogging or sciencing the shit out of something in the lab, she likes to swing dance and teach group fitness classes.

  • Tammy Pegram Ryals

    I absolutely love Cedarwood and Lavendar! Not only do I put it in my diffuser at night but also on the soles of my feet and my chest. I sleep like a baby! I’ve never slept so well in my life.

  • Susan Lazore

    Thanks for this topic, sleep is a priority for me too, and I’m looking for the science! I’m using the doTERRA Serenity blend which already has the Lavender, Cedarwood, and Roman Chamomile, glad to see the proper versions, so the companies have done their homework too. I have limited success with this, because I’m under a lot of stress so sometimes add Frankincense (diffuse or bottom of feet) which seems to give me weird dreams, which is cool, but again, not real consistent.

    So then I got one of those health newsletters that says Jasmine is helpful to sleep because it increases GABA. I ordered Jasmine (an absolute) from Plant Therapy since doTERRA doesn’t carry it. It’s got a nice strong smell and I put it on a cotton ball at night and hold near my nose while I read then keep the cotton ball on the night stand. I think it does have a sedative effect. Yay, so I try not to use my Valium.

    I had my neurotransmitters tested with Life Extension last month and my GABA is low. Now if I could just find an oil for dopamine? But if you Google, Jasmine and GABA you will find it seems to be a thing. Here’s one example.


    • I started researching essential oils/started experimenting with them a year ago after reading about all their benefits.

      I have something called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) aka (RSD). It’s recorded to be the most painful health condition known to mankind (it sucks). One of the big symptoms of CRPS is the ability to sleep is gone. My body no longer goes into R.E.M. Sleep, so it’s never a restful sleep and my body doesn’t heal itself like everyone else.
      But even when my body finally shuts off from all the meds they have me on for some rest, it’s only for 3-4 hours.

      With all that said, desperate for a solution is an understatement lol.

      The one mix that I’ve found effective with sleep is Lavender and Clary Sage together. At first, I diffused those together because the scent is AMAZAZINGGG! But quickly found out that it was helping me fall asleep and even stay asleep for an extra couple hrs!

      The mix also helps a lot with my anxiety, I’m not sure about the GABA aspect with Clary Sage. But maybe it could help? Since Clary Sage effects your emotions and all that goodness, maybe it could help you in a positive way?
      I hope this helps! 🙂

      -Heather Lynn

      • What a wonderful recommendation! Thank you so much for sharing Heather.

  • Carla

    I love vetiver…I add that into my diffuser with lavender and sleep like a baby…I have never been able to fall asleep within min until I tried it. Vetiver completely shuts down my brain almost instantly…

  • Jolene

    Only wanted to comment on the cedarwood – I have personally seen it have negative effects with a friend who has seizures. We stopped the woods family and the seizures stopped again. Just a heads up for people with similar problems. Yay on the Lavender tho too!!!

  • Emily Brown (Crunchy Mama Scie

    I love reading your non-biased essential oil research! I nominated you for the Blogger Recognition Award on my blog! (: