What Is Aromatherapy and Can It Help You Sleep at Night?

February 10, 2022

One-third of adults globally aren’t getting the minimum recommended seven hours of sleep they need each night. Many struggle to turn off their brain, relax, and unwind, while others suffer from bouts of insomnia. Thankfully, the aromatherapy trend is rising, and the market for essential oils is growing.

Essential oils are derived from plants and have been historically used to create natural medicines. In the eastern hemisphere, essential oils are famous for their various properties and treat many ailments, from digestive issues to headaches and anxiety. Aromatherapy is when we take these oils, turn them into water vapor, and inhale them to obtain a positive health effect.

Interestingly, research shows that smell affects our sleep, too. Let’s go over the history of aromatherapy, popular essential oils, and how to work aromatherapy into your nightly routine.

The History of Aromatherapy

The history of aromatics goes back to 3500 BC when they were used primarily for religious purposes, perfumes, and medicines. The term aromatherapy was introduced in 1935 by French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse after he used lavender oil to treat a severe chemical burn. He was astonished by its healing properties and committed his career to study each oil and its uses. He founded the French Society of Aromatic Products and published over 20 scientific works, still considered popular references today.

As of 2022, over 17,000 studies have been published on essential oils, and it continues to be a popular holistic form of medicine for many individuals globally. For the everyday user, essential oils are commonly inhaled using a diffuser. They are not meant to be consumed orally. They may also be massaged onto the skin for absorption if preferred to inhalation. The chemical compounds that exist in these oils produce a reaction from your body as they stimulate the limbic system—the part of your brain that controls your emotions, behavior, sense of smell, and even your memory. This is why we often associate specific scents with memories of our past. The limbic system also influences our breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure.

Popular Essential Oils


Bergamot essential oil boasts antibacterial and antibiotic properties. It can both inhibit the growth of new bacteria and prevent future infections. Due to its anti-inflammatory compounds, it also serves as a natural painkiller. It is a natural mood booster, lowers blood pressure, and even aids digestion. It is most commonly used to heal scar tissue, reduce unwanted pigmentation, unclog pores, and combat premature aging.


Jasmine essential oil is proven to boost one’s mood and improve sleep. It contains antiviral and antibiotic compounds, making it the ideal remedy for internal and external infections and boosting the immune system. It aids insomnia with natural calming properties, improves PMS symptoms by balancing and regulating hormone levels, and even increases concentration, preparing you for active learning.


Lavender essential oil is packed with antioxidants and is a highly effective defense against the radicals we come into contact with each day. With its anti-inflammatory properties, lavender is also an excellent source of pain relief and has proven calming benefits for individuals with anxiety, depression, stress, and insomnia. Additionally, it is antibacterial and antiseptic, making it one of the most effective essential oils for acne-prone skin. Lavender has other neuropathological benefits, including supporting healthy brain function.


Lemon essential oil is a natural remedy for nausea, making it an excellent solution for pregnant women. In addition, lemon is considered calming in nature and is known to soothe indigestion, cramps, and gastritis. Lemon is also purifying for the body with its antimicrobial properties, stimulating lymphatic drainage. Additionally, the high vitamin C content stimulates the immune system and strengthens the body’s ability to fight off disease and infection.


Sandalwood essential oil is a popular tool to increase mental clarity and improve cognitive function. It is known to promote feelings of calmness and allow for better decision-making, improve focus, and reduce stress. Additionally, athletes use sandalwood to speed up muscle repair and heal sensitive areas. It is a gentle antiseptic and boasts anti-inflammatory properties, making it an excellent choice for many skin conditions, headache relief, and even digestive and circulatory issues.

Tea Tree

Tea tree essential oil is well-known for its strong antibacterial properties, inhibiting the growth of microbes, bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi, and is often used to fight infections, such as bronchitis. Tea tree is a sudorific substance, which means it encourages sweating and helps to remove toxins from the body, also cleansing the skin. Additionally, it is a popular stimulant, improving one’s entire health and wellbeing when used regularly.

Incorporating Aromatherapy into Your Sleep Routine

As mentioned above, Jasmine, lavender, and sandalwood are beneficial essential oils to incorporate into your sleep routine. The simplest method is to place a diffuser at your bedside, fill it with water and a few drops of your favorite essential oil, and allow it to run itself on a low setting throughout the night. One excellent option is this one from Grove Collaborative: The ceramic ultrasonic diffuser is classy and boasts rave reviews from past customers. Another high-end option is this stone diffuser by Vitruvi or this two-in-one diffuser and humidifier from HoMedics.

Another way to incorporate essential oils into your sleeping routine is to use a pillow spray or place some oils applied directly to your pillow. One popular option is this spray by This Works, formulated with lavender, chamomile, and vetivert. Another option by Grove allows you to choose between three different scent selections.

Whichever method you choose, you’re sure to reap the benefits of essential oils, fall asleep faster, and wake to feel refreshed. It’s a good idea to try a few different essential oils, one at a time, to see how your body reacts to each one independently. Once you determine which one(s) work best for you, try combinations until you get it just right. This makes the experience fun and rewarding as you customize your sleep solutions.

Aromatherapy is an excellent natural tool to be the best version of yourself. If you’re looking for a better night’s sleep, look no further. This nonmedicative, holistic option is interactive and boasts significant rewards for your overall health and wellness. As you learn more and more about specific essential oils and their properties, you’re sure to find yourself incorporating them into your daily life.