The scent of lavender helps children to relax and go to sleep.

Scents to Help Toddlers Sleep

by Maria Scinto

Insomnia in the toddler years may stem from a variety of causes. Separation anxiety when learning to sleep alone and resistance to sleep as a way to assert independence are two of the reasons cited by sleep researchers Judith A. Owens, M.D., and Jodi A. Mindell, Ph.D., in an article on pediatric insomnia published on the Oregon Health and Science University website. No matter the cause of your little one's sleepless nights, aromatherapy is a time-tested remedy that can be used for children -- with caution -- as well as adults.

Choose your essential oils and herbs carefully. Valerie Ann Worwood, author of "The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy," recommends using Roman chamomile, mandarin, rosa palma and lavender essential oils to combat insomnia in children from 1 to 5 years of age. Other relaxing, sleep-inspiring scents include jasmine, vanilla and sweet marjoram.

Bathe your toddler in a warm, scented bath. The tub time alone can help your child relax, but the addition of scented oils makes it more pleasurable for both of you. Worwood recommends you use just one drop of essential oil for each year of your child's age. You can use any of the recommended relaxing essential oil scents or mix up a custom blend in a small bottle, adding a drop or two at a time to the bath water. Recommended combinations include chamomile, mandarin and palma rosa; chamomile and lavender; or chamomile, lavender and sweet marjoram.

Give your little one a relaxing massage. In order to use essential oils on the skin, you'll need to dilute them greatly with a carrier oil. For this you can use vegetable, sweet almond or jojoba oils, adding no more than two drops of essential oil to each tablespoon of carrier oil. As children are particularly sensitive to essential oils, the recommended oils for direct touch are mandarin, tangerine, neroli, and lavender. The combination of your gentle touch with the soothing scented oil is restful and can be done in bed to help your toddler drift off to sleep.

Place a few drops of lavender or chamomile oil on a cotton ball and place it next to the crib or bed, but out of reach, to give your child a sweet-smelling place to sleep. You can also make a homemade sleep spray by adding one or two drops of these oils to a cup of distilled water and then spraying it on your little one's sheets and pillowcase. If you're the crafty type, you can sew up a few small pillows filled with dried lavender or chamomile blossoms and place these in your toddler's bed.

Items you will need

  • Essential oils: Roman chamomile, mandarin, palma rosa, lavender, rose, geranium, neroli, jasmine, tangerine, vanilla and/or sweet marjoram
  • Vegetable, sweet almond or jojoba oil
  • Cotton balls
  • Spray bottle
  • Dried chamomile and/or lavender
  • Herbal pillows


  • The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that you not use any type of pillow with a child under 18 months old or one who is still sleeping in a crib.
  • Avoid any use of the following oils, as they can be toxic: bitter almond, boldo, calamus, camphor, cassia, horseradish, mugwort, mustard, pennyroyal, rue, sassafras, savin, tansy, thuja, wintergreen, wormseed and wormwood.
  • Do not use the following oils on children under 5 years of age: basil, bay, benzoin, bergamot, birch, black pepper, cedarwood, cinnamon, citronella, clove, costus, cumin, elecampane, eucalyptus globulus (eucalyptus smithii can in some cases be used on children, but consult your pediatrician first), fennel, fir, ginger, helichrysum, juniper, lemon, lemon verbena, lemongrass, melissa, nutmeg, oak moss, orange, oregano, parsley seed, peppermint, pimento berry, pine, red thyme and tagetes.
  • Keep essential oils out of the eyes and ears and do not apply them directly to the genitals, as they can be irritating.
  • Never use essential oils undiluted on the skin. When diluting these in a carrier oil or a spray, make sure you use only half (or less) the amount of oil for a child that you would for an adult.
  • If your toddler has any type of skin allergy, check with your pediatrician before using oils of any type. Even if there is no known skin allergy, you can do a sensitivity test by applying a small diluted amount on the inner side of your child's upper arm, then waiting a few hours or overnight to see if any redness, itching or other sign or irritation develops.
  • Do not use baby oil as a carrier for essential oils, as it may block pores.
  • Do not use essential oils around any type of open flame or spark or close to a source of electricity, as some can be flammable.
  • Keep your essential oils safely out of reach of little ones. Screw the lids on tightly and store them in a cool dark place to slow down the oxidation process so they stay fresher longer.
  • Sniff your oils and oil blends before using them to make sure they haven't gone rancid. Non-therapeutic grade oils can go rancid in as little as three months. Essential oils blended with a vegetable-based carrier oil and stored properly can last for several years, but will eventually need to be replaced.

Photo Credits

  • IT Stock Free/Polka Dot/Getty Images