How to Use Essential Oils to Help Kids Sleep (and What Not To Do)

by Jodi Cohen

alarm clock and sleep child

Essential oils can be a gentle, natural addition to your child’s bedtime routine to help calm their bodies and relax their minds so they might gently drift into restful sleep.  Essential oils can also help calm the nervous system and reset over-active children before naps or quite moments though out the day.

Children are often very intuitive when it comes to oils and what tends to smell appealing to them is often what will work best for them. Just as we often crave meat when we need iron, our bodies are often attracted to the smells that will work best for us. Children seem more connected to this internal guidance than adults, so when in doubt, let them pick their smell.

Some of my favorite gentle essential oils to help support relaxation and sleep for kids include:


A gentle blend that contains several  mild and relaxing oils to help calm the mind and the body before bed.  For example, Sleep™ contains Spikenard which is known for its relaxing qualities, along with Lavender which is known to soothe and calm emotions and help with sleep, Chamomile which also has calming and anti-inflammatory properties, including digestive support that can help calm colic, citrus oils, including Orange, Tangerine and Lime that are known to calm overstimulated children.


My hands down favorite for kids. It helps them relax, center and shift out of a temper tantrum or stressful state. This blend was always part of our bedtime ritual.  I rub it on their feet, add it to a healing bath or putting a drop or two on their pillow before bedtime. You can also rub it around the small intestine to help alleviate constipation and the anxiety that sometimes accompanies it.


Has anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, making it great for everything. It supports general relaxation, mental function, and has been shown to support sleep. A few drops diluted on the forehead can help nip a fever in the bud or help you regulate your body temperature which can help your body relax and sleep. It is my personal favorite to add to a healing bath! It is one of the few blends I never leave home without!


This was my son’s personal favorite! Like Lemon and other citrus oils, it helps with relaxation and concentration. When he was over-tired, it was all he wanted to smell perhaps because of its sedative and anti-inflammatory properties. It also helps to alleviate anxiety, anger and depression and can be used after sports practice to relax muscle or relieve spasms. Orange™ oil contains Anxiolytic properties that help calm the nervous system and promote a calmer mind. It also has sedative properties when used at night, helping to soothe restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea.


When you allow your nervous system to relax, it helps support restful sleep.  In fact, sleep difficulties often occur as a result of stress that pumps stress hormones into your system and prevents the release of relaxing and sleep supporting hormones like the sleep hormone melatoninParasympathetic™ can help your kids relax, sit still and settle into their bedtime routine.  I simply apply a drop of our parasympathetic blend on the vagus nerve (behind the ear-lobe on the mastoid bone) to trigger the rest and digest parasympathetic state. It also works great to calm them down during the day, especially during stressful or overstimulating moments.

Histamine Balance™ 

This blend is tranquil, warming, balancing, relaxing, and supports clear respiration, which is the perfect formula to calm little ones to help them fall asleep and stay asleep.


What Not to Do

Essential oils are very powerful healing tools and a little bit can go a long way, especially with children. Please consider the following safety suggestions when using essential oils with children:

Minimum Age for Essential Oils 

We do not recommend using essential oils on children younger than 22 months.

Oils to Avoid 

Avoid using Peppermint and Eucalyptus on children under 32 months old. These oils can effect nerve endings and the respiratory track of infants may not be developed enough to handle the menthol in peppermint or the high 1.8 cineole in Eucalyptus.  Thyme can also be a potential skin irritant that is best to avoid with children.


Application Strategies:

Inhalation is the most effective method of consuming essential oils and is a wonderful application technique for young children. You can place a drop of oil on a cotton ball and place the cotton ball in their pillow case or in their crib.

Room Spray – Spraying essential oil diluted in water in your child’s bedroom can help create a soothing and calming environment. I find this to be more gentle and subtle than diffusing essential oils  Be careful to test the smell with the child before spraying on linens or pillow and never spray direcly on the skin or face.

For topical application, the bottom of the feet are the safest place to apply essential oils, especially for children.  You can combine a drop or two of essential oil with a carrier oil like coconut oil and gently massage the bottom of your child’s feet before bed.  The thick skin on the soles of the feet are unlikely to produce skin irritations, making the feet a great place to apply some of the “hotter” oils.  Also, the numerous nerve endings on the soles of the feet can help carry the oils into the bloodstream.

Prior to applying oils on other areas of the body, be sure to do a skin test by applying a small amount to an area and waiting 20 minutes to ensure there is no adverse skin reaction.

Epsom Salt Bath

Adding essential oils to a bath can help reset and balance energy for children. They can be used to relax and unwind before a nap or bedtime or to reset during a tantrum or between activities.

A warm bath with essential oils before bed can also be very calming and relaxing and help induce sleep.  Research backs this up, noting the adding Lavender essential oil to a bath “reduces stress and crying and enhances sleep in very young infants”.

The study compared very young infants given a bath with or without Lavender™ essential oil. The mothers in the lavender bath oil group were more relaxed, smiled and touched their infants more during the bath. Their infants cried less and spent more time in deep sleep after bath. The cortisol levels of mothers and infants were also measured and lavender exposure significantly decreased cortisol levels and increased relaxation.

Bath salts can help disperse the oils safely into the water and further help to calm and relax your child for restful sleep.  Epsom salt is a naturally occurring mineral compound of magnesium and sulfate first distilled from seawater in the town of Epsom, England. Epsom salt can  help calm and sedate the nervous system and relax muscles. Studies have shown that both magnesium and sulfate are easily absorbed through the skin and into the body’s blood stream. Magnesium is also exceptionally calming and can help reduce stress, relax muscles and nerves, and promote relaxation and good quality sleep.

Baking soda Sodium Bicarbonate is an alkaline substance naturally produced in the body that helps balance and calm the body.


My favorite Epsom salt bath recipe for children between the ages of 6 – 12 is:

  • 1 cup Epsom salt
  • ½ cup Baking Soda, an alkaline substance that helps naturally balance and calm the body.
  • 2 -3 drops of Lavender Essential Oil

*Mix Essential Oils with Epsom Salt before adding to bath water for optimal absorption. Adding the oils directly to hot water can cause them to evaporate quickly or float on the top of the water.

We do not recommend ingestion of essential oils for children.



Dilution of essential oils is especially important when applying them topically on children. To dilute, simply add a few drops of the essential oil into a carrier oil, such as coconut oil or olive oil. This slows the transit time of the essential oil into the body and reduces the strength. It can also lessen the intensity of “hot” oils.

We recommend the following dilution ratios into 1 Tablespoon of carrier oil such as Almond, Jojoba, Olive, Grapeseed, Avocado or Coconut Oil:

  • 1-4 years 1-3 drops
  • 5-7 years 2-4 drops
  • 8-12 years 3-7 drops

Many Vibrant Blue Oil blends are already mixed with a carrier oil. For most people these oils are ready to use straight from the bottle, but for children, we recommend further dilution.



Be sure to close the bottles tightly after each use and store them in a cold, dark place out of the reach of children.


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About The Author

Jodi Sternoff Cohen is the founder of Vibrant Blue Oils. An author, speaker, nutritional therapist, and a leading international authority on essential oils, Jodi has helped over 50,000 individuals support their health with essential oils.

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Subscribe to Vibrant Blue Oils and receive weekly information on oils and how to use them. As a bonus, we’ll send out Beginner’s Guide to Essential Oils to your inbox immediately!