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Choosing the Right Aromatherapy Diffuser to Help You Get to Sleep

aromatherapy diffuser on table with blurred background

aromatherapy diffuser on table with blurred background

When you're having trouble sleeping, you're eventually willing to try anything. You've tried white noise, turning up the fan, turning down the fan, wearing an eye mask and wearing earplugs. But still, you have trouble sleeping through the night.

For many people, the key to a good night's sleep isn't in light or sound, but it's in the power of smell. Which is why essential oil diffusers are becoming such a popular bedroom fixture.

Essential oils can do a lot for your ability to sleep. With relaxing scents like lavender or chamomile, they create a relaxing environment that activates your entire brain, not just your eyes and ears. By diffusing a scent all night, you can protect yourself from scent-changes during the night (or when your kids make pop-tarts in the morning). And by diffusing the same scent every night at bedtime, you can train your brain to start relaxing when it smells that relaxing sleepy aroma.

Of course, how you choose to diffuse your essential oils is rarely the same from one user to another. One person may diffuse their essential oils in a little bowl over a candle, another may have a small tabletop device that does essentially the same thing with electricity instead of flame. There are diffusers that mix the oil with water and those that don't. Some diffusers use natural elements and some plug-in and whir.

Today, we're here to talk about how to choose the right aromatherapy diffuser for your bedroom to help you get to sleep and stay asleep using the power of scent and essential oils. 

The Four Types of Aromatherapy Diffuser for Essential Oils

When choosing a diffuser, it's important to understand the difference between the four types of diffusers. Simply comparing the prices and photos isn't enough to know which is best for you. Each releases the essential oil vapor into the air using a different method, and each will impact your home or work environment in a slightly different way.

The diffuser types in order of technological advancement are:

  • Evaporative Diffusers

    • Slowly release evaporated oils into the air
  • Heat Diffusers

    • Heat oils until they evaporate into the air
  • Ultrasonic Diffusers

    • Release oils with vaporized water
  • Nebulizing Diffusers

    • Vaporize oils directly with heat-free airflow

Evaporative Diffusers

Evaporation is likely the oldest and most easy to understand diffuser, at least in their original form. No doubt, you've already seen the no-tech version in a spa or a friend's home looking like any other table-top decoration. The traditional evaporative diffuser is nothing more than a jar of essential oil (possibly diluted in a carrier oil) with porous sticks set into the top and fanned out attractively. These sticks soak up the essential oil and then slowly pull it up to the top and release it into the air in a slow and natural way.

Electronic evaporative diffusers, on the other hand, are less decorative but work a little faster. These diffusers consist of a reservoir and a fan. The fan gently blows over or across the reservoir, encouraging the oil to evaporate and directing its flows out into the room. This is a very no-heat electric way to diffuse essential oils and works more quickly than the jar and sticks.

This type of diffuser is very safe for all-night bedroom use.

Heat Diffusers

Heat diffusers also have a difference between traditional and modern implementation. The traditional heat diffuser consists of a short candle with a little metal bowl of essential oil suspended above. These are very popular among people who enjoy lighting candles, as it's a wonderful way to make fragrant use of the flame. The heat from the candle flame warms the oil and causes it to slowly release aromatic vapor into the room.

Candle flame diffusers are great for a bedtime ritual but, of course, must be blown out before you go to sleep.

Electronic heat diffusers work in almost exactly the same way, only they use electricity rather than an open flame. The small device will heat a reservoir of essential oils which will vaporize and release into the air. A small fan can encourage the oil to flow and spread out into the room. These are safer but generally less attractive than the candle flame variety. 

Electric heat diffusers often have a timer that can make them safe to use at bedtime.

On a side note, all heat diffusion risks altering the blend of essential oils you use, as not all oils vaporize at the exact same temperature point or at the same rate. Lower heat use is more likely to result in less change but also a weaker scent.

Ultrasonic Diffusers

Ultrasonic diffusers do not have a traditional version, but they do perform a secondary function as humidifiers.

The ultrasonic diffuser works by shaking the essential oil until particles become airborne. In a way, it works a lot like a splash. Imagine what happens when you smack the palm of your hand down flat on the pool surface. The water splashes, some pops straight up into the air. There are big waves of water, but also tiny droplets that spray and some even evaporate directly into the hot summer air.

That is how an ultrasonic diffuser works, only on a micro-scale. In each diffuser is a tiny ceramic disk that sits in the reservoir. When the diffuser is turned on, the disk shakes very fast, causing tiny splashes that fling essential oil particles airborne. Then they are sprayed out of the diffuser as aerated essential oil.

However, in order to make the oil thin enough to become airborne in this fashion, ultrasonic diffusers usually dilute the essential oil with water. Dilution weakens the power of the essential oil but makes it easier to diffuse. The dilution causes ultrasonic diffusers to function as humidifiers, which provides a weaker scent but is great in dry environments. 

Nebulizer Diffusers

Finally, we come to the most advanced type of diffuser on the market. Nebulizer diffusers, also known as cold air diffusers,  diffuse essential oils directly without dilution, so the scent and natural beneficial effects are working at full-strength. They also don't use heat, which can be a fire or injury hazard and make it dangerous to leave the diffuser on all day (or all night).

Nebulizer diffusers work using a type of moving air. Air is blown over the end of a tube which creates vacuum suction. This suction pulls the essential oil up from the reservoir where it can be diffused with the moving air out into the rest of the room. Nebulizers do not need plastic reservoirs, so citrus oils are safer to use and the unit needs to be cleaned less often. It also doesn't use heat or dilution, so you get the full impact of the essential oil blend of your choice.

Which type of aromatherapy diffuser is right for you? If you want a soothing bedtime ritual with relaxing aromatherapy scents, a candle diffuser might be the perfect answer. If you want a diffuser to run all night, keeping you breathing lovely relaxing fragrances, then an evaporative, ultrasonic, or nebulizing diffuser might be the better choice. But really, your choice should be guided only by what makes you happiest and helps you to relax into a deep dream-filled sleep. For more tips on how to achieve a satisfying and healthy amount of sleep no matter the challenges, contact us today! Sleep is what we do best.