small measures

Small Measures: Sleep Salve

by Ashley

Historically speaking, I’ve never had trouble falling asleep. Once my head hits the pillow, I’m gone. To wit, there’s even talk of my having slept through a hurricane when I was eight years old. Becoming a parent, however, has proved a sleep-pattern game-changer. Oh, those nights of uninterrupted solace that used to be so common. I don’t think I’ve experienced such nocturnal bliss in over two years, which is why having an all-natural sleep salve that I can whip up in a pinch is so wonderful.

Inspired by a batch of salve gifted to me several seasons ago by a former co-worker, I set out to craft a similar balm for myself so I could once again get some quality shut-eye (my friend based her concoction on a recipe from this great book). For today’s Small Measures (the last one this year before Grace takes time away for a holiday break), I’m sharing my recipe for a balm that can be made in very little time once you’ve acquired the ingredients. And since we’re headed into the Christmas–New Year’s stretch of revelry, you may want to make a batch to have on hand should your own merry-making and festivities require an added dose of sleep assistance (this also makes a wonderful last-minute gift). Happy holidays, all, and sweet, sweet dreams! — Ashley English

Read the full how-to after the jump . . .

I keep a small jar of this salve beside my bed. Each night, right before I turn out the light, I dab a bit on my temples, my forehead, my wrists and under my nose. The texture is great for spreading, and it blends into my skin right away. Feel free to play around with the scents. If you want your balm to have a really pronounced fragrance, add a bit more essential oil. If the scent feels too strong, dial it back in the next batch. Experiment with fragrances that you find calming and restful, too.

Homemade Sleep Salve
Yield: 2 ounces

The Goods

  • 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon sesame oil (not toasted)
  • 1 Tablespoon beeswax (either grated or pellets)
  • 1/4 teaspoon lavender essential oil (15 drops)
  • 1/8 teaspoon tangerine essential oil (10 drops)
  • 1/8 teaspoon sandalwood essential oil (10 drops)*
  • 1/8 teaspoon rosewood essential oil, optional (10 drops)


*You can also substitute an equal amount of ylang-ylang, neroli or chamomile essential oil for the sandalwood.

The Deal

1. Place a heatproof glass container, such as a Pyrex measuring cup or a Mason jar, inside of a small pot (I prefer using a spouted container for this, as it makes pouring easier, but any type of heatproof glass will work).

2. Fill the pot with 1 to 2 inches of water, until it is halfway up the side of your glass jar.

3. Put the olive oil, sesame oil and beeswax in the glass jar. Bring the water to a gentle boil.

4. Using a wooden stirrer, such as a chopstick, stir the oils around gently until they have fully melted.

5. Remove the pot from heat. Add the essential oils to the melted oil blend. Gently stir with your wooden utensil until the essential oils are completely incorporated.

6. Pour the oil mixture into small glass, metal or ceramic containers.

7. Allow to cool, then cover the containers with lids and label them.

8. At bedtime, rub the salve into your temples and onto your forehead and dab a bit under your nose. You can also put some on the backs of your hands and onto your wrists.

9. The salve is most potent within 6 to 8 months of making it.

What about you? Have any handmade, trusted, natural sleep solutions you swear by? I’d love to hear about them. Sleep is so very precious. May we all have an abundance of it in the New Year and beyond!

Images and styling by Jen Altman

Suggested For You


  • Stretching. Those evenings that I take time to do a good stretch after my shower are always the best nights of sleep for me… especially now that I am pregnant.

  • Far infra-red sauna before bed, tab of methylcobalamin (B12) under lip; melatonin and/or valerian; magnesium and/or calcium

  • yoga.
    disconnect electronically.
    one cocktail – (see meyer lemon maple bourbon from quitokeeto).
    excellent book.
    bliss (most of the time…if the 2 year old is healthy, the five year old is without nightmares and the pug without middle-of-the-night puking incident)

  • I don’t think I ever left a comment here, although I love coming here and indulging the inspiration shared here… But I had to leave a comment now, since I know what you’re talking about! When I go to bed, I always use a few drops of lavender oil on my pillow, and sometimes under my nose too.
    It’s an essential lavender oil I bought in the Provence, France this summer and it really helps me to relax and fall into a deep sleep. Sometimes I take extra Magnesium and Calcium vitamin tablets which also helps me to relax more and sleep better…. Sleep is indeed very precious. Especially when you’re a young mommy with kids! :-)
    Have a very good night’s rest, and may 2013 bring us even more better nights to come! :-)
    Merry Christmas! x Inge

  • Is there a good place online to order essential oils? I live in the mountains and thus don’t have access to any essential oil stores.

  • This is a wonderful idea…do you think I could substitute sweet almond oil for the sesame oil? Love your columns and enjoyed your interview on After the Jump!

  • A few drops of lavender essential oil massaged into my feet before bed knocks me right out.

  • This looks amazing! It will make a great gift for friends who need to be pampered- and gift for myself. :) Thanks for sharing!

  • I use Young Living essential oils. They are very high quality. Go to Youngliving.com.

  • Got pharmaceutical grade beeswax on Amazon. Highly recommended when you’re putting stuff on your skin. Granules easy to measure also.

  • I’d like to know how you clean your measuring cup after you’re finished! I did a project a while back that I used to make peppermint chapstick. It’s my measuring cup only for projects like these but it still has peppermint residue which I don’t want on everything…

  • Cheapest pure Essential oils i’ve found here on the net is Purtain.com you can also buy 1 get 1 free there to///hope this helps every one !!! :-)

  • I do not like lavender. So many of the sleep recipes have it. Do you know of any replacements for it?

  • Moon Drops, with chamomile and valerian, lozenges before bedtime usually work. I don’t remember the name of the company. Available from Good Energy Foods, Elkns, WV.

  • Kim, vinegar will help to clean your containers. If that doesn’t work, put a little lemon juice with some peroxide and wash. The scenting shouldn’t be an issue after that in a glass container. If you transferred to plastic and that is retaining the scent, stuff it with newspaper and seal it in a plastic bag or other container for a week, scent will be gone.
    I do soaps and bar lotions with lavender and vanilla, works wonders on my little ones!

  • I actually made one today using Rosemary Gladstar’ s recipe for a sleep balm. I used chamomile flowers, rose petals, lavender flowers and calendula flowers….( I sort of made up my own recipe)…..I covered these flowers with almond oil, and coconut oil and some cocoa butter and let simmer for 20 minutes. Then strained the o ugh a cheese cloth…..I then added 1/4 cup of beeswax…and some essence oils of lavender, rose , ylang ylang and vanilla…just a touch. I added some.of the dried flowers to the batch and let it set. The scent is wonderful! Looking forward to tonight’s sleep””””’;) Geri Bobeck. Sweet Dreams! ;)

  • This sounds wonderful. I use lavender essential oil, but love the idea of the salve with many essential oils. Can’t wait to try this.

  • So looking forward to trying this. I use essential oils for massages but never for sleep so anxious to see how well it works.

  • I normally don’t comment (looks like I’m not the only one) but I have had the same problem with sleep since I had my little girl two years ago. Used to sleep 12 hours at a time now I’m lucky if I get 4 or 5 hours. Such a bummer since I’ve always LOVED to sleep. Gonna have to try this. Thank you!!!