New science suggests that this herb’s snooze-inducing properties are nothing to sniff at…
Lavender has a soothing reputation as a natural alternative to help you relax, unwind and let go of stress. But you’ve got to wonder. Does it really work? The good news is that it does. And as an added bonus, if pharmacists of the Middle Ages were correct, it has aphrodisiac qualities, too.
What the research says about lavender & sleep
“There are probably as many uses for aromatherapy as there are essential oils, but research shows particular promise in their ability to relieve stress, stabilize your mood and improve sleep,” says Rupinder Mangat, cofounder, and CEO, MEVEI, a New York-based company that produces natural essential oils. “Lavender essential oil is one of the most studied in terms of its relaxation effects.”
Rupinder cites a Thai study that looked at 20 participants and lavender’s impact on their health. It found a reduction in blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate. In terms of mood, those who inhaled lavender oil said they had more energy and were more relaxed. The research showed that lavender may actually be able to alter brain waves and reduce stress.
Of special interest to women is a small study done in an Indianapolis hospital that lavender aromatherapy has also been found to help reduce anxiety and depression in women with postpartum depression. That’s a positive precursor to sleeping better for new moms – who needs sleep more than anyone else on the planet.
Targeted studies looking at sleep specifically also netted results confirmed lavender’s active properties for combating insomnia. Researchers at the University of Southampton in Britain tracked the sleep patterns of 10 adults. For a week, half of the participants slept in a room where lavender essential oil was diffused in the air throughout the night. The rest snoozed in a similar room where a placebo (sweet almond oil) was released. Then the groups switched rooms. At the end of the study, volunteers ranked the quality of their sleep with 20% stating it was better in a lavender-scented room.
Psychologists at Wesleyan University in Connecticut had 31 men and women sniff lavender essential oil one night – and then distilled water the next. Researchers monitored their sleep cycles with brain scans and found that lavender increased slow-wave sleep, instrumental for slowing heartbeat and relaxing muscles. Subjects slept more soundly on a lavender night. The group also reported feeling more energetic the next morning.
Holistic pharmacist Sherry Torkos counts herself among lavender oil’s fans. The natural health specialist who works with companies like A.Vogel, a Swiss company that makes natural remedies and supplements. “Lavender essential oil offers calming and soothing properties that can help reduce stress,” she says. “It also serves as a great sleep aid for the whole family by helping you to fall asleep faster and enhance your quality of sleep during the night.” She recommends using a high-quality essential oil that’s 100% pure, natural and undiluted.
Though most of the studies to date have been small (large-scale trials are needed), there’s enough consistency across the results to see that better sleep might be achievable by using lavender.
How to get more lavender in your life
Want to give lavender a shot at improving your nightlife? Try these tips!
- Arm your bedside table with the essentials for lavender lovers – pure lavender oil, a diffuser, and a pillow spray to use to give your pillowcases a fine spritz
- Dab a drop or two of essential oil on your temples, wrists or neck before bedtime
- Sprinkle a few drops on a piece of tissue and tuck it under your pillow, Mangat advises
- Use a diffuser that sprays a fine mist of water and essential oil into the air as you sleep
- Take a warm bath with a few drops of lavender oil added
- Smooth a lavender-scented body lotion into your skin before you hit the sheets
- Torkos also recommends placing two drops of oil either on the collar of your pajamas or directly on your pillowcase before bed.”
- If you’ve got lavender growing in your garden, you can harvest the pretty purple flower buds and put them in a bowl next to your bed.
One important note: If you have scent or allergies, these tips aren’t recommended for you. Check out other Restonic Sleep Blog posts for fragrance-free sleep-better options:
- 5 golden rules for the best sleep ever
- 7 sleep-inducing podcasts
- 9 ways to live longer
- Eating before bed & nightmares
- Should you drink milk before bed?