Does Lavender help you sleep?
There’s nothing worse than a bad night’s sleep. If you find yourself tossing and turning for hours then it’s time to put the sheep-counting and warm milk on hold, and try a new tactic instead. That’s where lavender comes in. You might recognise its comforting scent and violet blooms from candles, herbal teas and even baked goods, but there’s more to this delicate plant than meets the eye. Lavender has been proven to have a range of health benefits, from relieving pain and anxiety to curing insomnia. Luckily, it comes in a variety of forms, so there are plenty of ways that you can incorporate lavender into your daily routine for a more restful night’s sleep.
What are the benefits of lavender?
If you don’t already have lavender oil in your cupboard at home, then you need to. The benefits of this evergreen plant go much further than appearances. The rich essential oil is extracted during a steaming process, and has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep quality, soothe irritated skin, combat infections and relieve pain. But don’t just take our word for it – the effects of lavender date back to the Ancient Romans, who used it for pain relief and cleaning wounds, whilst the Ancient Egyptians often used lavender oil in cosmetics. We can’t argue with history! It seems that the main perk of this fragrant flower, though, is its ability to calm the mind in preparation for sleep, which is why it’s often a key ingredient in night time teas, pillow mists and beauty products.
Why does lavender improve sleep quality?
A good sleep paves the way for a good day, and thanks to its healing and soothing properties, lavender could be just the ingredient to get you there. Lavender oil contains compounds such as linalool and linalyl acetate, both of which have been shown to have sedative and pain-relieving effects by interacting with neurotransmitters in the brain. Simply speaking, the compounds help quieten brain activity and calm the mind, which, in turn, creates a more peaceful state for sleep. It has even been proven to improve the quality of sleep in postpartum women, according to a study carried out in 2015 by researchers in Iran.
There are numerous ways in which lavender can be incorporated into your routine, including ingestion (such as in medication and herbal teas) or through direct application to the skin, but one of the most effective ways that is said to soothe the mind for sleep is through inhalation. According to a study carried out at Wesleyan University in 2005, in which men and women inhaled lavender oil one night and distilled water the next, the lavender oil not only helped with the initial process of falling asleep, but improved overall sleep quality, too. When the sleep cycles were analysed, they showed that on the nights when the lavender was used, it relaxed the muscles and slowed down the heartbeat, stimulating a ‘slow-wave sleep’. The subjects also reported feeling more energetic the following day, and that’s always a winner in our eyes.
What effect does lavender have on the body?
As much as we’d love to believe that lavender is simply a magic ingredient in the recipe for a good old snooze, studies show that the improved quality in sleep after inhaling lavender is actually down to the effects that the essential oil has on the body. Although lavender is said to have mild sedative properties, according to sleep specialist Richard Jolie, the reason behind this is actually a result of the body being lulled into a calm state, therefore increasing the likelihood of a good night’s sleep. If you struggle to shut your mind off at night and find that anxious thoughts are keeping you awake, then this is definitely worth a try. Some studies have shown that lavender can be just as effective as anti-anxiety medication, and can even help reduce stress around day-to-day activities, such as going to the dentist.
Lavender isn’t just about calming the mind, though. It’s been shown to reduce the physical signs of stress, such as lowering blood pressure and slowing down a rapid heart rate, and can be used to relieve pain such as cramps and headaches. So whether it’s a physical or emotional obstacle that’s keeping you up at night, lavender could be just the thing to soothe your worries away for some much needed shut-eye.
How to use lavender
The great thing about lavender is that it comes in such a wide variety of forms that you’re guaranteed to find something that suits you. Before we dive in, it’s important to always take precaution when applying lavender oil directly to the skin, so we recommend diluting the oil with water and doing a patch test to avoid irritation. If unusual side effects occur, then you should discontinue use and seek medical attention if necessary. Some essential oils can also interfere with certain medications, so keep this in mind and check with your doctor if you’re unsure of what you should be using.
The method in which you choose to use the lavender oil may depend on what your intentions are. If you’re feeling particularly stressed, then adding a few drops of lavender essential oil to your bath is a great way to unwind. The warm steam from the bath mingles with the fragrant scent to create an atmosphere that is comforting and instantly calming. Alternatively, you can try using lavender-infused products to add some zen to your pamper routine. There are plenty on the market, from lavender soaps and shower gels to body butters and facial mists.
When it comes time to unwind in the evening before bed, there are other ways that you can add lavender into your routine to help get a restful night’s sleep. This is where breathing in the lavender scent has proven successful, so you can try adding a few drops to the collar of your pyjamas, on your temples and wrists, or to the underside of your pillow. You can buy special pillow sprays for this, too, often carrying a soothing scent designed to help lull you to sleep.
If you really want to create a calm and inviting setting though, then a diffuser is the way to go. These devices have become increasingly popular – and with good reason! They’re ideal for emitting soothing aromas into your room without you having to lift a finger – perfect for when you’re looking to relax. Simply fill the diffuser with water and add a few drops of lavender, and the scent will diffuse subtly throughout the room, creating a serene setting that promises a deep, peaceful sleep.
Whether you’re tired of trying sleep aids that don’t work, or you’re just plain tired – give the lavender lifestyle a try and take the stress out of bedtime.