As far back as I can remember I was always told that the scent of lavender in a room, or a dab of lavender oil on a pillow, helps induce sleep. But is this just an old wive's tale or does it really work?
I had pretty much forgotten about the link between lavender and sleep until recently when a member of my family bought me a lavender spray as a present, which is to be applied to my pillow before sleep.
I did have some lavender scented stones in my room some years ago, and whilst they were aromatically pleasant, I didn’t really notice any major sleep improvements at the time.
What I always find strange about herbal remedies and smells is that we grow up believing in their mood enhancing or body altering powers, yet we rarely actually seek evidence to support the claims. So that's what I'm going to do in this post.
Where's the Evidence?
For many years people have recommended a range of lavender scented products to enhance sleep, but is there any supporting evidence?
The answer is yes. According to a study at Southampton University, England, lavender can increase your sleep quality by 20%. Although only a small study, which took place among a group of 10 people, 5 were exposed to lavender during sleep and the other 5 people were exposed to almond oil as a placebo. The 5 people exposed to lavender reported a 20% overall better sleep experience.
If that's coincidence, it's a pretty big one. 20% is a fairly big number too.
But Can Lavender Actually Make You Fall Asleep?
No, that just isn’t possible – otherwise bees would be falling asleep all the time. Hehe. Seriously, what lavender does is relax you and prevents agitation and stress. Other research has documented that lavender may slow the activity of the nervous system, thus inducing a feeling calm.
So lavender is effectively a natural relaxant, of which there are many others of course, including camomile tea which contains similar mood relaxing properties. Even burning incense in your room will induce a relaxed state of mind.
For those who endure serious bouts of bad sleep, lavender is not going to be a magic solution; you won’t pass out from the smell as soon as your head hits the pillow. But it won’t hurt to have the scent around you to help you relax and slip into a sleepy state. So can lavender help you sleep? Yes it can. It's not a myth!
So the good news is you can start using lavender scented product in your room as a good sleep hygiene tool to improve the quality of your sleep that bit further. Try putting some lavender oil on your pillow tonight.