“I’ve tried counting sheep, avoiding caffeine, turning off the TV, and reading a good book before bedtime. But I still have a hard time falling asleep. Then a friend recommended I use lavender essential oil. She said, ‘Try it. What do you have to lose?’ and I have been sleeping better ever since.”
-Janie M., 45-year-old married woman
Used in perfumes and aromatherapy, lavender is the most popular essential oil in the world. According to ancient texts, the oil of lavender has been used for medicinal and religious purposes for over 2,500 years. The Egyptians used it for mummification and as a perfume. The Romans used it for bathing, cooking, and for scenting the air. During the Middle Ages, the herb was used as an aphrodisiac. The French scientist René Gattefossé was among the first to re-discover lavender in the early 1900's.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is a flowering plant with a woody stalk and small flowers ranging from light blues to deep purples. Lavender grows natively in the Mediterranean and also thrives in sunny climates in Europe, Australia, and the United States. Lavender essential oil is made from the beautiful lavender plant, extracted by steam distillation.
How Lavender Helps You Sleep
A study on college students found that using lavender oil improved the overall quality of sleep by 60%. This included length of sleep, time it took to fall asleep, restfulness and reduced symptoms of insomnia. Insomnia, defined as difficulty getting to sleep and staying asleep, affects about one-third of all adults. Causes of insomnia include noise, temperature changes, side effects of prescription medications, and other life changes.
Johnson & Johnson conducted two studies related to “calming aromas” using lavender in bedtime routines for infants and toddlers. Their study found that a lavender-scented bath helped infants cry less and sleep more deeply. A more recent study published in the respected journal Sleep studied over 400 mothers with children under the age of 4 and found that when these children’s bedtime routines included the calming scent of lavender, given as lotion or as a bath oil, they slept better and longer. Jodi Mindell, a professor of psychology at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia said, “The routine itself is the most important, but the calming scent pays a role.” A sleeping child makes for a happier mother because she may also get more sleep.
Health Benefits of Lavender
Lavender essential oil impacts the autonomic nervous system and helps regulate heart rate. Some of the helpful health benefits include:
- Helps eliminate nervous tension and anxiety
- Helps relieves pain
- Increases a relaxed state of mind
- Treats migraines and headaches
- Helps induce sleep
A 2005 sleep-study at Wesleyon University in Connecticut found that participants who were given a whiff of lavender, compared to other participants who were given distilled water to smell, fell asleep more quickly and enjoyed more slow-wave sleep.
Putting a few drops of lavender essential oil on a tissue under your pillow allows you to slowly and deeply inhale the peaceful sleep aid. Other ways include lavender into your daily life include bath salts, massage oil, scent diffusers, and a lightly infused sleep mask.
If you have trouble sleeping, and want a natural alternative to sleep aids, consider using lavender essential oil to help you get better rest.