Using lavender for better quality sleep

It seems that the belief that the scent of lavender enhances sleep is more than just an old wives tale. I’ve been doing my research and just look what I’ve found:

  • A study at the University of Southampton in 2005 found that sleeping in a lavender-scented room improved sleep quality by 20%.
  • A study at Wesleyan University in 2004 found that the scent of lavender essential oil increased slow-wave, or deep sleep, resulting in the participants feeling more energetic and alert the next morning.

For almost two weeks I have been conducting my own mini experiment by sleeping in a lavender-scented room. I began my test using the power of Google – a quick search suggests that it’s best to dilute lavender essential oil, as using it in its pure form can cause skin irritation (it’s probably best to do a spot test before using it in any form though). Then, after emptying my bathroom cabinet of all its lotions and potions, I found a small empty plastic bottle with an atomiser lurking at the back (I knew it would come in handy for something one day!), filled it with water and a few – about 15 – drops of lavender essential oil. Ta da, my very own lavender room spray!

For the last 13 days I have been generously spritzing my bedroom with my homemade air freshener before bedtime. I realised by night two that that, actually, I really don’t like the smell of lavender. My other half, meanwhile, does like the scent and yesterday commented that he had started to associate the smell with going to sleep. Oh dear.

Whilst neither of us noticeably experienced improved sleep quality, our test highlighted that scent can be used as part of a sleep routine as a cue to promote sleep. Next, we will be testing some of the lesser-known essential oils for promoting sleep – such as chamomile or jasmine – until we find a scent that works for us both!

If you like the scent of lavender, here are some alternative ways of using it during your bedtime routine (don’t tell my other half though!):

  • Place lavender-scented sleep stones and/or lavender flower heads in your bedroom for a longer lasting aroma of lavender.
  • Encourage someone lovely to give you a bedtime massage using diluted lavender essential oil.
  • Use a lavender-scented body soak in a warm bath for a relaxing nighttime treat.
  • Inhale the aroma of lavender oil – dab the oil on a cotton wool ball or tissue and breathe in the scent.
  • Use a lavender-scented moisturiser or body lotion.

Product review: The Glo to Sleep eye mask

Welcome to my first product review! Every few weeks I will be testing and reviewing a sleep-related product. This time it is the Glo to Sleep eye mask.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has climbed into bed at the end of a hectic day with the expectation of falling asleep immediately, only to find myself kept awake in the wee hours by my busy brain. Perhaps, like me, you’ve wished you could turn off your mind as easily as switching off your bedside lamp. Is it possible that an eye mask could do just that?

The Glo to Sleep eye mask is designed to induce sleep by slowing down brain wave activity; effectively switching off your buzzing mind. It looks similar to a standard eye mask, except that it has four glowing points inside each “eye” of the mask. The idea is that, by focusing on the glowing points, your active brain waves slow down, creating a relaxed, meditative state that leads to sleep.

To activate the points inside the Glo to Sleep eye mask, the user is told to simply hold the inside of the mask towards a light source, such as a light bulb, for 30 – 90 seconds. Then you slip the eye mask on, gaze up at the glowing points and breathe deeply. And – hey presto – you’re asleep!

It all sounds wonderfully simple, right? For the last week, I have been trialling the Glo to Sleep and, I have to admit, I was a little skeptical about this product at first. The concept sounded a little too good to be true. But, in this instance, I was very happy to be proved wrong.

The first thing to say is that the Glo to Sleep is very comfortable and easy to wear. The soft foam eye mask fitted securely on my face, blocking out all light (except for the glowing points inside the mask). Each night, focusing on the glowing points was simple and easy for around a minute, and then – to my surprise – my eyelids would begin to feel very heavy. A few more seconds later, I would feel so sleepy I could hardly keep my eyes open. If I felt my mind wondering, I gazed back up at the glowing points and, after only a few moments, my mind would clear and I would feel relaxed and drowsy again. Very impressive indeed!

The Glo to Sleep could be used as part of a bedtime routine – and it’s a serious contender for mine – but for now I’ll just keep it by my bedside, as an emergency solution for sleep-struggles, until I’ve considered all the options. I’ll certainly be packing it in my hand-luggage for a refreshing snooze on my next flight though.

The Glo to Sleep eye mask is available from We Love Sleep.

Design student recognises importance of sleep routine

Last week I received an email from a product design student at the University of Dundee, Natalie Duckett. Natalie has designed a beautiful alarm clock using natural materials, that would look stunning in any bedroom.

There’s more to the alarm clock than a pretty face though. Natalie’s unique piece is designed to help users get more good quality sleep and doesn’t actually have a clock interface! For those who find themselves kept awake by clock watching, Natalie’s new style of alarm clock is the perfect solution.

Unlike standard alarm clocks, Natalie’s design has two alarms – in addition to the usual morning alarm that wakes you up, Natalie’s piece has an evening alarm to signal when to start preparing for sleep. A clock interface is not necessary as setting the morning alarm automatically sets the corresponding evening alarm for 9 hours earlier, giving the user at least 8 hours of sleeping time plus time to wind down before bed.

Another distinctive feature of Natalie’s design is the alarm signal, which has been created to imitate the sound of a woodpecker drumming his beak against a tree. The user may alter the sound and volume of the alarm by choosing either a brass or elm wood “beak” and placing the beak against different materials and objects, such as a bedside table, door or radiator.

Natalie’s alarm clock is not yet ready for the commercial market, but it’s exciting to see new designers recognising the importance of quality sleep. I hope Natalie’s university project is just the beginning of more beautiful and unique sleep products to come.

For more information about Natalie and her unique alarm clock, click on the following links: www.natalieduckett.co.uk and www.open-output.org/nemduckett/project/10747