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.

The beginnings of a bedtime routine

As I was brushing my teeth last night, it dawned on me that I already have a bedtime routine of sorts. Or, at least, the beginnings of one. Every night for the past 10 years (with only a few exceptions) I have spent 5 – 10 minutes getting ready for bed – taking out my contact lenses, brushing my teeth, cleansing and moisturising my face.  It’s become so ingrained in me, that it didn’t occur to me (until now) that it’s my way of preparing for sleep.

However, whilst my little nighttime beauty routine is a cue for sleep, I’ve realised that it isn’t enough to properly relax me before bed.

A good friend – with a stressful job in the city –
recently offered me her top sleep tip: dabbing a
couple of drops of lavender essential oil onto
her pillow before bedtime. My friend knows her
stuff – lavender has sedative and calming
properties and is believed to improve sleep quality.

I’ll be testing it out tonight – why don’t you give it a go too?

Image: Tina Phillips / FreeDigitalPhotos.net