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Lavender is believed to have an exotic history dating back as far as 2,500 years. The ancient Greeks commonly referred to lavender as Nard, after the Syrian city of Naarda. The Romans used lavender—much like we do today—as a pleasing aroma for linens, soaps, and shampoos. In fact, the name lavender is actually from the Latin root lavare, which means “to wash.” Since ancient times, the use of lavender has evolved into much more than a sweet-smelling perfume. Today, lavender is commonly consumed as an herbal remedy with impressive medicinal properties. Its therapeutic uses range from mood stabilizer to powerful pain reliever. Few people, however, realize there’s another way to use lavender: for sleep.
Lavender for Sleep
Several studies demonstrate the effectiveness of lavender for relieving sleep issues. A randomized controlled trial published in The Journal of Science and Healing noted the effects of lavender on college students with self-reported sleep issues.
The students were divided into two groups. One group received a lavender inhalation patch while the other group received a placebo inhalation patch for five consecutive nights. The results showed the positive impact of the lavender intervention on daytime energy and vibrancy along with improved nighttime sleep.
Another randomized controlled trial published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine compared the effectiveness of lavender and sleep hygiene vs. sleep hygiene alone. (Sleep hygiene is a variety of habits—from avoiding caffeine before bed to dimming or turning off the lights—that aid in good nighttime sleep quality.)
During this study, a Fitbit tracker, sleep diary, and sleep quality were measured using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) and the NIH Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) sleep disturbance short form. After two weeks, the lavender group demonstrated better sleep quality. Additionally, the lavender group had a significant finding for waking up feeling refreshed.
Lavender for Sleep in Hospitalized Patients
Sleep deprivation in hospitalized patients is common and can have serious deleterious effects on recovering from illness.
A study published in the American Journal of Critical Care tested the effectiveness of lavender aromatherapy in the intermediate care unit. Researchers noted that the patients treated with lavender aromatherapy had a decrease in blood pressure and higher quality sleep scores compared to the control group.
How to Take Lavender for Sleep Issues
There are numerous ways to take lavender—tinctures, oils, and more. First, you can try lavender aromatherapy at bedtime (as in the study of hospitalized patients).
There is evidence that certain smells can have an effect on your sleep by decreasing heart rate and blood pressure, putting you at a relaxed state. When choosing the “smell” route, you can put a few drops of lavender oil on your pillow or in an aromatherapy diffuser.
You can also try lavender essential oils or lotions to achieve a good night’s rest. Place two to three drops of lavender oil in your hands, and then sniff the oil. After smelling the oil, rub it on your wrist or temples. Or, use several drops of lavender oil in your bath before bedtime.
Infants and children can also use lavender oil at bath time to promote relaxation, but be sure to limit the number of drops to one or two to prevent skin irritation or burning of the eyes.
For related reading, please see these University Health News posts:
- “Lavender Reduces Signs of Anxiety in Women“
- “2 Top Naturopathic Physicians Share Their Natural Remedies for Anxiety“
- “How to Deal with Anxiety: Natural Remedies to Relieve Anxiety Symptoms“
Share Your Experience
Have you tried lavender for sleep? Did you use aromatherapy, essential oils, or lotions? How did it work? Share your tips for using lavender to overcome insomnia and other sleep issues in the comments section below.