The Serene Smell of Sleep

In a discussion about sleep with a coworker recently, Danny shared our nighttime tradition of sleepytime tea to help the drowse settle in; acknowledging the usefulness of the tea and the same habit in his home, his coworker, in turn, told him about a successful new practice in their household.

Because this man's son has struggled with bedtime and sleeping through the night, they looked around for natural options to help the situation.  What they discovered was lavender pillow spray.  Overall, it has been suggested that using lavender scent can help people to sleep more soundly, resulting, also, in more energy the next day.  Though lavender alone will not put you to sleep, it aids in a restful night, particularly when combined with other relaxation-promoting habits.

Lavender scent assists with sleep in the following ways:

1. Scientific evidence presented by The University of Maryland Medical Center found that essential oil of lavender "may slow the activity of the nervous system, improve sleep quality, promote relaxation, and lift mood in people suffering from sleep disorders."  The article also stated that Germany has approved a lavender tea for "insomnia, restlessness, and nervous stomach irritations."

2. The Bastyr Center for Natural Health, when examining a small study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, said that participants were presented with one of two oils before sleep: lavender and the placebo, sweet almond oil.  According to the article, "Compared with the placebo, the average degree of improvement during lavender treatment was 26%."  Because of the size of the study and the percentage shift, however, the results are not considered definitive.

3. An article at Prevention, using the same study, suggests when researchers (in Britain) followed the sleep patterns of volunteers, experimenting with scents and sleep, they found participants "ranked the quality of their sleep 20% better on average when in the lavender-scented room" verses the placebo-scented bedroom.

These last two articles advocate the use of lavender as a sleep aid, but do not specifically cite where they get their information.  Whether it be scientific or anecdotal evidence, I thought I should include them as well.

4. MindBodyGreen, a very popular health and wellness website posted 13 Uses for Lavender Oil: The Only Essential Oil You'll Need in 2013.  (...and was subsequently liked by over 23 thousand people on Facebook.)  Lavender oil as sleep aid is one of the many uses enumerated.  This article suggested a cupping of the hands and inhalation method prior to sleep to get maximum benefit.

5. suggests lavender helps people to relax; the article claims, "Research shows the scent lowers heart rate and blood pressure, putting you in a relaxed state."  If this is true, it can only benefit you in your aim of restful, relaxed sleep.

As we know from experiments like Pavlov's dogs, according to associative theory, it is possible for associations to form based on experience.  This article from the Oxford Journals, called "Odor-associative Learning and Emotion: Effects on Perception and Behavior," suggests that perhaps your experience with a scent can develop into your association with said scent.  Likewise, sleeping with lavender scent could develop your association of sleep and lavender scent such that the scent actually (eventually) makes you drowsy.  Woah.

In terms of our own experimental use and results, Danny and I bought Bath & Body Works' Lavender Chamomile Pillow Mist to try.  We have been surprised at how soothing the scent is.  Whether or not it particularly helps with sleep, it most certainly is relaxing.  We've slept better and more soundly since slowing down our nighttime routine, including cutting movie/ screen time prior to bed, exchanging shoulder massages, drinking tea, using fans for white noise throughout the night, kicking the dogs out of bed(!), and now incorporating lavender pillow spray.

When this is gone, we plan to graduate to the true essential oil, but the purchase was a simple and productive one to start our bedtime aromatherapy journey.

If you give pillow mist a try, please let me know what you think!  I'd love to hear your experience with lavender and aromatherapy.  What do you do to get ready for a great night's sleep?

Labels: , ,