If you occasionally have trouble sleeping, you have likely tried all sorts of remedies. Sleeping pills, herbal supplements, noise machines, earplugs…there are many so-called “cures” that promise to help you sleep better, and may even be recommended by doctors, friends, family, and, of course, the Internet. Each of these remedies may have drawbacks, however – sleeping pills and supplements can leave you feeling groggy and useless the next day; and noise machines and earplugs can keep you from hearing important noises (like a child crying or someone trying to break into your house) at night.
One thing that has been scientifically proven to help you sleep is the scent of lavender. A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2015 found that those who practiced good sleep hygiene, and wore a lavender-scented inhalation patch on their chest at night, had better sleep quality than the control group who also practiced good sleep hygiene but wore an empty patch. Additionally, the group that inhaled lavender during sleep also reported feeling refreshed upon waking.
Let’s examine the ways in which lavender may help you to get a better night’s sleep.
How Prevalent are Sleep Problems?
The National Center for Biotechnology Information reports that the average adult between the ages of 18 and 64 needs at least seven hours of sleep per night to function properly. Adults age 65 and over need at least eight hours of sleep. However, at least a third of American adults report sleeping less than seven hours nightly. Interestingly, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) notes that the county in the United States in which people living there get the best sleep is Boulder County, Colorado, where just 23.2 percent of adults claim to sleep less than seven hours per night.
The Sleep Foundation has long reported that getting quality sleep is a real problem in American society. From 50 million to 70 million Americans have ongoing sleep issues, with up to 15 percent of them experiencing insomnia affecting their daytime activities. Women are 40 percent more likely to experience insomnia than men. Additionally, 32 percent of people snore, and 20.6 percent of them have been diagnosed with sleep apnea.
Stress and physical health are two influencing factors in causing sleep issues. Those who experience less stress and are in good physical health tend to sleep better than those who are stressed and in poorer health.
One of the things that is important for everyone, and especially for those experiencing sleep problems, is to practice good sleep hygiene.
What is Good Sleep Hygiene?
The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) reports that everyone, but especially those having problems sleeping, should practice the following during the daytime to ensure better sleep hygiene at night:
- Light Exposure: Bright light during the day helps to wake people up, and dimmer light in the evening, particularly before bedtime, can help you to become sleepy.
- Outdoor Time: Those who get at least an hour of outdoor daylight in the morning and the afternoon report better sleep health. More is better, as those who get five or more hours of outside daylight report the best sleep.
- Screen Usage: The artificial light produced by screens from computers, smartphones and tablets can greatly affect sleep hygiene. This type of light exposure within two hours of bedtime can be the most disruptive to the sleep cycle, says the NSF.
- Consistent Eating: Food intake plays a large part in good sleep hygiene. Having consistent, regular meals and snacks influences the body’s sleep and wake schedules. Eating too close to bedtime can also interfere with good sleep.
- Physical Activity: Sitting more than six hours per day can affect sleep at night. Those who get regular physical activity tend to sleep better than those who are sedentary.
- Physical Health: Those in good physical health report better sleep than those in poorer health.
- Stress: The lower your stress levels, the better your sleep, says the NSF.
Maintaining good sleep hygiene is something that is important in improving sleep. Changing your daytime habits can help to improve sleep, stress levels, and physical health.
How Can Lavender Help Me to Sleep Better?
Another thing that can help you to sleep better, as mentioned above, is the smell of lavender. Multiple studies have shown that lavender aromatherapy can reduce depression and anxiety and help you to sleep. If you’re wondering how to use lavender to your benefit in getting a better night’s sleep, here are a few tips:
- Dab lavender essential oil on your neck, wrists, or temples at bedtime.
- Put a few drops of lavender oil into water in a diffuser on your nightstand. The diffuser will maintain a continual spray of lavender into the air as you sleep.
- Put a few drops of lavender oil on the collar of your pajamas at bedtime.
- Sprinkle lavender oil on a tissue and put it under your pillow at bedtime.
- Take a warm bath before bedtime, adding a few drops of lavender oil into the bath water.
- Use a lavender spray on your pillows at bedtime.
- Use lavender-scented body lotion on your skin before bedtime.
Which Lavender Oil Should I Buy?
If you want to give lavender oil at bedtime a try to see if it helps you to sleep better, make sure to buy one that has been checked for potency and purity. Look for oils that mention being approved by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), an organization that sets standards for essential oils. Not all oils will cite this information, however, nor will their companies share their data with the public. In lieu of ISO standards, look for a company that tells you where its lavender was sourced from, how the plant was grown, and what part of the plant was used in deriving the oil.
What Else Do I Need to Know About Using Lavender for Sleep?
Remember that if you do decide to use lavender to help you sleep better, keep it away from infants and pets. Lavender can be toxic to dogs, even if it is just inhaled, as it can cause respiratory symptoms. Lavender should also be kept away from cats, as it can be toxic to them as well. Some veterinarians will diffuse lavender oil in their offices, however, to calm anxiety in dogs and cats. While it might be ok for them to use lavender oil in small quantities, it’s best not to diffuse it or use it in the vicinity of your dogs or cats. Keep your lavender oil where they cannot get into it and accidentally ingest or inhale it. If you use a lavender oil diffuser at bedtime, or other form of lavender, and are uncertain about the safety of your dog or cat, keep your dog or cat out of your bedroom. While they might not like it, in the long run, your pet’s health and longevity is just as important as your quality of sleep.