Sleep is a hot topic these days. The CDC estimates that 1 in 3 adults don’t get the recommended amount of sleep, defined as 7 or more hours per night. Even among those who do, a recent study found that just 8% of Americans describe themselves as feeling “fully rested” after the night’s rest. These alarming statistics may be attributed in part to the roughly 1 in 5 American adults with a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea or insomnia as well as to the general anxiety and screen time that can disrupt sleep patterns.
Consequently, it’s no surprise that tips and tricks to enhance sleep are all the rage, from lifestyle adjustments to melatonin to prescription drugs to herbal supplements and more. While many of these require complex adjustments to your life and may even result in side effects, there is another option to try to improve your sleep: lavender. Not only is it proven to help with better sleep, it's also natural!
How does lavender improve sleep quality?
Let's start with the basics. Let’s begin with the basics. Lavender is a plant species found in nature that can be distilled down to its essential oils which hold many health benefits. One of these benefits is an improvement in sleep quality.
Numerous studies, including this 2015 NIH trial, have proven that inhaling lavender essential oils results in improved sleep quality as well as an increased tendency to awaken feeling refreshed. In this particular study, some participants inhaled lavender while those in the control group inhaled nothing but air. While the quantity of sleep was the same for both groups, the quality of sleep was markedly better for those who had inhaled the lavender essential oil.
So, how exactly does lavender achieve this elusive effect of improving sleep? It does so in a few different ways. First, lavender naturally relieves anxiety by working as a light sedative. As many people complain of not being able to sleep due to intrusive thoughts and stress built up from the course of the day, this effect is a strong one.
Secondly, lavender interacts with GABA, a neurotransmitter, to quiet the brain - specifically the central nervous system - which promotes restfulness by reducing agitation and restlessness by slowing the brain down. This process readies the body for sleep. During sleep, lavender’s interaction with GABA also promotes slow-wave sleep, a key component of waking up fully rested. Slow-wave sleep is also known as deep sleep and describes the stage in the sleep cycle when the heart rate is the lowest and muscles are the most relaxed. This period of sleeping is when important functions such as memory, processing, growth, and the repairing of damaged tissues, muscles, and bones occur. By increasing slow-wave sleep, lavender improves the functioning of your entire body and allows you to wake up feeling more rested, both physically and cognitively.
There are several more ways in which lavender can improve your sleep and quality of life in general too. It functions as an anti-inflammatory, meaning that it can reduce inflammation and the resulting pain, thereby allowing your body to rest. Lavender is also a general analgesic, or pain reliever, which means it can temporarily reduce pain symptoms by interacting with the nervous system to modify symptoms and perceptions of pain.
By calming stress and anxiety as well as improving the quality of your sleep, especially the deep sleep stage, lavender is a useful tool in the quest for better sleep.
What other benefits does lavender offer?
As amazing as it may sound, it’s not too good to be true. Lavender does offer benefits beyond the ones related to sleep outlined above.
Lavender can help treat skin issues.
Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, lavender can be a key player in reducing acne, eczema, or generalized skin blemishes since all of these result in part from inflammation. It can also help with healing wounds, but make sure to check with your doctor to make sure that using it as wound care won't interact with any other medication.
Lavender can lower high blood pressure and heart rate.
This one goes back to lavender’s role in curbing anxiety through its interplay with the central nervous system. When your body is less anxious and more at ease, your sympathetic nervous system responses will be at a more normal level, returning your blood pressure and heart rate to their healthy ranges.
Lavender can ease asthma symptoms.
It’s been established that lavender can ease pain due to its capacity as an analgesic, but it can specifically aid in relieving asthma due to its status as an anti-inflammatory, which allows it to relieve bronchial inflammation and prevent the buildup of excess mucus. In this way, it can help reduce the degree to which asthma affects your everyday life!
How can I use lavender to enhance my sleep?
Now that you’ve learned of lavender’s many versatile benefits, you’re ready to integrate it into your daily routine to enhance your sleep quality and so much more. The good news is that you have a variety of options!
The best way to utilize lavender is through inhalation. Showering is an excellent and time-efficient way to do just that. Start by putting a lavender bundle in your shower. Then, when you shower, the steam will release the essential oils from the lavender, allowing you to inhale them while bathing. This is particularly effective if you tend to shower at night as you will be inhaling the sleep-improving aroma just minutes before your head hits the pillow.
However, a lavender bundle isn’t the only way to inhale it while showering. You may also want to try using lavender soap. In this instance, the water hitting the soap will release the necessary essential oils while you wash. Technically, you’re both applying lavender topically and inhaling it when using lavender soap, but as lavender only makes up 4% of most lavender soaps, there’s no need to worry about overdoing it with the topical and inhalation methods simultaneously combined.
A third option is to use a bottle of lavender essential oil in your bathroom as you go through your nighttime routine. This could be done by diffusing lavender essential oil on the counter and enhanced by the release of steam and moisture from your shower, or it could look like adding a few drops of lavender essential oil to your washcloth.
No matter which method (or methods) you choose to use, there are plenty of ways to reap the sleepy rewards of lavender! At Self-Care Shower, we offer a variety of lavender products from a dried lavender bundle to a dynamic duo bundle consisting of lavender and eucalyptus! We also offer lavender buds, soaps, and essential oils. No matter what you choose, you can revitalize your sleep with a Self-Care Shower lavender product, sustainably hand-picked and grown in the United States!
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