Sleep deprivation is all too common in the UK, with one in three people suffering from a lack of it. It is tempting to blame the relentless pace of modern living, with stress, computers and taking work home often getting in the way. The cost of sleep deprivation goes beyond an irritable disposition however – regular poor sleep puts people at risk of serious medical conditions, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes, and it shortens life expectancy. A certain plant fragrance may help people to drift off.
Lavender is a plant that can be found on almost all continents. It produces purple flowers that, when dried, have a variety of household uses. More saliently, a growing body of evidence suggests the supplement can help send people to sleep.
One study, published in the Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing, concluded that the lavender fragrance had a beneficial effect on insomnia and depression in women college students.
Another study echoed these findings, suggesting women and younger volunteers with a milder insomnia showed an improved after being treated with lavender oil.
Significantly, a study published in the International Clinical Pychopharmacology journal gave 221 patients suffering from mixed anxiety disorder 80 mg of a lavender oil supplement or a placebo per day.
By the end of the 10-week study, both groups had experienced improvements in the quality and duration of sleep. However, the lavender group experienced 14–24 percent greater effects, without any reported unpleasant side effects.
Lavender aromatherapy may even be as effective as conventional sleep medication, with fewer potential side effects, according to a small study involving elderly people.
As Holland and Barrett explained: “This calming scent is perfect for nights when your mind is buzzing. Lavender is believed to slow down your nervous system and decrease your heart rate and blood pressure, which helps you fall into a deep sleep.
“It can also make you feel more energetic when you wake in the morning.”
The health site advises swirling a few drops of lavender oil into a soothing bath to calm the mind or add a few drops to a pillow for all-night tranquillity.
According to the NHS, making sure the bedroom is “sleep-friendly’ may also help you nod off.
Eliminate elements that can keep the mind busy, such as the TV and other electronic gadgets, light, noise, and a bad mattress or bed, advised the health body.
The health site also advises to keep the bedroom just for sleep and sex: “Unlike most vigorous physical activity, sex makes us sleepy. This has evolved in humans over thousands of years.”
Aim to keep the bedroom dark, quiet, tidy and at a temperature of between 18C and 24C, and fit some thick curtains if there aren’t any, added the health body.