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Why does lavender make you sleepy: a lowdown

Longing for Dreamland? Lavender could help you relax and unwind enough to get a peaceful night’s sleep. 

A heady, purple flower that blooms at its best in sunny and open environments and valued for its gentle and enchanting aroma, there are 47 known species of lavender (or lavandula) which have been used in healing and relaxation treatments for centuries across the world.

Lavender has a long and diverse history in the healing arts. The Ancient Egyptians, for example used the flowering plant in many of their cosmetics (especially in massage oils),  the Greek philosopher Diognes recommended covering the feet with lavender oil to allow its soothing aroma to slowly rise up the body throughout the day creating a cloud of floral serenity, whilst the Ancient Romans used Lavender for healing wounds, headaches and even in their washing!

Researchers have now shown how potent lavender is when used as a natural remedy to help aid sleep and today, this is one of the more common uses with lavender turning up in  night-time beauty products, pillow mists and home fragrances.  

Sleep specialist, Richard Jolie suggests that: “Rather than directly affecting the quality of sleep itself, research has shown the key effects of herbal fragrances like lavender to help reduce stress levels thereby relaxing people enough for them to sleep much better.”

How this works, remains unclear.

“One suggestion is that one of the major components of lavender oil, linalool, produces a sedative effect by acting on GABA pathways. GABA is one of the major inhibitory neurotransmitters in the nervous system so is responsible for reduced nerve cell excitation...GABA also has a major role to play in brain circuits involved in sleep,” explains Christabel Majendie, sleep therapist at Naturalmat.

Native to Africa, Asia and Europe, lavender is now primarily grown in Provence, France where it has become a major tourist attraction. The lavender in Provence is planted from March to April and once the harvest begins, Lush will take delivery of some 500 tonnes of high-quality lavender and lavandin ​oil each year to use in a wide range of products. From skincare to hair care and from bath to shower, you can douse yourself with lavender from head to toe.

Due to the soothing effects of lavender, we frequently receive questions on the use of lavender based products on children and adults alike, so we asked Lush co founder Mark Constantine to clear up some common queries.

Is Sleepy body lotion safe to use on children and infants?

“Lush makes all of its own product perfume and we follow the international fragrance guidelines when doing so, the perfume in Sleepy body lotion falls within all the recommended parameters of them. However, we don’t think you should put any perfumed products on babies under the age of six months.

Our advice to parents is to wear the lotion yourselves rather than applying it to your baby. However, you can use your own judgement in this instance.”

Can Sleepy body lotion help to put an end to sleepless nights?

“Generally lavender, tonka and similar ingredients work extremely well to sooth the mind and help people sleep, sadly we regret that it won’t resolve any worries about Brexit, Trump, your in-laws coming to stay or anything else that might be keeping you up at night!”

Is it safe to use Twilight body spray on children?

“Twilight is a body spray with a much higher content of perfume to Sleepy body lotion, so we wouldn’t suggest spraying the body spray directly onto babies and young children. Again, please use your own judgement on this matter”

Is there any other safety information or guidance for the use of Twilight body spray or Sleepy body lotion on children and babies that you could share with me?

“Twilight body spray is fine to use on children's bedding, we’d suggest spraying it onto the sheets, giving them a little shake and leaving it half an hour before putting your child to bed.

You may also like to apply Sleepy body lotion or Twilight body spray to yourself to surround your child with a lovely lavender and tonka scent, or to help you get back to sleep after feeding your baby.”

If you’re a lavender lover, then there are plenty of lavender based products for you to dip into. Alternatively, there are plenty of other ways to relax before bedtime. From taking a long hot bath, to trying your hand at facial massage, you can find more tips on how to sleep well here.

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