The Impact of Essential Oil Lavender Oil on Sleep

Lavender oil is an essential oil derived from the popular garden herb: Lavandula spp. The essential oil is traditionally believed to have sedative, carminative (muscle relaxer), anti-depressive and anti-inflammatory properties. In addition, it is recognised for commonly for its antibacterial properties. In WW1 lavender oil was widely used to prevent infection.

We usually think of sight and hearing as our main senses. However, smell has the strongest impact on our emotions. The olfactory receptors in our brain connect directly to the limbic system, where emotions begin.

This article addresses the properties lavender oil has as a sedative or for sleep enhancement. Poor sleep quality affects one third of the UK’s population so it is a common issue. Lavender oil is believed to cause few side effects in comparison to other sleep medications such as benzodiazepines.

Lavender oil has been shown to increase deep sleep. Deep sleep is vital for physical restoration, hormonal regulation and growth. The use of lavender oil tends towards a reduced wake frequency. In a study the patients had statistically significant improvements in mean sleep scores. Sleeps scores are measured by a number of factors including total asleep time and average heart rate when asleep.

Lavender oil has the added benefits of relieving anxiety, stress and depression - all of which are related to sleeping difficulties. Physiologically, lavender oil also lowers your blood pressure and heart rate, which in turn relaxes you.

Even professional caregivers can benefit. In a study of nurses working rotating shifts, participants slept better after an aromatherapy massage with lavender oil at the end of a graveyard shift. A study including 79 college students who reported sleep issues showed that proper sleep hygiene and breathing in lavender improved sleep quality.

Lavender patches were applied to their chest at night. Their sleep quality was measured using a fitbit tracker, sleep diary and sleep quality surveys. In Germany, lavender tea has been approved as a supplement to treat sleep disruptions, restlessness, and stomach irritation.

Research suggests lavender oil is safe as a topical agent, so applied to the outermost layer of the skin however, oral administration is not recommended. The most common application for lavender oil is fragrance aromatherapy, which involves the inhalation of pure essential oil derived from plants. Other administration methods for the aroma include vaporisation via an oil burner or hot water and the application of small quantities of the oil to clothing, pillows or skin. It is best to buy lavender oil of the best and purest quality or seek advice from a qualified aroma therapist.

The benefits of lavender oil have been very promising but more research needs to be done. Most of the research that has been carried out, as of now, look at short term usage and are in sleep laboratories not home settings with a smaller sample size, and so the results are not as representative as possible.


Milad Rouf Final Year Medical Student, Cardiff University.

Fismer, K. and Pilkington, K., 2012. Lavender and sleep: A systematic review of the evidence. European Journal of Integrative Medicine, 4(4), pp.e436-e447.

Krusemark, E., Novak, L., Gitelman, D. and Li, W., 2013. When the Sense of Smell Meets Emotion: Anxiety-State-Dependent Olfactory Processing and Neural Circuitry Adaptation. The Journal of Neuroscience, 33(39), pp.15324-15332.

Kim, I., Kim, C., Seong, K., Hur, M., Lim, H. and Lee, M., 2012. Essential Oil Inhalation on Blood Pressure and Salivary Cortisol Levels in Prehypertensive and Hypertensive Subjects. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012, pp.1-9.

Chang, Y., Lin, C. and Chang, L., 2017. The Effects of Aromatherapy Massage on Sleep Quality of Nurses on Monthly Rotating Night Shifts. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2017, pp.1-8.

Lillehei, A., Halcón, L., Savik, K. and Reis, R., 2015. Effect of Inhaled Lavender and Sleep Hygiene on Self-Reported Sleep Issues: A Randomized Controlled Trial. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 21(7), pp.430-438.