Lavender Aromatherapy for Sleep (Aromatherapy Series)

Lavender Aromatherapy for Sleep (Aromatherapy Series)

What is Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils from plants for therapeutic benefit or healing. The essential oils from the plant give off a strong aroma, and when inhaled, the scent molecules of the essential oil travel through the olfactory nerves directly to the brain.

Essential oils can also be used topically, as they can be absorbed through the skin. An example of this could be a massage therapist using wintergreen oil to relax tight muscles during a massage, or a person using a bath salts or a bath bomb infused with lavender for a relaxing soak.

Research shows that aromatherapy may have some additional health benefits such as:

  • Easing stress, anxiety and depression
  • Boosting relaxation
  • Improving sleep
  • Improving quality of life for people with long-term health conditions such as dementia, Alzheimer's disease or Parkinson's disease
  • Having some pain relieving effects
  • Fighting bacteria
  • Easing some side effects of cancer treatment such as nausea and pain

When discussing aromatherapy, it is important to note there are many beauty products and products for the home that are sold as "aromatherapy" products, but they use synthetic fragrances. These synthetic fragrances simply do not have the same properties as essential oils.

What are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are concentrated extracts that are taken from the roots, seeds, blossoms, barks, peels, etc of various plants. The elements that cause the plant to have it's particular fragrant smell are its "essence". When the essence of the plant is extracted, it is called essential oil. Essential oils can be used to promote physical healing as well as emotional healing (such as relieving or reducing anxiety).

Essential oils are absorbed into the body by three main routes: oral, dermal and nasal. In inhalation, they are absorbed into and broken down by the lungs. They then enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body. Odor molecules bind to the olfactory receptors and send signals to the brain.

Aromatherapy and Brain Waves

If you missed our introductory article on brain waves, be sure to check it out (click here)!

Aromatherapy involves the inhalation of essential oils. Once inhaled, essential oils are able to travel through our olfactory nerves and directly to our brains. Essential oils are fat-soluble and able to cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB), which restricts the transfer of substances from the blood to the brain, to reach the cerebrum. This suggests that essential oils are able to affect cognitive function neurologically. Essential oils are able to affect our brain waves. When a person is doing a task, there is increased blood flow to the active area of the task-related brain regions. Odor molecules that enter the bloodstream after essential oil inhalation are able to travel to those task-related brain regions and improve neural activity.

Humans have about 350 functional olfactory receptor genes, and believe it or not, the olfactory system plays a huge role in the physiological effects of mood, stress management, social behavior, and can also effect working capacity. They are able to affect our central nervous system and greatly influence our physical and mental conditions. Inhalation of certain essential oils (such as rosemary, black pepper or basil) can increase beta waves making a person feel more "awake". Inhalation of essential oils such as lavender or lemon oil can increase theta and delta waves, promoting relaxation and sleep. Inhalation of some essential oils, such as sandalwood, can increase gamma waves.

Emotions are thought to be linked with alpha waves, therefore, essential oils such as lavender, lemon , and bergamot can induce the brain to drop from beta waves to alpha, increasing positive mood.


The genus Lavandula is native to the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, Southern Europe, Northern and Eastern Africa through Middle Eastern countries, stretching from southwest Asia to southeast India. Lavandula includes more than 30 species, dozens of subspecies, hundreds of hybrids and cultivars.

It is usually divided into 4 categories: Lavandula angustifolia (formerly known as L. vera or L. officinalis, a frost hardy species also known as English lavender), L. stoechas (has greenish-grey foliage, has a strong odor and also known as French lavender), L. latifolia (a Mediterranean grass-like lavender), and L. intermedia (a sterile cross between L. latifoliaand L. angustifolia).

Whole lavender oil and it's main components, linalool and linalyl acetate are commonly used in aromatherapy. It can be used in oral applications, aromatherapy massage, dripping oil and bathing. Unlike many other essential oils, lavender oil can be safely used on the skin undiluted. It is rapidly absorbed into the skin and linalool and linalyl acetate can be rapidly detected in the plasma after topical application.

Lavender Aromatherapy for Sleep

According to this study, using lavender aromatherapy for sleep has been shown to decrease alpha and beta waves in the wake stage of sleep while increasing delta waves in the deep sleep stage in humans. A single-blinded study was conducted on nine young, healthy participants with no sleep issues in which lavender aroma (L. angustifolia) was released while the participants were asleep. The aroma was released while they were sleep to eliminate psychological expectations and bias. All participants reported better sleep quality after being exposed to lavender aromatherapy in their sleep. It was observed on EEG that when lavender aroma was released, alpha brain waves in wake stage were decreased, while the delta wave in slow-wave-sleep (SWS) was increased. Lavender oil aroma was shown to promote SWS in sleep, which can help prevent neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's Disease and Parkinson's disease which are related to a build up of toxic protein debris. It is shown that elderly people with a longer SWS time have a lower concentration of the toxic protein debris that causes Alzheimer's disease in their cerebral spinal fluid upon waking up.

Sleep time is often limited in many people due to life requirements of our modern society. Because of this, lavender aromatherapy for sleep may provide a cheap, safe way to improve quality of sleep and also prevent diseases like Alzheimer's Disease without drastically altering people's schedules and sleep/wake cycles.

According to this study, lavender aromatherapy for sleep was shown to improve the quality of sleep in fifteen healthy students, sixty-four ischemic heart disease patients, thirty-four midlife women with insomnia, and ten individuals with insomnia. Lavender aromatherapy was shown to improve the quality of sleep more dramatically in women, younger patients and those with mild insomnia.

How Can I Use Lavender Aromatherapy to Improve Sleep?

An easy way to use lavender oil aroma to improve sleep is to use it in a diffuser to be inhaled while sleeping. Make sure to get a high quality lavender oil (we only use therapeutic grade) to avoid potentially coming in contact with toxic chemicals.

Another way to use lavender oil to promote sleep and relaxation is to use the lavender oil topically. Consider checking out our Lavender G-Funk body butter. It is made with high quality ingredients such as raw unrefined shea butter, organic cold pressed extra virgin coconut oil, and therapeutic grade essential oils, and it has a floral element to it due to jasmine being present. It smells wonderful and promotes good sleep. If you prefer more of an earthy, masculine scent accompanying your lavender instead of a floral scent, try Don’t Trip. Extremely relaxing, Don’t trip is a blend of lavender and vetiver, which is known as the oil of tranquility.  Both of these body butters are also highly recommended for massages! 

If you're looking for a high quality, organic therapeutic grade essential oil made with L. angustifolia (also called "True lavender"k, used in high end cosmetics and recommended for aromatherapeutic purposes), I recommend this one.

If you're looking for an affordable high quality organic lavender essential oil made with hybrid strain L. hybrida (better for scenting rooms, laundry, soaps, rinse off cosmetics etc.), I recommend this one.

What Else Can Lavender Do?

Besides improving the quality of sleep, lavender oil aromatherapy has been shown to cause reductions in anxiety, blood pressure, heart rate and skin temperature. It can reduce the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system. In addition, lavender has been shown to benefit other conditions such as epilepsy, and even help with pain management.

The research being done on lavender aromatherapy for sleep as well as other essential oils for aromatherapy is increasing. Many experts are finding out that essential oils have some very beneficial applications in the vast field of healthcare!


Did you enjoy this article? Drop us a comment and let us know your thoughts!

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


Back to blog

Leave a comment