For an estimated 30 per cent of the population, sleep is an elusive state. But according to a group of Reddit users, one dollop of Lush’s Sleepy Hand and Body Lotion is all it takes to usher even the fussiest sleepers to la la land in no time.
The lotion, which uses a blend of lavender, tonka and ylang ylang oil, has become a social media hit, with people lauding it for helping cure their sleep issues.
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“I’ve been getting to sleep so much easier — I have really bad insomnia but I’ve fallen asleep super quickly every time I’ve used Sleepy,” wrote one Reddit user.
“I just sat down with a little sample of Sleepy and put it on my hands as I have done every night this week and I thought to myself how happy it makes me feel, how calming the scent is and just generally how much I love it. I never really feel this attached to products but something about Sleepy is so comforting and cosy,” wrote another.
“We knew the product was good, but we didn’t know everyone would fall for it,” Leigh Casbourne, a brand and product trainer for Lush, tells Global News. “The effects of Sleepy are very specific to the individual, and if people are getting a better night’s sleep because of it, that makes us happy.”
The product’s main ingredient is lavender and uses it in a number of iterations: oil, water and as an infusion.
“Lavender has been used to promote calm and relaxation for centuries, dating back to the Romans,” Casbourne points out. “The National Sleep Foundation has also said that it helps to calm the mind.”
In addition to this, the lotion also uses ylang ylang, an essential oil lauded for its hypnotic qualities, benzoin resinoid, which relaxes sore muscles, and tonka, which gives it its warm, musky scent.
While the bold claims of curing sleep issues come directly from users, and would certainly elicit skepticism from insomniacs, there is no definitive proof the product has some miracle cure for sleeping disorders. Lavender, however, is said to have certain soporific effects.
“I have 300 research papers on lavender oil and one-third of them relate to its calming and anti-anxiety properties. That’s well established,” says Robert Tisserand, an expert in aromatherapy and essential oil research, and director of the Tisserand Institute.
While he says that no herb or essential oil (or pharmaceutical drug, for that matter) is guaranteed to work for everyone, “roughly 75 to 80 per cent of people claim that lavender improves sleep quality, shortens the time it takes users to fall asleep and promotes relaxation,” he says. “It doesn’t work like a sedative, but it does something to change the dynamics of our mental and emotional state to help us sleep better.”
That’s due to the fact that scent triggers two effects: a physiological one and a psychological one. When we inhale a scent, it has an effect on our neurochemicals and brainwaves, while the claims attached to the scent (like lavender’s ability to help us sleep) instill a psychological expectation of success.
In fact, our ability to smell, and how fine-tuned it is, has been linked to brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, as well as depression and schizophrenia. According to a study out of Tel Aviv University, this link “may further suggest that under certain circumstances, olfactory abnormalities may be associated with autoimmune conditions.”
“When you inhale a scent, it has an effect on you whether you like it or not. Part of that is due to its absorption in the brain,” Tisserand says. “When you inhale something, it goes into the nasal cavity, triggers the nerve endings and is absorbed through the skull.”
In other words, when you smell something, it literally goes into your brain. And depending on what that scent is, it could have a number of effects on you.
“Cineole, a compound in rosemary oil, has been proven to stimulate cognitive function and revitalize the brain. Studies have shown that when it’s blended with eucalyptus oil, it can improve word recall and math computation speed,” Tisserand says.
Scent is so much more effective at traversing the nose-to-brain route, he says, that a neurosurgeon in Brazil has been using perillyl alcohol, a derivative of lavender, peppermint and other plants, to treat brain cancer by having patients with malignant brain tumours inhale it. He has had some promising success and the treatment is currently pending FDA approval.
So, maybe a healthy whiff of lavender at bedtime isn’t such a crazy idea after all.