Question & Answer

Does lavender improve sleep?

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The Evidence

  • Worldwide, millions of people experience insomnia (sleep problems). People can have problems with certain aspects of sleep like, falling asleep, staying asleep or poor overall sleep quality.
  • Lavender oil, made from the flowers of the lavender plant, is supposed to be calming and may help people sleep better. It can be inhaled, placed on the skin, or taken in tablet form.
  • We found one good quality small randomised controlled trial (RCT) that looked at 35 women aged between 48 and 65 years who had insomnia. The women were randomly divided into two groups. Both groups received advice on good sleep habits, one group were asked to inhale lavender oil, and the other was asked to inhale sunflower oil. The study measured sleep in two ways; questionnaires that people filled in themselves (self-reporting) and a test used to diagnose sleep disorders called polysomnography. The study found that:
    • The women who inhaled lavender did not report better sleep quality compared with women who did not inhale lavender, however, over time, the women inhaling lavender reported that they fell asleep quicker.
    • Both groups had better sleep quality after the study, which may or may not have to do with the sleep advice they received.
    • People inhaling lavender didn’t wake up immediately after falling asleep as much as they used to, but the evidence here is uncertain.
    • However, when researchers used polysomnography they found that women using lavender fell asleep more quickly than those that did not.
    • The polysomnography also found that, on average, women inhaling lavender remained asleep longer while in bed.
  • We found three other RCTs, that were of moderate quality so we can’t be as sure of their findings:
    • The first study found that 59 elderly people in a nursing home who used lavender reported better sleep quality than those who did not use it.
    • The second study of 100 retired older adults found that, on average, those using lavender reported better sleep quality than those not using it. About two-thirds of those using lavender said their sleep was better.
    • The third study was of 170 people diagnosed with restlessness, anxiety and insomnia and found that those using lavender had less disturbed sleep than those not using it.

Guidelines and recommendations

  • The HSE recommends using lavender to help with sleeping problems and help people create a restful place to sleep.

Things to Remember

  • If someone gets better after treatment it does not necessarily mean that the treatment made them better.
  • Look out for claims about treatments that are based on small studies of few people.
  • Look out for treatment comparisons where people knew which treatment they received, and knowing that could have changed how they felt or behaved.


  • Lead Researcher: Dr. Paula Byrne, Senior post-doctoral researcher, iHealthFacts, Evidence Synthesis Ireland and Cochrane Ireland, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, University of Galway.
  • Reviewed by: Prof Declan Devane, Professor of Health Research Methodology, Deputy Dean, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, University of Galway,
  • Scientific Director, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network Director, Evidence Synthesis Ireland. Director, Cochrane Ireland
  • Topic advisor: Prof. Susan M. Smith, Professor of General Practice, Discipline of Public Health and Primary Care, Trinity College Dublin and General Practitioner in Inchicore Family Doctors, Dublin 8.
  • Public and Patient advisor: Deirdre Mac Loughlin, Public and Patient Involvement in research (PPI) advisor, PPI Ignite, University of Galway.
  • Journalist Advisor: Dr. Claire O’Connell, PhD in cell biology, Masters in Science Communication. Contributor to The Irish Times, writing about health, science and innovation.

Conflict of Interest Statement: The authors have no financial or other conflicts of interest for this health claim summary.