Aromatherapy helps new mums sleep.

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Lavender to sleep like your new born baby

Lack of sleep goes with the territory after having a baby doesn’t it? Aren’t women programmed to only cat nap and never go into a deep slumber, so that they can react to the sounds of their new baby?  Isn’t it evolution’s way of making sure the new born is protected? Whilst this may be true, sleep disturbance contributes and aggravates many of the other problems that women face in the first weeks after the birth of their baby.  As if that isn’t enough, it seems the problems actually start before the baby is even born. Studies show that a woman’s sleep patterns are as disturbed in the last month of pregnancy as they are in the first month postpartum

Sleep disturbance the same as for shift workers

Much research has been carried out on the effects of sleep disturbance on the body and quality of life of shift workers. A new study has shown that the sleep disturbance experienced by pregnant women in the last month of pregnancy is equivalent to that experienced by evening shift workers. In the period postpartum, the sleep disturbance is so great it is equivalent to that experienced by women working permanent night or rotating shifts.

Sleep disturbance effects on the body

Sleep disturbance has major implications for health as any experienced mother or shift worker would agree, and research backs them up. Difficulty concentrating, headaches, lack of energy, being accident prone, irritability, mood disorders and generally feeling under the weather are all common effects. Effects such as postnatal depression are more serious.

Sleep when your baby sleeps

Old wives tales, midwives and experienced mothers all advocate ‘sleep when your baby sleeps’ as a solution to the sleep disturbance problem.  But it’s not that easy to just drop off to sleep when there seems to be so much to do. Any techniques that can help a new mother close her eyes and switch her mind off from ‘doing’ things’ so that she can grab those vital minutes of sleep is welcomed with open arms.

Lavender Oil Research

A new study has investigated the effects of Lavender oil aromatherapy on the quality of sleep in new mothers. 158 volunteers were given either lavender aromatherapy or a placebo.  The volunteers completed a sleep quality test (Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index) before the start of the study, then after four and eight weeks. Results showed that the lavender aromatherapy group showed better quality of sleep than the control group.

An earlier study carried out in 2011 investigated the effect of aromatherapy on the sleep time of medical staff working shifts.  30 minutes of aromatherapy and relaxation at the end of the shift work increased sleep time and quality.

Sleep disturbance is very common in hospital patients and can have a significant effect on their speed of recovery. A short pilot study carried out in 2014 showed that lavender oil aromatherapy lowered blood pressure, and improved sleep in hospital patients in an intermediate care unit.

So the smell of lavender might have you nodding off, reminding you of your grandma, floating dresses and ladies in lavender, but there is clearly a good scientific basis to it.

Cary et al. Sleep Patterns and Fatigue in New Mothers and Fathers. Iran Red Cres Med J. Apr 2015. 

Stojan Bajraktarov et al. Main effects of sleep disorders related to shift work - opportunities for preventive programs. EPMA. Oct 2011. 

Shimada et al. Lavender fragrance essential oil and the quality of sleep in postpartum women. Iran Red Cresc Med J. Apr 2015. 

Lytle et al.  Aromatherapy alleviates endothelial dysfunction of medical staff after night-shift work: preliminary observations. Hyperten Research. Feb 2011. 

 

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