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Dr. Michael J. Breus Headshot

The Scent of Sleep

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If the thought of another holiday cocktail makes your stomach rumble, then seeing this article posted last week won't be appealing. But it offers some intriguing ideas on how to pump up your drinks with immunity-boosting additives like ginger, cloves, juniper and chili powder. (And you probably would have done well with one of these New Year's Eve.)

One cocktail in particular listed is an Absolut Vanilla infused with lavender. Why lavender? Because its scent--yes, its scent, not the ingredients it imparts in your body--has been shown to improve sleep. This in turn helps boost your immunity because your defense system loves restful sleep. Interesting that no one mentioned that the alcohol will have some pretty dramatic effects on your sleep as well (some not so positive!).


We all know that we're more susceptible to getting a cold when we haven't been sleeping well, and there's a scientific reasoning for this. Certain immune cells that modulate the immune system increase during sleep, so missing out on sleep means your resistance to infection drops. Some studies even suggest that those who get six hours or less of sleep have 50 percent less immunity protection than those who get eight hours per night.

Lavender is usually studied as lavender oil (rather than an additive in a cocktail!), and it allegedly has depressant effects on the central nervous system. It's been used for centuries to calm the mind and relax muscles. Subjects in one study a few years ago who were given 3 minutes of aromatherapy with lavender oil reported relaxation, less depression, and increased cognitive skills.

I routinely tell people that if you like the smell of lavender, it can be a great addition to the bedroom as a calming aroma (hence, so many lavender "aromatherapy" products). But I don't recommend using candles because I don't want to be blamed for starting fires. Use sprays, powders, or even fresh flowers (if no one is allergic).

You don't need to mix a cocktail to deliver a sleep-enhancing supplement. Besides, the alcohol opens another can of worms. The lavender's effect, if any, in that drink will be doused by the alcohol for sure... especially if you have another and another and another.

For more information about herbal remedies and sleep strategies, check out my book GOOD NIGHT. It's chock full of insights and a 28-day program to achieve restful sleep once and for all. If your New Year's resolution is about feeling and looking better, this program is for you.

Sweet Dreams,
The Sleep Doctor™
Michael Breus

This article on sleep is also available at Dr. Breus's official blog, The Insomnia Blog.

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