What can we do during the day to reduce stress, calm the mind, and improve memory and cognitive function? When there is time and we have the opportunity, an afternoon nap can certainly help. But also aromatherapy with lavender essential oil spread during sleep can be very useful. This emerges from a recent scientific research published in the journal Healthcare by a team of Japanese scientists (Yogi et al, Healthcare, 2021).
The benefits of good sleep
Good sleep is the best medicine as it affects both physical and mental health. However, it can often happen that you suffer from sleep disorders with consequences on daytime activity, perceived stress levels, mood and cognitive function. What can be done to counteract these effects and improve one's health?
The afternoon nap can help
Certainly, when you have the possibility, work or your lifestyle allows it, the afternoon nap is not to be demonized. Indeed, it has been observed that 20 to 30 minutes of rest help improve cognitive function, the ability to perform physical exercises and attention. A longer nap, about an hour, has the same effect on memory as a night's sleep. However, we must not exaggerate, in fact, like everything, even the afternoon rest if in excess can bring more harm than good. Afternoon rests that last more than an hour are indeed associated with an increased cardiovascular risk.
The relaxing action of lavender essential oil
Lavender essential oil shows interesting anxiolytic, sedative and anti-stress properties, as well as being an excellent anti-inflammatory and antibacterial remedy. These effects are due to the active ingredients present such as linalool, linalyl acetate but also camphor and geranyl acetate.
Lavender increases the anti-stress properties of sleep
To understand the action of the essential oil of lavender inhaled during rest, even the short one in the afternnon, the researchers recruited 12 volunteers, adults, non-smokers and in good health. The volunteers allowed themselves a short afternoon rest, about an hour, on two consecutive days. One day no essential oil was released while the next day lavender essential oil was released into the room. Both times, before and after rest, the volunteers were taken saliva samples to assess the presence of stress indicators, such as alpha amylase, chromogranin A and cortisol. What emerged was that inhaling lavender essential oil during sleep led to an increase in the anti-stress action of the short afternoon rest, further decreasing the values of alpha amylase and chromogranin A. This means that the aromatherapy calmed down the action of the sympathetic nervous system, which is the part of the autonomic nervous system with a stimulating function, which intervenes, for example, to increase alertness, concentration and in case of perceived dangers.
So, to recharge your batteries and calm your mind and body, a help comes from a short afternoon nap but also, and above all, from the inhalation of the fascinating aroma of lavender essential oil, which acts at the level of the system nervous, reducing stress levels.