Background: Insomnia is the most common of all sleep complaints and is under-researched. The current treatments of choice are conventional hypnotics agents, but these have potential for serious adverse reactions. Uncontrolled and anecdotal evidence suggests that lavender oil is an effective treatment for insomnia, but this has not been formally investigated.
Objectives: The aims of this study were to evaluate the proposed trial methodology and the efficacy of Lavandula augustifolia (lavender) on insomnia.
Interventions: INTERVENTIONS consisted of Lavandula augustifolia (treatment) and sweet almond oil as placebo/control. The aroma was supplied via an Aromastream device (Tisserand Aromatherapy, Sussex, UK).
Design: This was a pilot study with randomized, single-blind, cross-over design (baseline, two treatment periods, and a washout period, each of 1 week duration).
Subjects and setting: Volunteers with defined insomnia treated on a domiciliary basis participated in the study.
Outcome measures: Outcomes were assessed with the following: Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) indicating insomnia (score > 5 at entry); Borkovec and Nau (B&N) Questionnaire evaluating treatment credibility; and Holistic Complementary and Alternative Medicine Questionnaire (HCAMQ) assessing attitudes to CAM and health beliefs.
Results: Ten (10) volunteers (5 male and 5 female) were entered and completed the 4 week study. Lavender created an improvement of -2.5 points in PSQI (p = 0.07, 95% CI - 4.95 to - 0.4). Each intervention was equally credible and belief in CAM did not predict outcome. Women and younger volunteers with a milder insomnia improved more than others. No period or carry-over effect was observed.
Conclusion: The methodology for this pilot study appeared to be appropriate. Outcomes favor lavender, and a larger trial is required to draw definitive conclusions.