This is an interesting question that has been swirling around in the essential oil community. Where exactly it came from, we’re not too sure.
Sometimes all it takes is a few firsthand accounts that can ignite a wildfire of second- and third-hand accounts. Then, it becomes ingrained in the “can this essential oil do that?” handbook.
This is one of many other questions in the handbook: Can lavender oil cause nightmares?
The Science of Dreams (or Lack Thereof)
Unfortunately, when it comes to lavender and its impact on nightmares (or dreaming as a whole), the water is rather murky.
The reason largely stems from the fact that the science of dreaming (and, incidentally, nightmares) is somewhat of an enigma. The human brain is a mysterious ball of matter.
Scientists might be able to decipher various stages of sleep (gotta get that REM!). But the biological, psychological, and physiological implications that stem from dreaming are unclear. Still, there are plenty of theories floating out there:
- Dreams coincide with sleep to assist the brain in sorting through everything it harvests while it is active throughout the day.
- During sleep, the brain tries to plow through millions of inputs each day and decides what it wants to hang on to through dreaming.
- Dreams are tied to how we form our memories, and the more things we learn during the day, the more we dream at night.
Now, these don’t sound too far out. But they still don’t explain a whole lot. And they certainly don’t explain whether or not lavender oil impacts our dreams – for the good or the bad.
Which leads us to the underlying question:
Can Lavender Cause Lucid Dreaming & Nightmares?
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of research on the subject. So let’s start off simple. What are the main benefits of lavender oil?
Of course, this isn’t an easy answer, considering it’s arguably the most versatile oil. But beyond its countless other uses (skin care, pain management, hair care, etc.), it’s most commonly known for its calming properties.
Indeed, for the overwhelming majority of people, lavender can help calm anxious feelings and encourage more restful sleep.
According to many accounts (not necessarily scientifically proven), the “deeper sleep” that lavender can encourage, in turn can increase the chance of lucid dreaming.
The idea is that scents are processed through the limbic system, an area of the brain that associates with emotion and memory. So if you believe that dreams are an emotional realm, it would make sense that essential oils like lavender could encourage lucid dreaming.
In turn, the intensifying of these brain waves could increase the likelihood of lavender to cause nightmares.
Now, on the flip side. When it comes to our bodies, there are always exceptions. Because everyone’s body reacts to various substances differently.
Some research suggests that the only dreams we can recall are the ones that we awaken immediately after having them. If this is the case, nightmares and lucid dreaming would be less likely when applying lavender. Why? Because for most people, lavender promotes more restful sleep, lessening the number of times we wake up throughout the night.
Again, it depends on your body.
Think about the popular ADHD drug – Adderall. Its intent is to slow down and mellow out someone who is diagnosed with ADHD.
What happens if you don’t have ADHD and you take the drug? It almost has the reverse effect. It speeds you up.
The similar concept can happen to lavender – or any essential oil for that matter.
For some people, lavender does the exact opposite effect. Our two-year-old son is a good example. Before we had Gavin, my husband would occasionally apply lavender before bed for his restless leg syndrome.
When Gavin (our son) was still sleeping in our bed with us, and after some trial and error, we came to a realization: Lavender has the reverse effect on him. While my husband was falling fast asleep inhaling lavender from his wrist, my son was wide awake and restless – and awakening all throughout the night.
The moral of the story is our body’s react differently. Therefore, yes, lavender may cause nightmares and lucid dreaming in some people – but it’s not a researched, nor a widely sourced, “side effect” of the oil.