I’ve struggled to fall asleep for as long as I can remember. As a kid I would wake my parents up constantly to tell them so, in my teens I was restless, and now, as a 28-year-old, I’ve still not mastered the art of catching zzzs. For at least an hour each night, I lie in bed with my eyes squeezed shut willing myself to nod off. I mull over things that happened in the day and fret about the future. Once I’m asleep I’m fine, it’s just actually nodding off that I struggle with.
I’ve tried to reduce my bedtime anxiety in many ways: sometimes I take herbal sleeping tablets or listen to the sound of rain on YouTube; sometimes I have a “wind down” hour like I’m a toddler where I avoid watching TV or using my phone; and ultimately I try to tell myself that if I stop stressing about falling asleep then maybe I actually will.
TL,DR: I’m desperate. So when I hear about Lush’s ‘Sleepy’ body lotion, touted as a “miracle cream” that has supposedly helped hoards of insomniacs fall asleep, I decide (somewhat dubiously/doubtfully) to give it a go.
The moisturiser is a mix of “gentle oatmeal infusion, calming lavender flower and comfortingly sweet tonka”, but smells sweet and a bit like cinnamon. Sleep expert Richard Jolie says on Lush’s website that the mix of these ingredients work well to soothe the mind and help people doze off. Lavender is the key here – studies have shown it can induce relaxation by decreasing our heart rate and blood pressure.
I’m going to test the lotion for a week to get reliable results – and try and keep an open mind. “What, so you’re going to fall asleep just by putting on moisturiser?” my flatmate jokes, but, after reading the ingredients, she concedes: “Oh, lavender? Mate, you’re going to be out for the count tonight.”
In winter, all you want to do is be wrapped up under a duvet, so spending 15 minutes before bed standing in the cold rubbing lotion all over my body is a challenge in itself. I wonder how much of a difference moisturising my legs will have on my sleep pattern, but hey. As I crawl under the duvet moments afterwards, I can already feel my eyes drooping. I debate whether it’s because I had a busy day at work or a hard gym session, but before I come to a conclusion I’m asleep.
This continues for the next few nights. I apply the lotion along my chest, arms, neck and face rather than my whole body (which doesn’t feel necessary), and the impact is the same as night one. My mind isn’t tired when I get into bed, but for my body it’s a different story. It’s like inhaling the lavender with each breath helps me to wind down into that perfect, drowsy, pre-sleep stage. Instead of my usual hour of tossing and turning, I’m out like a light within about 25 minutes.
But it’s not all plain sailing till morning. Now, I’ve got a new obstacle: waking up several times in the early hours and being unable to fall back to sleep immediately, which is something I’ve never experienced before.
On the fifth night of my trial, I decide not to use the lotion to compare how my sleep differs. I haven’t had a particularly busy day but feel unusually tired as I get ready for bed. To my surprise, I fall asleep within 20 minutes without using the lotion – super speedy for me.
I return to using the lotion for the remainder of the week: on night six, I go out like a light, while on the seventh, after a particularly stressful day, I struggle to fall asleep – maybe this would’ve been longer if I hadn’t used the lotion, who knows?
Having a good or bad night’s sleep is down to so many factors: your state of mind, what you did that day, what you ate, what you did before bed, what you’re doing the next day (and how you’re feeling about it) – so despite having an unusually good week of sleeping, I can’t put this success solely down to a lotion.
That said, Lush does what it says on the tin. The brand doesn’t claim to “cure” insomnia. It doesn’t promise to get you to sleep within minutes and it definitely doesn’t promise you eight hours in the land of nod. “Slather on this gorgeous pale purple lotion, breathe in its sweet, comforting lavender and tonka perfume, and you’ll instantly feel at ease,” Lush says about the product, adding: “It’ll hush your thoughts ready for a peaceful night’s sleep.”
Slathering on a pleasing, soft scent onto my body before bed is an evening ritual I begin to enjoy. The smell instantly relaxes me and the feeling of my soft skin against my dressing gown makes me feel cosy and warm. The simple act of doing something to aid my sleep – taking those few minutes for myself – probably has a lot to do with it. The lotion gives me a sense of control over my bedtime habits and puts me in a positive state of mind as I snuggle down. So it’s a ritual I’ll carry on, but mostly on those days that I really need to focus on self-care.