I Tried the Lotion Everyone Claims Cures Insomnia—Here’s What Happened

The latest viral sensation for sleep-lovers is a pale purple, sweet-scented skin cream called Sleepy, brought to you by Lush. We gave it a try and here's what we found.

Considering the awful things that can happen to you when you don’t get enough sleep (think: weight gain, brain fog, depression, and possibly Alzheimer’s disease,
heart disease, and stroke, among others), I consider it a small miracle that I’m sitting here today, alive and well, thinking about the latest miracle cure for insomnia. But my lifelong snooze-insufficiency is precisely why I reached out to Lush Cosmetics to plead for a sample of Sleepy, the body lotion for which the Internet’s gone wild—people report that it cures even the most intractable insomnia and even helps get babies down for the night.

“Slather on this gorgeous pale purple lotion, breathe in its sweet, comforting lavender and tonka perfume, and you’ll instantly feel at ease,” Lush promises on its website. “Glycerin, cocoa butter, and almond oil work together to moisturize skin and lock in hydration to keep skin soft, supple, and comfortable all day or all night long. Say hello to your new nightly ritual! Zzz…”

Read those sleep-better claims closely

Indeed, the lotion delivers on its promise. But pay close attention now, because that doesn’t necessarily mean what you think it means. Lush isn’t actually claiming its product will put you to sleep, keep you asleep, or help you sleep better, but rather that it will please and calm your senses, which will set you up for a sweet and restful slumber. And that it does, from the very first sight of it—a glistening, pale-purple concoction with the shiny, thick consistency of fresh sour cream, heaped richly in a gelato-cup style tub. But the visual is nothing compared to the scent, which is captivatingly complex, moving through a range of notes from the moment you open the tub, beginning with light lavender, transforming to a piney lemon-citrus as you rub it into your skin and landing on lingering warm vanilla sweetness, like spun-sugar candy. (Not into a sleep lotion? Check out these other sleep-inducing products.)

Smoothing it on before bed was almost like a form of entertainment, a pleasing pampering of my skin and a virtual sensory trip from the dreamiest of English lavender farms to some warm, cozy kitchen of my childhood (or perhaps some imagined childhood?!) where I sat at the table with a tall glass of milk and plate of freshly baked sugar cookies (like these Lemon and Lavender Tea Cookies). The scent of lavender and vanilla have both been studied as a way to lower stress levels, and the scent of pine and citrus is thought to improve mood, along with these other smells that can make you happier. It’s no wonder that this Sleepy lotion is the stuff of Internet obsession.

The sleep value of lavender

Research from 2017 and shows the effect of lavender on the nervous system suggests it can help you relax and relieve stress and anxiety. Plus, a 2013 scientific survey shows that, in addition to lavender, the extra piney and sweet scents reduce sleep disturbances, at least in older people. This might also help account for Sleepy’s popularity for insomniacs because, after lavender oil, its two most prominent aromatic ingredients are sweet, powdery, caramel-vanilla scented tonka bean oil and heady, florally aromatic ylang-ylang oil. (Psst: Check out these other aromas that can help you sleep.)

For the past five nights, I’ve incorporated Sleepy into my nighttime routine, rubbing it into my arms, shoulders, neck, my face, and even smoothing it onto my hair, before climbing into bed and then luxuriating in the soft, sweet scent-cloud before drifting off. Yes, I said “drifting off.” This lifelong insomniac drifted off quite easily every one of those nights, and today, I feel rested (and still smell yummy, if I do say so myself). Since even Lush doesn’t claim that Sleepy cures insomnia, I’m not going to say that it cured mine. But the fact is, I fell asleep more easily after using it.

Is it magic? I can’t say. What I can say for sure is that my little experiment created for me a mini-version of a bedtime routine, which experts say is an important good-sleep habit. I can also say for sure that both moisturizing and being mindful of my own sleep habits made me feel like I was taking care of “me,” which has actual health benefits, not the least of which is stress reduction. The scents of lavender, tonka bean, and ylang-ylang were, at the very least, aesthetically pleasing, which makes shut-eye a lot more accessible. And Sleepy is vegan and not tested on animals, in case you would normally be worried about those things.

Whether you should use Sleepy to help your baby or child drift off to dreamland is uncertain. Many medical professionals advise using care in choosing skin products for babies and even Lush, itself, has come out with the following statement, as reported by the UK-based website, Mother and Baby:

As a general rule for babies, we don’t think you should put any perfumed products on them under the age of six months. Our advice to parents is to wear the lotion yourselves rather than applying it to your baby. However, you can use your own judgment in this instance.

Trying to get a good night’s rest while waiting for your local shop to restock Lush’s Sleepy? Here’s a trick to falling—and staying—asleep.

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