Scents can trigger a flood of memories. Research shows that smelling something familiar can bring back emotional memories, because the olfactory system (smell system) is directly linked to the part in the brain that stores these kinds of memories. If you smell a certain perfume you may be reminded of your first Valentine’s ball. When you smell freshly baked bread, it might transport you back to the bakery on the corner of your childhood home.

The question is, can smells improve or induce sleep? Read on to find out.

Sleepless?

Black and white close up of horizontal female face in Tehran Province

It is that sweet and sour time of day (or night) again. Time to go to bed. Maybe you are one of those people that find sleep to be an elusive beast. You try every trick in the book, but when you get in bed, sleep just will not come. You drank your cup of tea, your feet are nice and warm and you haven’t checked your phone in ages. (Okay maybe not ages, but the last twenty minutes felt like forever!). So you are tossing and turning but you can’t seem to drift off. Maybe you should start smelling the roses. Literally.

Scents to Help You Relax

There are quite a number of scents that can help you to relax. Some of theses scents trigger the brain to release certain chemicals which make you feel good, while others merely induce some kind of placebo effect that makes you “feel good”. But if it does the trick, does it really matter that one scent is scientifically proven to make you relax while the other one is just your mind playing tricks on you?

For me, if it works it works. Doesn’t matter how or why.

Common Scents

Lavender

Close-up of a person's hands touching wild lavender flowers

Lavender is a flowering plant with its roots in the Mediterranean. In ancient times it was known as nardus or Nard, deriving its name from the Syrian city of Naarda. The Romans used it for its medicinal properties and to scent their hair.

Most of you should be familiar with Lavender products. It is quite common in soaps, bath salts and air fresheners.

If you do not have any Lavender products in your home, you should give it a try! The Romans definitely had a good idea when they used it in their bath oils! Maybe they could not prove under clinical laboratory conditions that this plant, that forms part of the mint family, has healing properties. But they knew that it worked.

Recent research proves that the Romans knew what they were doing. One study in the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand revealed that inhaling Lavender oil significantly decreases blood pressure, heart rate and skin temperature. This indicated a higher level of relaxation in the participants of the study. Another study found that inhaling Lavender oil before bed time increased the percentage of slow-wave sleep in men and women. It also increased stage two type sleep and decreased rapid-eye movement sleep. All of the people tested in this study said that they felt more refreshed when they woke up in the morning after smelling Lavender the previous evening.

Combine these two studies and you will find that, not only will Lavender make you fall asleep faster, but it will also make you feel more refreshed the following morning. So what are you waiting for!? Go get some Lavender oil!

Bergamot

This is a type of citrus fruit, somewhere between a lemon and an orange. Although the origin of this plant is not a hundred percent certain, it takes its name from the region in Italy where it was first sold as an essential oil – Bergamo. Some sources claim that the plant is native to Asia, whereas others suggest that it is either from Italy or Greece. No matter where it comes from, though, its exotic scents will surely help you to sleep!

The essential oil, extracted from the peel of the Bergamot fruit, enhances enzyme and digestive acid secretions, which leads to easy digestion. Apart from this, various studies show that Bergamot essential oils relieve stress and anxiety, because it decreases heart rate and blood pressure. It also increases dopamine and serotonin activity, leaving the recipient feeling relaxed, happy and ready for bed.

So if you do not like the smell of Lavender, try using Bergamot oil. It has many similar properties and will have you drifting off in a jiffy.

Roman Chamomile

A daisy with a yellow center and white petals

Less researched than its family member, German Chamomile, Roman Chamomile is thought to have relaxing properties. Even though little research has gone into this daisy like flower, it is widely used in teas, perfumes, face creams and aromatherapy.

Whether it is a placebo effect or the real deal, chamomile tea or chamomile essential oils might do the trick for you.

Jasmine

This little white flower is well known for its sweet and relaxing scent. A lot of people will know this plant and many of you might even have it in your gardens at home. Jasmine stays in bloom for almost half a year at a time. No wonder it is so popular in gardens!

Apart from being a lovely selection for your garden, Jasmine has a fragrance that will lull the most hardened night owl to sleep. In the European Journal of Applied Physiology, K Kuroda and colleagues proved that the smell of Jasmine tea has a calming effect on the nerves and goes a long way in brightening one’s mood.

So even if you do not enjoy a warm cup of tea before bed, you might want to consider brewing a pot of Jasmine tea just for its sleep inducing fragrance.

Vanilla

Vanilla is probably one of the most well-known and widely used spices around the globe. You might not know what the Vanilla pod looks like or where the plant comes from, but you will surely know good old vanilla ice cream, right?

Like Lavender and Jasmine, Vanilla is also found on a flowering plant. This particular spice is part of the orchid family and was initially found in Central-America. Nowadays it is being cultivated world-wide for its uses in perfumes and confectionary.

The everyday use of vanilla is no coincidence. A 1991 study in New York found that the smell of vanilla drastically reduced anxiety levels in cancer patients undergoing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI scan). Another study, done at Tubingen University in Germany indicated that inhaling a vanilla fragrance reduced the startle reflex in humans and animals alike.

If you are struggling to fall asleep you might want to try burning a vanilla scented candle before bed time. Maybe you want to be more relaxed in general? It might be time to get yourself a vanilla based perfume so that you can breathe in those calming fumes all day long.

Unlikely Scents

Freshly Mowed Grass

What!? Yes, you read it. Freshly mowed lawn can make you feel happy and relaxed. We know that mowing the lawn is tedious and annoying, but according to a study done in the UK, the smell of freshly cut grass can trigger the secretion of mood lifting and relaxing hormones in the human body.

The funny thing is, while you are being invigorated by the fresh green smell of the grass you are busy cutting down, the grass is in pain. Okay maybe that is not so funny, I mean, who likes to be in pain? Anyhow, when you cut grass it emits an organic compound known as a green leaf volatile (GLV). This GLV is not released solely for our benefit. On the contrary, injured plants emit these odours to defend themselves. These GLV’s are insect repellents, they promote cell growth in plants and help to prevent fungal growth on the injured area. Double whammy! The grass is busy protecting itself from the vicious blades of the lawnmower while at the same time calming the person that is operating this machine of mass grass destruction.

If you are not into mowing the lawn, do not fear. There are a couple of hotels in Europe where you can pay top dollar (actually top Euro, but you know how the saying goes…) to sleep on a bed of freshly cut straw and reap all the benefits of someone else’s hard work. Check out the Straw Hotel Lake Constance if you do not believe me.

Sunscreen

“Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ‘99. Wear sunscreen. If I could offer you only one tip for the future, Sunscreen would be it…” Yup, Baz Luhrmann said it! Sunscreen is one of those things you just should not ignore. If you are going to the beach or to the pool, sunscreen is essential for keeping you healthy. But can it lull you to sleep?

Sure it can! Because you associate sunscreen with your wonderful holiday at the beach or your summers spent next to the pool, it has a calming effect on your body. When you start thinking of times of relaxation and joy, you might involuntarily start to relax.

Being in a relaxed state when you climb in bed is one of the easiest ways to ensure a good night’s sleep. So, next time when you can’t fall asleep, go to the bathroom cabinet for a whiff of sunscreen. Just make sure that nobody can see you, because it might look a tad strange…

Fuel

Similar to sunscreen, fuel might awaken thoughts about road trippin’ or flying off to the Bahamas. As we said before, memories of happy places and fun times could possibly invoke a relaxed state of mind.

Please don’t buy a gallon of petrol and sniff it all up. Sure, it might get you to sleep in a jiffy, but it will definitely get you to hospital.

Maybe just get a petrol lawnmower, so next time you cut the grass you get a double injection of those strange sleep inducing scents.

Freshly Baked Goods

Maybe it is because most baked goods come with vanilla, or maybe it is because the smell of fresh bread makes you happy. The fact is, most people start relaxing as soon as they get a whiff of freshly baked goods. It might be because it reminds you of grandma’s buttered scones or the corner café’s hot cross buns. Inevitably, the smell of baked goods will transport you to a place of happiness and safety.

A person with oven mitts is loading the oven with a tray of muffins

Still Not Sleepy?

Okay I get it. Wafting petrol fumes before you go to bed sounds like a long shot and maybe you are not into flowers or essential oils. I mean, who does aromatherapy?

If you do not want to bake a cake every night before you climb in bed and none of the scents we spoke about in this blog post is for you, what can you do? Is there another scent that might tickle your fancy or tantalize your olfactory system?

There probably is a smell out there for you, but you will have to go and find it. According to the information above, it seems like finding a fragrance that brings back happy memories is the way to go. Maybe for you it is the smell of a loved one? It could be the smell of your cat or dog that releases those endorphins. It could be as simple as smelling your spouse’s cologne or perfume that does the trick.

Whatever it is, there is sure to be some scents out there that makes you sleepy! From using essential oils diluted in water as massage oil to burning some petrol before you go to bed, from burning scented candles to smelling the fresh odour of newly mowed lawn. It is truly an amazing world that we live in, where there are so many different scents and aromas to help us calm down and relax. Who knows what else is out there that might help us sleep or improve our sleeping patterns? Be sure to keep on following this blog to find out!

But now, I am going to put a pot of relaxing herbal tea on to brew while I get ready to take a late afternoon nap.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *