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Many people have trouble falling asleep. Sleep disorders affect up to 70 million Americans every year, and symptoms of insomnia are experienced by about 33% to 50% of the U.S. adult population. So, whether you have chronic insomnia or not, you may have trouble falling asleep. And, even if you don’t have much trouble falling asleep at night, everybody wants to be able to fall asleep as quickly as possible, right?

There are many different ways that people tout as a sleep aid to get you to fall asleep faster, and while some may work for some people, others may not. While you’ve probably heard of the common ones, like melatonin, drinking herbal tea, taking a bath, etc., there is one method to help with falling asleep you might not have heard of.

This method uses aromas from herbs to help you fall asleep. Plus, the best part about this one is that even in the worst-case scenario that it doesn’t work, your bedroom will smell amazing. Here we will discuss how scents can help you sleep, and what scents in particular work best.

Can Some Scents Help with Sleep?

To get good sleep, many of us have taken certain steps to make sure our sleep environment is optimal. You may shut your curtains to keep light out, close your doors, use a white noise machine for sound, and sleep on a comfortable mattress with soft sheets. Keeping light out, reducing noise, and getting comfortable in bed are three ways we provide an ideal environment for three of our senses: sight, sound, and touch. But, what if I told you that having certain smells around bedtime will help you sleep, too?

Although it is not as obvious, smell does in fact impact sleep. While smells may not wake you up as easily as bright lights or loud noises, smell and sleep are connected.

The exact relationship between scent and sleep needs to be researched more; however, it is clear that using certain aromatic plants may promote better sleep, help you fall asleep faster, wake up earlier, and may even affect your dreams and memories during sleep.

How does it Work?

If you’ve ever smelled something, and felt immediately relaxed, you probably have some understanding of the connection between the olfactory system and the brain/the body. For example, the aroma of lavender essential oils makes many people feel relaxed and sleepy. Researchers found this to be true as well, meaning that there really is something behind certain aromas and better sleep.

This may be in part because smells produce both physiological and psychological responses. You can better understand the diverse effects of the sense of smell by thinking back to a time when a pleasant smell made you feel happy or relaxed, and a bad smell made you feel sick or disgusted. Smells can even become part of our emotional memory, in other words, your body will recreate responses to smells based on previous experience.

Furthermore, smells in essential oils may also bolster your slow-wave sleep. Slow-wave sleep is deep sleep, the most restful stage of sleep. It allows your muscles to relax, your heart rate to slow, and your blood pressure to lessen, making you feel more rested in the morning after you wake.

It’s less surprising that particular smells can foster a better sleeping environment in your bedroom. The 2012 Bedroom Poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that 78% of people were excited for bed when their sheets smelled fresh, and 71% of people were more comfortable in bed with fresh sheets.

However, sheets are not the only source of fragrance in the bedroom. There is evidence that bringing additional fragrances into the bedroom in the form of aromatherapy may improve your sleep.

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is the use of fragrances from plants, usually to benefit a person’s body and mind. Aromatherapy has been used for thousands of years, dating back to ancient Egypt and ancient China.

Aromatherapy utilizes the smells from essential oils, i.e., the fragrant liquid extracts from plants. Despite the history of aromatherapy, the scientific community did not support aromatherapy’s claims of promoting relaxation, reducing anxiety, and benefiting sleep, until recent years when more studies and more evidence for these claims had been found. While more research still needs to be conducted, it is clear that certain aromas do produce desirable results in the brain.

How Are Essential Oils Used in Aromatherapy?

  • Direct inhalation: This method involves breathing in air or vapor with an essential oil concentrated in it. In clinical research studies, this is often done with nasal devices; however, it can be done at home by using dropping essential oils into hot water, and breathing in the vapor.
  • Indirect inhalation: This method disperses and mixes essential oils throughout the air in a room. It allows each breath while inside the room to have a low concentration of essential oils. An essential oil diffuser can be used for direct inhalation, or essential oils can be placed on a tissue or absorbent piece of paper, and aided with a fan.
  • Topical application: This method usually uses essential oils along with another oil, known as a carrier oil, that can then be rubbed directly onto the skin. This allows the nose to smell the fragrance, and there is some evidence that points to olfactory receptors in the skin playing a part as well.

Scents that can Help You Fall Asleep

Now that you know that certain scents can help you fall asleep, you may be wondering which scents work best. First, it is important to note that what works well for one person may not work for another. This is because the effectiveness of aromas is highly subjective, and varies from person to person. In other words, people can have different sleep quality responses to the same aromas.

So, to figure out what is best for you, you may have to try out different scents. The scents that will be most effective will be those that make you feel relaxed, happy, and, of course, sleepy. Below, we’ve outlined the best  essential oils that research studies have shown may benefit sleep.

Lavender

Lavender is the flagship plant for aromatherapy and scents that promote good sleep quality, and for good reason. Lavender can slow down the nervous system, and promote feelings of calm and relaxation. Some research studies have shown that lavender oil can not only reduce anxiety, but improve sleep as well.

Another study that researched the relationship between lavender and the nervous system showed that lavender has sedative effects on the body and mind. It showed that it is an effective mood stabilizer, and may prove effective for the treatment of some neurological disorders. This study also found that lavender odor improved the quality of sleep of a range of participants. It’s a favorite scent for many due to its calming effect, reduction in stress levels, and ability to improve sleep.

Chamomile

Chamomile is another common sleep aid. If you’ve searched on the internet for ways to get a better night’s sleep, drinking a hot cup of chamomile tea has certainly been a suggestion. This is because chamomile is known for reducing anxiety, stress, and depression. Chamomile has long been considered an effective relaxant, and in 2017 a study found that those beliefs may have some truth to them. One study found that chamomile extracts taken orally improved sleep quality among the elderly.

Jasmine

Jasmine is a sweet-smelling flower. It is sometimes mixed with green tea leaves in the popular Chinese tea that is called jasmine tea. However, you don’t need to mix jasmine with green tea to reap its floral scent benefits. In fact, if you’re trying to sleep, you should stay away from caffeine altogether.

In 2010, a German study was published that showed that the effects of this soothing scent helped in promoting sleep. It found the sweet scent of the jasmine plant to support good quality sleep, and even held up against prescription sleep medicines like Valium.

Cedarwood

Cedarwood is a sedative fragrance. It also can reduce stress, and has a soothing effect on mood. Plus, if you don’t like the sweet fragrances as much, cedarwood may be a more attractive option for you, as it is a woody smell.

Rose

If you’ve smelled roses before, and felt happy and relaxed, this one may be a great option for you. Rose essential oils are a natural stress reducer, and may benefit your sleep, too.

Sandalwood

Sandalwood is a sedative that supports relaxation while reducing anxiety, which may make getting to sleep and getting good-quality sleep much easier.

Sweet Marjoram

Sweet marjoram essential oils can promote calm, and may help you sleep, especially if you experience insomnia.

Clary Sage

Clary sage essential oil is a natural sedative, and is also known for its antidepressant effects.

Ylang Ylang

Ylang Ylang essential oil is a lesser-known aromatic sleep aid that comes from a tropical tree. It has sedative properties that may help you relax, and fall asleep faster.

Valerian

Valerian is commonly touted as an excellent herb to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Some people may brew a cup of tea using the roots of the plant to improve their sleep, but you can also use the essential oils to help you fall asleep at night.

Scent and Sleep FAQs

Can scents affect dreams?

Yes, scents can influence your dreams while you are asleep, and affect your memories while you dream and after you wake.

What’s the best way to use scents to fall asleep?

That depends entirely on you. You should try different methods to find what works best.

Are essential oils dangerous?

Essential oils are not dangerous if used properly. If you use an essential oil diffuser, you should make sure the room is ventilated. Leaving an aroma diffuser running all night in a poorly ventilated room could irritate your respiratory system.

Also, some individuals may experience allergic reactions to exposure to certain essential oils.

Tips to Introduce Scents for Sleep

1. Start with a scent you know you love.

Don’t jump into aromatherapy with some obscure plant you have never smelled, or know little about. It’s best to start with something familiar, something you know helps your body relax, and makes you happy. This could be rose, peppermint, lavender, or whatever you feel will make you most comfortable. Also, if a plant comes to mind, but you’re not sure if it will help you sleep, check online for reputable sources.

2. Start slow.

If you’re using essential oils for the first time to promote relaxation, you should understand that a little bit goes a long way. Perhaps start using it only during a warm bath for the first few times.  If you have an essential oil diffuser, only put a few drops into the water to begin with, then you can always add more. Also, if you are going to put it onto your skin or your pillow, use only a small amount. Using too many essential oils could irritate your throat or skin.

3. Try sleeping next to a bag of your favorite herb.

If you’re hesitant about jumping straight into buying essential oils, and/or a diffuser, you can test out different herbs by putting them into a canvas or other permeable bag, tying it up, and sleeping with them under or next to your pillow. Or, before bed, you can have the bag close, and take a few deep breaths of it to get the effects of the essential oils.

Takeaway

Using essential oils can be an effective way to help you fall asleep faster, and get improved and deeper sleep. No longer are essential oils only touted as great options for improving sleep by the proponents of the alternative and complementary medicine advocates, but scientists as well. Plus, certain essential oils may even influence your dreams, which can be a prospect. Moreover, essential oils, if used properly, are a safe and all-natural way to improve your sleep, and help you fall asleep faster.

If you’re looking for another all-natural way to improve your sleep, and promote relaxation, you should consider your mattress. Many mattresses are made of synthetic and artificial ingredients that are bad for the planet, and may negatively impact your health. Latex For Less mattresses areall-natural mattresses that provide you with the luxurious comfort you need for an optimal night of sleep.

Elizabeth Magill

Elizabeth Magill is a professional freelance writer and editor who holds an MBA. Liz specializes in writing about health news, medical conditions, healthy living, small business, career and work, personal finance, and green-living, including news and trending topics in these specialties. Her clients include Healthline, The Motley Fool, GoBanking Rates, LIVESTRONG.com, Big Interview, HealthNews, Intuit Small Business Blog, Intuit Health, American News Report, Travels.com, IFX Medical, and many others. She’s also a published eBook author and ghost writer for various clients in the health, medical, career, small business, and personal finance niches.