Hacking your sleep to snag more restful slumbers often involves either depriving or stimulating a certain sense. For example, listening to white noise, pink noise, or brown noise can harsh out the little sonic disturbances that might otherwise keep us wide awake. And most adults (myself not included, because I’m a gigantic child who needs a night light, but most adults) make sure to shut off all the lights to use darkness as a tool for conking out. And the sense of smell is yet another means for boosting the ability to drift off with ease; in fact, a number of different scents can help you sleep deeply and soundly, according to an aromatherapy expert.
Apparently, the most impactful sleep scents are those that help you to relax. And that makes sense, given that a person’s nerves may be heightened before bedtime, when the mind tries to quiet itself against swirling worries and racing thoughts about the world. So below, Amy Galper, aromatherapist, clean beauty expert, and founder of NYC’s first Aromatherapy School, shares six scents to help you sleep (and make your room smell dreamy in the process).
Below, find an aromatherapist’s top 6 scents to help you sleep better.
1. Clary Sage
Clary sage is adept at reversing the effects of restlessness—physical and mental alike. If you’re tossing and turning because you don’t feel physically comfortable, or if you find yourself ruminating in your head about your never-ending to-do list, the scent of this calming essential oil may come in handy.
“This is one of my favorites because it has properties that are antispasmodic—so stress that is manifesting in our bodies can be eased away by massaging with the oil on the back of the neck, shoulders, feet—anywhere we feel tense,” says Galper. “It’s also very emotionally grounding and sedating to the central nervous system, which is good for combatting an overactive id and excess worry.”
The calming powers of lavender are well-known for lulling people into a peaceful slumber. “Anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, and sedating to the nervous system, lavender shares molecules that relax the body and ease the mind from overactive thinking,” Galper says. “Lavender also supports the breath, meaning it can help deepen and slow down our breathing so we can rest.”
While diffusing lavender essential oil is a straightforward way to use the scent, it can also be integrated in other ways. For instance, you could buy a lavender pillow spray, drink some lavender tea, shower with lavender vapor tablets, lie down in a gigantic lavender field—whatever makes sense for you.
Rose has two very interesting roles when it comes to sleep. Research supports that the scent of roses is naturally relaxing and potentially helpful for relieving your stress levels. Research also suggests that rose scent can help improve learning while you’re sleeping. So you might consider keeping a bouquet near your bed the night before, say, a big work presentation to help you can learn it better and also calm your nerves while you snooze.
Chamomile has the profound power to calm down your mind and body, which helps to explain why chamomile tea is such a pre-bedtime stalwart.
“Chamomile is anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic—so, very soothing and comforting to the nervous system, especially when our emotions tend to stress our gut,” says Galper. “It’s great for relaxing muscle stiffness brought on by nervous tension.”
5. Your partner’s scent
Trust me—this is a thing. In a recent study published in Psychological Science, 155 participants spent two nights with their partner’s scent and two nights with a control scent. The results showed that sleeping with their partner’s scent led sleep efficiency to increase by more than 2 percent on average, an improvement akin to the effect of melatonin on sleep. And if you’re spending long spans of time away from your S.O., snuggling with their T-shirt should help promote a good night’s rest.
Frankincense is great for soothing heightened nerves, so you can use it to boost sleep by burning frankincense incense on your nightstand. “This best for quieting the mind, and deepening and relaxing the breath so we can fall asleep and stay asleep,” says Galper. “It’s also anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving, which is good for physical stress brought on by anxiety.”
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