Relaxing Aromas: Scents To Help You Sleep
4 minutes read
Historically, we’ve always turned to certain scents to help us sleep and calm down. People have been using aromatic oils for thousands of years, and by the 1920s, studies were conducted to understand the calming effects of essential oil aromas on humans.
But how exactly do scents help us relax, wind down and sleep well? And what are the scents that have this effect? Here’s everything you need to know.
How do scents affect sleep?
Your olfactory system is very complex. Scents can elicit physiological and emotional responses. Ever caught a whiff of perfume you wore years ago and felt like you were transported to a different time in your life? That’s because scents and emotion are intrinsically linked. According to The Harvard Gazette, “odours take a direct route to the limbic system, including the amygdala and the hippocampus, the regions related to emotion and memory.”
Similarly, certain scents can also trigger a sense of calm and relaxation, which help you doze off. According to surveys conducted by Sleep Foundation, “78% of people say they are more excited to go to bed if they have fresh-smelling sheets.”
In addition, some smells can also improve the quality of sleep and help you feel well-rested the following day.
A 2019 study tested the effects of aromatherapy on cardiac rehabilitation patients. It noted a significant difference in the sleep quality of patients who inhaled placebo and those who inhaled the mixture of lavender, bergamot and ylang-ylang essential oils – the latter group slept a lot better.
What are the best scents to help you sleep?
Chamomile is a member of the daisy plant family and has proven benefits in helping improve sleep quality. That’s mainly because it contains a chemical compound known as apigenin that works as a mild tranquilliser.
Although chamomile tea is popular for its sleep-inducing qualities, the scent of the flower can also help you relax. This is precisely why it’s part of the Beauty Sleep treatment offered at the Clarins Spas – a treatment designed to calm you down and help you sleep better.
Lucy McClure, Clarins Training Development Manager – Treatments shares: “In the Beauty Sleep treatment, we use chamomile, petitgrain and basil to aid relaxation, induce sleep and warm the muscles. This helps to ease tension so we get a better night’s sleep, and also has a calming, soothing effect on the mind and body.”
Apigenin is also present in basil, so its consumption could help with sleep. However, its scent can also help you relax. “Basil has a real calming effect on the olfactory system,” says Charlotte McHale, Clarins Training Manager. “I think that’s because it has quite a homely smell to it. And a lot of people associate it with things like home cooking, for instance, which is comforting.”
Try: Relax Treatment Oil – it combines the soothing scent of basil with chamomile, geranium and petitgrain. Apply it on damp skin before you sleep. While the aroma will help you unwind, the hazelnut oil it contains will also nourish and soften the skin.
Lavender is known for its calming effect on the senses, and there is sufficient scientific evidence to back this. For example, a 2020 study observed the impact of lavender-scented steam inhalation on menopausal women and noted that lavender’s aromatherapy properties improved the subjects’ sleep quality.
You could reap its benefits by placing a lavender oil diffuser on your bedside table so it works its magic while you’re asleep.
Bergamot has a calming scent, unlike other citrus oils with energising and invigorating aromas. There is evidence that proves its effects in reducing stress symptoms.
It’s best to use bergamot for steam inhalations or in diffusers. Applying it topically could lead to irritation and increased sensitivity to the sun.
The sweet floral scent of jasmine has stress-relieving benefits. One study also states that when diffused in a room during sleep, the smell of jasmine can lead to greater sleep efficiency.
Just like sounds from nature can be very soothing, natural scents that remind us of the outdoors are also helpful when you want to wind down. For this reason, McHale is a fan of cedarwood. “Mellow, woody smells can have a calming effect,” she says.
McClure is a fan too. “I sometimes put a little bit of the fragrance into my ironing water. So when I’m ironing my pillowcases, they’re infused with the scent of Eau Ressourçante,” she shares.
Skin & Beauty