The Best Scents for Relaxation and Sleep

Scent has the power to get your attention (consider the cinnamon bun stand at the mall) and affect your actions (ever move in close to your partner when he’s wearing your favorite cologne?). It can also be a great tool to get better sleep. These five olfactory options can help enhance your slumber.

Lavender Long thought to contain a calming fragrance, this plant has been used to quell anxiety and agitation for ages. Its scent may slow down the nervous system, which relaxes the body and mind to improve sleep quality. Incorporating the scent into a relaxing massage by using a lavender-infused massage oil may have even more pronounced sleep-promoting effects.

Vanilla This fragrance is famous for being a potent relaxer. In fact, people who smelled vanilla while completing a stress test had more stable heart rates and better blood pressure readings than those who took the stress test in an unscented room.

Valerian It’s well known for its anxiety-reducing effects when taken orally. But the scent of valerian may further aid in helping you sleep: Rats who sniffed the pungent herb fell asleep faster and slept longer than those who didn’t. (Truth be told, valerian’s odor is reported to be less-than-fresh smelling. In the study with rats, the fragrance of roses gave a similar, though not quite as impactful, outcome. So if you can’t stand the smell of valerian, try the smell of roses!)

Jasmine With delicate white petals, this flower’s sweet smell packs a surprising sleep punch. People who inhaled the scent while they slept experienced greater sleep efficiency, less movement during slumber, and overall better quality sleep. Surprisingly, its effects were even more powerful than those of lavender!

Any scent you love Simply put, any fragrance that makes you happy can promote sleep. Your olfactory system is directly linked to the emotional center in your brain—so when you sniff something that brings back a good memory (like pumpkin pie) or makes you feel excited and full of anticipation (such as the smell of sunscreen), your body releases feel-good, relaxing chemicals that can set the stage for great sleep. Once you’ve found your sleep-enhancing scent, bring it into your bedroom. Buying a fragrant candle is an easy way to add fragrance to your space (just be sure to blow it out before your head hits the pillow!). You could also put a few drops of essential oil into a spray bottle with water and gently mist your pillow before bed, or sprinkle a few drops of scent onto a cloth or handkerchief and tuck it under your pillow. Sweet dreams!

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