Of all the senses, smell gets the least love. We obsess over what we eat, how perfectly our Spotify playlists are curated, and every last detail of our Instagram pictures. But all we can muster for smells is a speedstick and maybe a scented candle.
The right aromas can even soothe you to sleep. With rest being directly tied to our sense of smell, we think it deserves more attention.
Scents are an underutilized tool for rest and relaxation. While noise, light, and room temperature all play a role, the right aroma might be the key to unlocking the sleep your body needs to regenerate.
The Power of Smell
The olfactory nerve, which controls the sense of smell, connects directly to the brain. That’s why scents can trigger memory, alter your mood and prompt physical responses. Certain scents may cause your breath to quicken or heart rate to rise (lemon), while others have the opposite effect (lavender), calming the body, reducing anxiety, and relaxing the mind and muscles. Using the right essential oils at bedtime can induce those tranquil effects and help your body get the deep sleep it needs.
The Best Essential Oils for Sleep
Lavender is much more than a pretty garden flower; it’s the source of one of the most powerful essential oils. Lavender oil calms the nervous system and makes brain waves more relaxed, two beneficial states when you need to sleep. The evidence isn’t just anecdotal. Various studies support the anti-anxiety properties of lavender, while others revealed that the oil can lower blood pressure and reduce heart rate and skin temperature.
Ylang Ylang hails from the flower of a tree that grows in Southeast Asia. Studies support the theory that the floral, aromatic fragrance works as a stress reliever and lowers heart rate and blood pressure. The scent helps relax the body and can even serve as an antidepressant, an ideal essential oil for sleep.
A cross between a lemon and an orange, bergamot is a hybrid fruit with a sweet citrus scent. Studies have shown that when bergamot essential oil is used in aromatherapy, it can relieve anxiety, reduce stress and calm the body and mind.
As the name implies, cedarwood oil comes from the wood of the cedar tree. According to studies, the rich, woody scent has a sedative effect that promotes restfulness. This oil also helps the body release melatonin, which aids in sleep.
Roman chamomile is a plant native to northwestern Europe and Northern Ireland. It has long been used in the treatment of insomnia, but most reports of its effectiveness are anecdotal. Though the oil hasn’t been studied in depth, some findings indicate it reduces stress and anxiety and promotes relaxation, so why not try it for sleep?
How to Use Essential Oils for Sleep
To use these and other essential oils for sleep, release the scent into the air with a diffuser or dilute the oils with a carrier oil, such as olive oil, and gently rub a few drops onto pulse points on the body, like the back of your neck, center of your wrists, or soles of your feet. Regularly use these oils as part of your bedtime routine, and you may finally enjoy the full nights of deep sleep you’ve been missing.