The relationship between smell and sleep is dynamic and has yet to be fully elucidated. While there are proven benefits of aromatherapy on sleep, more studies need to be conducted to discover the actual mechanisms that interplay between sleep and odor processing. In the meantime, here are some fascinating facts you should know about smell and sleep.
Odorous Dreams Are Possible
Ever feel like you were able to recall the unctuous smell of butter from movie popcorn in your dreams? While research on smelly dreams is severely lacking, here are two interesting findings:
- Odors may show up in about 15% of dreams.
- Women are more likely to experience odors in their dreams than men.
Though the chance that you actually experienced odors in your dreams is not common, smell and sleep are still possible partners in crime.
Smell and Sleep Can Affect Your Dreams
Interestingly, odors processed while in deep sleep can affect your emotions during dreams. In one study, women were exposed to a rotten egg smell, a neutral smell, and a rose smell at three different times during deep sleep. They were immediately roused after odor exposure to recall their dreams. These smells would affect the activity and emotions that occurred during their dreams, but study participants did not remember actually smelling these odors.
Aromatherapy May Help To Promote Sleep Quality
One of the biggest barriers to falling asleep is the inability to relax. Hyperarousal states, such as anxiety and stress, make it difficult for a person to truly wind down. Aromatherapy, whether by inhalation or skin application, has been shown to promote relaxation and can make it easier to obtain higher quality sleep. While more research needs to be conducted, numerous studies have exhibited benefits of aromatherapy:
- A small clinical study with 22 elderly dementia patients concluded that inhalation aromatherapy may decrease difficulties in maintaining sleep and early morning awakening in these patients. Aromatherapy was more effective when used for 20 days or more and the essential oils utilized should contain linalool, cedrol, piperonal, or sotalol.
- Another study involving 60 patients with coronary artery disease concluded that aromatherapy with lavender essential oil improved sleep quality and even helped to reduce anxiety in these patients.
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The biggest advantage of aromatherapy is that it is generally well-tolerated and safe when utilized correctly. Side effects were rarely reported in these studies. You should avoid aromatherapy if you are allergic to any of the essential oils. If you are pregnant or have been diagnosed with a sleeping disorder, consult with your doctor prior to starting aromatherapy. The following essential oils can be used for aromatherapy to promote sleep:
- Lavender – This oil is one of the most studied essential oils available. Numerous studies have shown that lavender has a strong correlation with improved sleep quality. It has also been shown to have a calming effect on our bodies, causing decreased blood pressure, body temperature, and heart rate.
- Rose – This popular scent is familiar to most people. This oil has shown some benefits in lifting your mood and enhancing sleep quality.
- Jasmine – This oil has a mild floral scent that is appealing to many. It has been shown to increase the amount of time actually spent sleeping in bed.
- Roman Chamomile – We often hear chamomile being used in brewed teas to help with relaxation, but it also has great utility in aromatherapy. This essential oil has a mild fragrance and has been shown to promote calmness by decreasing nervousness and anxiety.
- Cedarwood – This oil has an earthy forest odor that is preferred by some over floral scents. It has been shown to have a sedating effect and can also help to reduce stress and anxiety.
- Ylang Ylang – This oil has a sweet, pungent, floral scent. It has been shown to promote relaxation and even to boost your mood. This essential oil may cause skin irritation, so a skin test should be performed if you plan on using this on your body.
Other Essential Oils Can Help You Fight Sleep
Aromatherapy is often associated with relaxation and sleep; however, it can also be used to help you wake up and increase daytime alertness. The following essential oils are frequently used to help fight tiredness:
- Peppermint – Mint is traditionally used for its cooling properties and has helped in treating certain digestive and breathing ailments. It has also been associated with increasing alertness.
- Lemon – The fresh scent of lemon is both mood-enhancing and invigorating. Lemon oil has also been associated with improving your performance in both mental and physical tasks.
- Orange – Orange oil has been traditionally used as a stimulant. It has also been shown to improve physical performance.
- Rosemary – The oil from this herb has an aromatic, pine-like scent and has been shown to have certain stimulating effects, such as increased heart and respiratory rates.
Benefit From the Relationship Between Smell and Sleep With Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is a way to enrich our relationship between smell and sleep. There are different methods for using essential oils in aromatherapy. For topical aromatherapy, you can massage a few drops of essential oil behind your ears or on your chest. For inhaled aromatherapy, you can apply drops to your pillowcase, add a small amount to your bath, or simply use an air diffuser.
At Whole Home Scenting, we are strong believers in the benefits of aromatherapy. Our essential oil blends and air diffusers envelop your entire household with inviting and therapeutic scents. Feel free to contact us today for any questions you may have on aromatherapy.