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Scent or Sabotage: Can Smells Affect Your Sleep?

“Follow my nose. It always knows”

 If you grew up in the TV watching days before streaming or the fast forward button, this tagline for a popular fruity breakfast cereal is sure to activate vivid childhood memories. But did you know that the phrase also has truth in improving sleep, healing and wellness

Our sense of smell – a.k.a., the olfactory system – is directly connected to our memories and impacts our emotional response to our environment. It goes without saying that we are drawn to smells that evoke good memories or sensations and put off by those that bring up the opposite. But can we leverage this powerful sense to help us sleep – and wake up – better, feeling rejuvenated.

Aromatherapy is an ancient healing art. It uses herbs and essential oils to positively impact our health and well-being –physical and emotional. You can bring aromatherapy into your life by massaging it into the skin such as with a salve or balm, or inhaling it such as in a reed or oil diffuser, or by rubbing into your palms and then breathing in.

Are essential oils just for relaxation?

While we think of aromatherapy as being a way to chill out and wind down, some oils can do the opposite. So, if you need to stay alert, or wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed, try a combo of these for your morning oils blend:

  • Citrus: to boost serotonin (the happiness hormone)
  • Peppermint and rosemary: to promote alertness
  • Cinnamon and ginger: to provide well-needed jolts of energy, productivity and feelings of emotional well-being

Scents that help you sleep better

While we generally associate sleep with some of our other senses, such as touch (how comfy our bed and sheets are), sight (dark or bright?) or sound (white noise or complete silence?), the power of scent found in aromatherapy’s essential oils may help you to fall – and stay asleep.

Lavender: Lavender is probably one of the more common healing herbs. This pretty purple flower has proven medicinal benefits, from antiseptic treatments to helping with anxiety. If you’re looking to calm down before bed, try infusing lavender essential oils in your diffuser or using a lavender pillow spray.

Clary Sage: A flowering herb found originally in the Mediterranean and grown in warm climates, clary sage has a clean and refreshing scent that can be used in balms or as an aromatherapy essential oil. While it’s traditionally used for eye health, some studies have shown that the essential oil derived from the herb can help to de-stress you and induce relaxation and feelings of well-being when inhaled. So go ahead add a few drops to your diffuser blend.

Chamomile: There’s a reason your favorite sleepy time tea features chamomile leaves as the main ingredient. Extracted from the flowers of the chamomile plant, this essential oil has been used for centuries to help with sleep and relaxation –providing a mild sedative effect to help you both fall asleep and have a great rest while you’re at it.

Frankincense: Once thought to be the most valuable of all the essential oils, frankincense is distilled from the resin of Boswellia Sacra trees. Originally used in ancient Egypt as incense, the oil has wonderful aromatherapy benefits as it promotes relaxation and stress-relief. For lovely, instant relief, rub a few drops of the oil in your hands and then inhale, or add to some steaming water for a mini nighttime facial.