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How Scents Can Help You Sleep

Tara Youngblood Dec 15, 2022

Holiday scents can help you sleep

Step inside any mall or shop during the holiday season, take a deep breath, and you will most likely draw in festive smells such as cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg.

Those scents, along with others, remind us of a time we get to celebrate the holidays with family and friends. However, sometimes those holiday scents lack a positive association.

The stress and anxiety from all of the holiday hustle and bustle tie back to those aromas, making the connection itself between the scents and the jolliest time of the year not so favorable.

While cinnamon and nutmeg might trigger certain family moments and holiday celebrations, some scents have therapeutic benefits – aromatherapy – that are designed specifically to help people reduce stress and anxiety, become calm, and even sleep better.

What Is Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy, the practice of inhaling the scent of essential oils, is a natural remedy for reducing stress and involves several smells that can help you “engage in a general state of calm.” [2]

The following are different ways to experience aromatherapy.

Types of Aromatherapy

  • Diffusers

  • Aromatic Spritzers

  • Inhalers

  • Bath Salts

  • Facial Steamers

  • Hot and Cold Compresses

  • Clay Masks

  • Body Oils, Creams, or Lotions [3]

And with more than 90 different types of essential oils out there, how do you know which one is the best?

Here’s a list of the 10 most popular essential oils:

  • Peppermint: boosts energy and aids digestion
  • Lavender: relieves stress
  • Sandalwood: calms nerves and helps with focus
  • Bergamot: reduces stress and improves skin conditions like eczema
  • Rose: enhances mood and reduces anxiety
  • Chamomile: improves mood and relaxation
  • Ylang-Ylang: treats headaches, nausea, and skin conditions
  • Tea Tree: fights infections and boost immunity
  • Jasmine: helps with depression, childbirth, and libido
  • Lemon: aids digestion, mood, headaches, and more [4]

Best Essential Oil for Sleep

But out of those 10, four are considered the best essential oils:

Tea Tree Oil:

Also called melaleuca, tea tree oil is commonly used for acne, athlete's foot and insect bites.

Peppermint Oil:

Though peppermint essential oil can relieve headaches, some evidence shows that peppermint “helps relieve irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms when taken in an enteric-coated capsule (from a trusted health supplement provider).”

Lemon Oil:

Known as a popular homemade cleaning product, lemon oil can also boost someone’s mood.

Lavender Oil:

Lavender scent is often used to help relieve stress and anxiety and promote good sleep. [5]

It has been reported that 43% of people who have stress and anxiety use some form of aromatherapy. [6]

While lavender can relieve stress and has become a go-to scent during the holiday hustle and bustle, smelling the purple flower’s scent has been shown to have a positive effect on sleep habits. [7]

How Do Essential Oils Improve Sleep?

First, let’s look at your sense of smell. Aromatherapy is so effective because our sense of smell is our most primitive and most powerful of the five senses. As a direct sense, smell is the only one of our five senses that takes a direct route to our limbic system, most closely related to emotion and memory.

We are five times more likely to remember something we smell over something we see, hear, or taste.

As a member of the chemosensory system, your sense of smell comes from olfactory sensory neurons or sensory cells, found within the high part of the nose. Sensory cells are connected to the brain, which is how your brain can identify smells. [8]

But there’s more to smells than just being identified by the brain. They can produce psychological and physiological responses, associating with positive moods and relaxation.[9]

With the science lesson out of the way, let’s discuss how aromatherapy helps you sleep better.

Aromatherapy in Action

You can either inhale essential oils indirectly by dispersing them in the air in order for you to breathe the oils in. You can also inhale them directly through nasal devices or inhale the vapors from a heated pot of water and essential oils. And there’s always the skin application method.

Simply rub essential oils onto your skin for beneficial effects. [10]

Exposure to essential oils through whatever method you choose can improve your sleep. They can open the gate to quality sleep by promoting relaxation. [11]

Best Scents for Sleep?

Below, we've included the best scents to help you get more zzzs.


An herb, lavender has been revealed to have a positive effect on sleep. It has been suggested that lavender can treat insomnia and improve sleep scores. [12]

Aromatherapy Pillow Spray with Lavender

Calm your mind and body with our lavender aromatherapy pillow spray, a natural treatment for insomnia. Found within our sleepme Sleep Kit, our aromatherapy pillow spray can help calm the mind and body allowing for more restorative sleep.


A study on cardiac patients hospitalized in CCU revealed that a type of rose, rosa damascene, can “significantly” improve sleep quality. [13]

Roman Chamomile:

It has been suggested that roman chamomile can improve total sleep time by being applied to pillows at night. [14]


One study shows the smell of cedar helping people fall asleep faster when taking a nap. [15]


In a study of 144 volunteers assigned to conditions of ylang-ylang and peppermint aromas, it was reported that, while peppermint increased alertness in people, ylang-ylang produced calmness. [16]

Final Thought

Not everything during the holidays has to smell like cinnamon and nutmeg though those smells do help make the holiday season become more festive. Some smells, such as from aromatherapy, can help you not only deal with the stress and anxiety involved during the holiday season but with getting the quality sleep you need to face the holiday hustle and bustle.


[1] Serdari, A., Manolis, A., Tsiptsios, D., Vorvolakos, T., Terzoudi, A., Nena, E., Tsamakis, K., Steiropoulos, P., & Tripsianis, G. (2020). Insight into the relationship between sleep characteristics and anxiety: A cross-sectional study in indigenous and minority populations in northeastern Greece. Psychiatry research, 292, 113361. View Study

[2] Lauron, S. (2022, January 14). Stressed? these 10 essential oils can help. Healthline. View Resource

[3] Cronkleton, E. (2018, May 15). Aromatherapy Uses and Benefits. View Resource

[4] Ibid.

[5] John Hopkins Medicine. (2019). Aromatherapy: Do essential oils really work? View Resource

[6] de Sousa, D. P., de Almeida Soares Hocayen, P., Andrade, L. N., & Andreatini, R. (2015). A Systematic Review of the Anxiolytic-Like Effects of Essential Oils in Animal Models. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 20(10), 18620–18660. View Study

[7] Lillehei, A. S., & Halcon, L. L. (2014). A systematic review of the effect of inhaled essential oils on sleep. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.), 20(6), 441–451. View Study

[8] HHS.Gov. (2018). U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. View Resource

[9] Sowndhararajan, K., & Kim, S. (2016). Influence of Fragrances on Human Psychophysiological Activity: With Special Reference to Human Electroencephalographic Response. Scientia pharmaceutica, 84(4), 724–751. View Study

[10] Suni, E. (2022, April 18). Smell and Sleep: How Scents Can Afect Sleep. View Resource

[11] Lillehei, A. S., & Halcon, L. L. (2014). A systematic review of the effect of inhaled essential oils on sleep. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.), 20(6), 441–451. View Study

[12] Koulivand, P. H., Khaleghi Ghadiri, M., & Gorji, A. (2013). Lavender and the nervous system. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2013, 681304. View Study

[13] Hajibagheri, A., Babaii, A., & Adib-Hajbaghery, M. (2014). Effect of Rosa damascene aromatherapy on sleep quality in cardiac patients: a randomized controlled trial. Complementary therapies in clinical practice, 20(3), 159–163. View Study

[14] Ibid.

[15] Suni, E. (2022, April 18). Smell and Sleep: How Scents Can Afect Sleep. View Resource

[16] Moss, M., Hewitt, S., Moss, L., & Wesnes, K. (2008). Modulation of cognitive performance and mood by aromas of peppermint and ylang-ylang. The International journal of neuroscience, 118(1), 59–77. View Study