The Scent Of A Loved One Could Help Improve Sleep, Study Says

mbg Editorial Assistant By Christina Coughlin
mbg Editorial Assistant
Christina Coughlin is an editorial assistant at mindbodygreen. She graduated from Georgetown University in 2019 with a degree in psychology and music.
Woman Sleeping

Image by Danil Nevsky / Stocksy

Scent is a powerful yet underappreciated sense that the human can experience. We previously learned that the smell of a rose can help boost sleep, but new research shows an interesting new scent that may make you fall asleep faster: the scent of your romantic partner.

Researchers analyzed sleep data from 155 participants in romantic, long-term relationships. Each participant was given two separate T-shirts and told to sleep with each T-shirt for two nights. One shirt was a plain, unused shirt, while the other had been worn by their romantic partner over a period of 24 hours, and then frozen to preserve the scent. Each night, participants wore sleep watches to collect data and measure how well they slept. Results showed that when in the presence of their partner's scent, participants fell asleep faster and had higher quality sleep. Lead author Marlise Hofer, Ph.D., tells mbg, "The effect we observed was similar in magnitude to that reported for melatonin supplements." 

An interesting factor of the study was that the participants of the study were unaware of what shirt they were sleeping with on a particular night and were even asked to guess whether or not they slept with their partner's shirt. Still, the scent made a strong impact.

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"One of the most surprising findings is how a romantic partner's scent can improve sleep quality even outside of our conscious awareness," says author Frances Chen, Ph.D. "The sleep watch data showed that participants experienced less tossing and turning when exposed to their partners' scent, even if they weren't aware of whose scent they were smelling."

The presence of a partner is calming, relaxing, and has been shown to give a person a sense of safety. With this study, researchers have found a way for those effects to be mimicked without the partner actually being present.

Next, the researchers are looking to continue this type of study with an experiment to see whether the scent of a parent can improve the sleep quality of an infant.

So, if you're not spending the night with your significant other, don't fret! A simple sniff of their old T-shirt could make it feel like they're right at home with you.

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