Scents to help us to fall asleep

The right scent at bedtime helps us to relax and has been shown to help with failing asleep. In these unsettling times with the coronavirus pandemic it might just provide a little bit of comfort to your bedtime routine.

How do we smell?

For an object to smell it has to give off molecules into the air. When we breathe in through our nose the air we take in is chock full of these molecules. These airborne chemicals, known as odours, pass up the nostrils and are absorbed into the wet skin of the nasal cavity. Here there are over 400 receptor cells which can bind with the absorbed molecules, resulting in an electrical impulse being sent to the brain which translates it into our sensation of smell. Our noses are incredible devices. Different objects give off different odours. These bind with varying strength to different combinations of receptors cells allowing us distinguish between a vast assortment of smells, up to 1 trillion according to some researchers [1].


When the receptor cells send the a signal to the brain it first goes to an area called the olfactory bulb from where it is sent to other parts of the brain for processing, including the hippocampus and amygdala. These areas of the brain are linked to memories and this is why smells can trigger such powerful memories [2].  The smell of sunscreen can transport people to the beach. Many smells can bring back happy memories, like food your grandparents used to make or flowers in a friend’s garden.


Smells that you associate with happy or comforting memories can help you sleep as feeling happy and secure can help you to relax and drift off to sleep.  However, some smells are especially powerful at helping us to fall sleep. They act as mild sedatives on our nervous system by inhibiting several neurotransmitters and slowing down the nervous system. Neurotransmitters are chemicals in the body that pass nerve signals between nerve cells and from nerve cells to muscle cells or gland cells. Lavender is famous for its sleep inducing properties. It gives off odours called Linalool and Linalyl acetate which have sedative and pain-relieving properties. Other odours to help you go to sleep include vanilla, roses and jasmine.  They can all help reduce anxiety and promote rest. People have been working with nature for generations to harvest these nature sleep aids. Today, this traditional understanding has been enhanced by further insights into how smells impact the body. This expertise can be found in products that promote sleep by containing extracts of these smells. They are available from our Shop.  


If you are struggling from sleep issues our advice is to examine your lifestyle. If your lack of sleep is caused by stress and worry then try to talk to someone. It is good to talk. A problem shared is a problem halved as the old saying goes.  Also, take a look at our Shop where there are a range of suggestions for helping you tackle your sleep problem.   You can contact us.


1. Bushdid C, Magnasco MO, Vosshall LB, Keller A. Humans can discriminate more than 1 trillion olfactory stimuli. Science. 2014;343 (6177):1370–1372.

2. Aqrabawi AJ, Kim JK. Hippocampal projections to the anterior olfactory nucleus differentially convey spatiotemporal information during episodic odour memory. Nature Communications, 2018; 9 (1)