Smelling Your Romantic Partner’s T-Shirt May Help You Sleep Better

It actually induces slumber as well as Melatonin.

By Elizabeth Yuko, Ph.D.
February 21, 2020

Scent has powerful ties to emotion, allowing us to conjure up old memories after only a quick whiff of something. Now, new research out of the University of British Columbia (UBC) suggests that it can also help us sleep. No, it’s not a soothing lavender aromatherapy treatment: the study found that your romantic partner’s scent can improve your slumber, even if they aren’t sharing your bed.

Researchers analyzed sleep data from 155 participants who were given two identical T-shirts to use as pillowcases. One belonged to their romantic partner, while the other was worn by someone else, or was clean. After sleeping with the two pillowcases for two nights, the participants were asked to rate their sleep quality. The researchers also had data from actigraph sleep watches which monitored participants’ tossing and turning in bed. 

As it turns out, people slept better when they slept with the pillowcase with their partner’s scent. In fact, their sleep improved by more than two percent, which is as effective as using melatonin supplements, Marlise Hofer, the study’s lead author and a graduate student in the UBC department of psychology, said in a statement.

“One of the most surprising findings is how a romantic partner’s scent can improve sleep quality even outside of our conscious awareness,” Frances Chen, the study’s senior author and associate professor in the UBC department of psychology, said in the same statement. “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.”

Ultimately, the researchers hope that this discovery could lead to treatments for people with difficulty sleeping. Their next research project will determine whether infants sleep better when exposed to their parents’ scent.

About the writer:

Dr. Elizabeth Yuko is a bioethicist and writer as well as an adjunct professor of ethics at Fordham University. She has written for print and online publications, including The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe AtlanticRolling StoneCNNFodor’sLifehackerReader’s Digest and Playboy.

Outlier Disclaimer

This site is for educational purposes and not a substitute for professional medical care by a doctor or otherwise qualified medical professional. The information provided by Outlier Magazine is on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services.

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