Have you ever snuggled up in bed and buried your face in an old t-shirt when your partner is away? Science tells us you’re on to something! According to a quirky 2020 study from the University of British Columbia, your beloved’s aroma might be your ticket to a more tranquil night’s sleep—no, seriously.
A Scent-sational snooze
“We saw an effect similar in size to what has been reported from taking oral melatonin supplements—often used as a sleep aid,” says the study’s designer, Marlise Hofer. This wonderful news could potentially save people a lot of money considering that Americans spent $67.51 billion on sleep aids last year.
For this smell slumber experiment, Hofer and her team gathered 155 participants. They gave the partners new tees and ordered them to wear them for 24 hours without using deodorant, or cologne, or going to the gym. They were also asked to not smoke or eat specific pungent foods. Afterward, the tees went into the freezer after a day of soaking in the scent of their inner-shirt models.
Following that, participants were given two identical-looking shirts to use as pillowcases, one infused with their partner’s olfactory aura and the other either clean or worn by an anonymous stranger. They swapped pillowcases each night in this “sniff test,” not knowing which shirt had that distinctive aroma. Sleep quality was monitored using surveys and sleep monitors.
The twist is that even though they couldn’t determine whose smell was tucked beneath their heads, those who slept with their partner’s aroma said they slept better. Essentially, the nose knows even when the brain is clueless.
Snuggle up for some sweet Zzz’s
The study’s senior author, Frances Chen, adds, “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.” It turns out that your sweetheart’s comforting aroma has a similar effect to their real presence, providing a sense of relaxation and reducing stress—all of which are good for sleep.
So, the next time you’re separated by miles, grab a shirt and cuddle up. Science thinks it’s time to embrace the aroma of greater sleep, whether it’s a sleep aid or just an excuse for additional cuddles. Who knew romance could smell so good?