Counting Sheep and Smelling Your Way to Sleep

Written by Leanna Serras

When people suffer from sleeping problems, they are unable to get a significant enough amount of sleep for good health and rejuvenation. Short sleep duration, which is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as getting less than 7 hours of sleep within a 24-hour period, affects 32 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 24 and 38 percent of adults 25 to 44 years old. When people fail to get the necessary amount of sleep, they are at risk for a number of mild to serious problems. Initially, lack of sleep may make individuals feel overly tired, cranky, or emotional. Continued sleep deprivation can lead to more serious concerns, such as increased weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. According to the American Sleep Association, as many as 70 million adults living in the U.S. have a sleep disorder. The most common of these sleep disorders, according to the ASA, is insomnia; however, there are also a variety of other sleep disorders that negatively affect one's ability to sleep, such as obstructive sleep apnea.

To overcome these sleep concerns, people may try different methods to cope with or overcome the problem. While counting sheep may be the answer for some, others may attempt to unwind by listening to soothing music before bedtime or by turning off all televisions an hour before sleeping. A dark bedroom is also conducive to sleep and can prove helpful for some. Before turning to more intense or chemical methods of getting some sleep, some individuals try using scents as a natural sleep aid. The use of certain scents has been found to be helpful for people who have trouble falling asleep.


The scent most commonly associated with restful sleep is lavender. Its calming and relaxing properties can be helpful even for individuals suffering from mild insomnia. It relaxes by slowing the nervous system and by decreasing one's blood pressure and heart rate. People can use lavender essential oils to create an aromatic mist to spray in their bedrooms or to add the fragrance to linens. A light massage with lavender oil or placing lavender potpourri in the room can also prove beneficial.


Vanilla is a warm scent that's often associated with the comforts of home. It's also a scent that calms the brain, which helps people relax enough to fall asleep. The smell of vanilla has a soothing effect that helps relieve stress and tension. This makes it helpful for people who are unable to unwind enough at the end of a busy day to get restful sleep.


Valerian is a common remedy for sleep problems. In most cases, it is taken in capsule form or as a tincture that can help reduce feelings of anxiety. It is also believed that its smell can help with sleep. According to inhalation studies done on rats, the odor, even when faint, can act as a sedative. Another study in 2006 showed that oil vapors inhaled by rats helped increase their sleep time by 18 percent. It is generally considered safe when taken for short periods, but it should not be taken with alcohol or other sedatives.


Jasmine flowers release a scent that has many properties, one of which is the ability to help people achieve a sound sleep. Its fragrance has a calming effect that results in better sleep quality, and studies have shown that it also helps improve one's cognitive function and reduce anxiety when awake. Benefits can be obtained by having a nearby flowering jasmine plant, or one may purchase jasmine oil.

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