The Scent of a Good Night's Sleep: Olfactory Cues of a Romantic Partner Improve Sleep Efficiency

Psychol Sci. 2020 Apr;31(4):449-459. doi: 10.1177/0956797620905615. Epub 2020 Mar 12.

Abstract

Almost nothing is known about whether exposure to the scent of loved ones influences sleep. In the current study, 155 participants spent 2 nights with their partner's scent and 2 nights with a control scent (in random order). Sleep was measured in two ways: sleep efficiency (via actigraphy) and perceived sleep quality (via self-report). Sleep efficiency was higher when participants were exposed to their partner's scent. This increase occurred regardless of participants' beliefs about the origin of the scent. Perceived sleep quality was higher when participants believed that they were smelling their partner's scent. Exposure to a partner's scent led sleep efficiency to increase by more than 2% on average, an improvement similar in magnitude to the effect of melatonin on sleep. The current work speaks to the critical role of olfaction in communication and reveals that social scents can impact sleep.

Keywords: health behaviors; nonverbal communication; olfaction; open data; open materials; preregistered; social communication; social support.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nonverbal Communication*
  • Olfactory Perception / physiology*
  • Sexual Partners*
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Social Interaction*
  • Social Support*