How Romantic Partner’s Scent Affects Your Sleep

Partner's scent

New research offers a surprising insight into the science of sleep.

A team of researchers led by Marlise Hofer and Frances Chen, from the University of British Columbia, examined whether exposure to the scent of one’s partner influenced sleep quality.

“A growing body of evidence has shown that close connections are essential to our health and well being, but there is far less is known about the role of scent in relationships and social support processes. This current study provides new evidence that the mere scent of a romantic partner improves sleep efficiency,” said Chen.

Chen and Hofer began their research by asking one member of a couple in a long-term (three or more months) relationship to wear a plain cotton T-shirt for 24 hours. During this time, the wearer was to avoid typical scent-producing behaviors, like eating spicy food or doing vigorous exercise. They were also told to avoid perfume, cologne, and antiperspirants. The T-shirt was then hermetically sealed and frozen.

Afterward, the second half of the couple was given two visibly identical shirts, one previously worn by their partner, and another that either had been worn by a stranger or was scent-free.

When a participant used their partner’s, scent-bearing T-shirt as a pillowcase, they experienced an average of over nine minutes of extra sleep per night. This equates to more than one extra hour of sleep per week, achieved without spending any more time in bed. The increase was due to participants sleeping more efficiently, meaning they spent less time tossing and turning. Sleep efficiency was measured using a wrist-worn sleep monitor that tracked movement throughout the night. Participants also gave measures of sleep quality each morning, which increased on nights they thought they were sleeping with their partner’s scent.

“The effect we observed in our study was similar in magnitude to that reported for melatonin supplements—a commonly used sleep aid. The findings suggest that the scent of our loved ones can affect our health, in powerful ways,” noted Hofer.

This survey suggests that simple strategies such as taking a partner’s scarf or shirt when traveling may have measurable effects on our sleep. Future research might determine if the scent of a romantic partner has additional health benefits beyond the domains of stress and sleep.

“These findings reveal that—whether or not we are aware of it—a fascinating world of communication is happening right under our noses!” concludes Hofer.

New research offers a surprising insight into the science of sleep.


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