New research at the University of British Columbia has suggested that being exposed to a romantic partner’s scent can help improve sleep quality even when they are not present.
For the study, the researchers analysed sleep data from 155 participants who were given two identical-looking t-shirts to use as pillowcases. One t-shirt had been previously worn by their romantic partner, and the other had either been previously worn by a stranger or was clean.
They spent two consecutive nights sleeping with each t-shirt. Each morning, they completed a survey about how well-rested they felt. Their sleep quality was also objectively measured using an actigraph sleep watch that monitored their movements throughout the night.
Participants reported feeling more well-rested on the nights when they believed they were sleeping with their partner’s scent. Moreover, regardless of their beliefs about scent exposure, data from the sleep watches indicated that objective sleep improved when participants were actually exposed to their partner’s scent.
The researchers say the physical presence of a long-term romantic partner is associated with positive health outcomes such as a sense of safety, calm and relaxation, which in turn leads to better sleep. By signalling recent physical proximity, the mere scent of a partner may have similar benefits.
The research could pave the way for future work examining the efficacy of simple and effective methods of improving sleep, such as bringing a partner’s shirt the next time you travel alone.
To learn more about the study, check out this article from the University of British Columbia: https://news.ubc.ca/2020/02/13/smelling-your-lovers-shirt-could-improve-your-sleep/