For many people, getting a good night's sleep when they are alone or travelling, is a real struggle. But what if all one needed was a t-shirt worn by their partner to savour a deep slumber? According to a new study, the scent of a romantic partner can help improve sleep.
Researchers from the University of British Columbia found that when the participants of the study were exposed to the scent of their romantic partners overnight, they reported better quality of sleep, even when their partners were physically absent.
Comparing the quality of sleep reported to that induced by melatonin supplements, Marlise Hofer, lead author of the study, said in a statement, "Our findings provide new evidence that merely sleeping with a partner's scent improves sleep efficiency. Our participants had an average sleep efficiency improvement of more than two per cent."
Capturing the partner's scent
The scientists analysed the sleep data gathered from 155 participants for the study. They were provided two similar-looking t-shorts to be used as pillowcases—one which their romantic partner had worn previously, and the other was either clean or had been worn by a stranger previously.
In order to capture the body odour of the partners of the participants, they were issued clean t-shirts that they were instructed to wear for 24 hours. Additionally, they were also asked to withhold the use of scented body products and deodorants. Smoking, consumption of certain foods that affected body odour and exercising were some of the other things that the partners were instructed against. To preserve their scents, the t-shirts were frozen.
The scent of the partner
Next, the participants were given two t-shirts that they were supposed to cover their pillows with. However, they were not made aware of which one was which. They slept for two successive nights with each of the t-shirts and were made to complete a survey every morning to ascertain if the felt sufficiently rested.
An actigraphy sleep watch was used to monitor their movements during the course of the night and measured the quality of their sleep objectively. Finally, when the study concluded, the participants were asked to guess whether the t-shirts that had served as their pillowcases had been worn by their partners previously.
Better sleep indeed says data
On the nights that the participants believed that they were sleeping on the t-shirts, they reportedly felt well-rested. Irrespective of their attitude towards scent exposure, data acquired from the watches suggested that the objective sleep of the participants improved when there were exposed the scent of their partner in reality.
"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," said Frances Chen, senior author of the study.
Potential to alleviate sleep problems in the future
The authors observe that beneficial health effects such as clam and relaxation and the assurance of safety were associated with a long term partner's presence. This results in better sleep. Through the evocation of recent physical proximity, only the scent of a partner alone may result in benefits of a similar kind. "One of the most surprising findings is how a romantic partner's scent can improve sleep quality even outside of our conscious awareness," said Chen.
According to Hofer, the study has the potential to contribute to future research analysing the effectiveness of simple yet effective techniques of bettering the quality of sleep, including carrying a partner's shirt while travelling alone the next time.