Sweet Smells May Promote Sweet Dreams
Republished with permission of Natural Standards Research Collaboration ©2008

The scent of flowers may lead to pleasant dreams, a new study reports.

The study, presented at the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation annual meeting in Chicago, found that the smell of rotten eggs during sleep caused dreams to become negative, while the smell of roses had a positive effect.

German researchers, led by Boris Stuck, a professor of otorhinolaryngology at Heidelberg University, studied 15 healthy females. When the women entered rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep (the stage when most dreaming occurs), they were exposed to a non-odorous control, the smell of roses or the smell of rotten eggs for 10 seconds. One minute later, the participants were woken up. Each woman was exposed to each substance once.

When the women woke up, they were asked to describe their dreams and how they felt during the dreams. Dreams were reported in 40 out of the 45 awakenings. All of the participants reported positive dreams when they were exposed to the scent of roses, while most reported negative dreams when they were exposed to the scent of rotten eggs.

Aromatherapy has been used for many years to reduce stress and anxiety and improve sleep. During aromatherapy, essential oils from plants are diluted and then sprayed in the air, inhaled or applied to the skin. Massage is often used to deliver oils into the body and is considered the most effective method.

Lavender aromatherapy is commonly used for relaxation and has been shown to relieve anxiety. Early research suggests that lavender may help improve sleep quality, particularly in people with insomnia.

Previous studies have found that other types of stimulation during sleep, such as pressure, sound or vibration, may also affect dreams.

For more information about integrative therapies for sleep disturbances, please visit Natural Standard's Comparative Effectiveness database.

[No authors listed] Abstracts of the annual meeting of the American Academy of Otolaryngology--Head and Neck Surgery Foundation, September 21-24, 2008, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2008 Aug;139(2 Suppl 1):P10-200.