Bedtime without your partner can make sleep very elusive. But, one new study suggests a simple remedy: Cuddling up with a piece of his or her clothing.
We already know several health benefits come from sleeping next to a loved one. However, when that isn’t the case it’s a bit refreshing to know that researchers say having a partner’s natural scent nearby could also be as effective a sleep aid as Melatonin.
Frances Chen, who is an associate professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver said, “One of the most surprising findings is how a romantic partner’s scent can improve sleep quality even outside of our conscious awareness.”
For the study, 155 people were given two t-shirts which they used as pillowcases. One had been worn by their lover and the other was either clean or had been worn by a stranger. While the participants’ partners were wearing the shirts, they were told not to use deodorant or scents or do anything else which might affect their body odor, such as smoking, exercising, and eating certain foods. The shirts were then frozen to preserve their scent.
Participants in the study spent two nights in a row sleeping with each shirt. After each night, they completed a survey about their state of restfulness; sleep quality was also objectively measured using a sleep watch that monitored their movements throughout the night. The participants were not told which shirt was which, but they reported feeling more well-rested after using the t-shirt with their partner’s scent. Data from the sleep monitors confirmed it.
“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 2%,” said Marlise Hofer, a doctoral candidate in social psychology at UBC.
“We saw an effect similar in size to what has been reported from taking oral Melatonin supplements — often used as a sleep aid,” Hofer added in a university news release.
This unique sleep study has already been accepted for publication in the popular journal Psychological Science. However, at the time of writing this, no final release date has been set.
These findings could lead to future research examining simple and effective methods to improve sleep, such as packing a lover’s shirt with you whenever you travel alone. Meanwhile, researchers are recruiting volunteers for another study to find out whether parents’ scent improves slumber for babies.
Given the fact Americans are expected to spend $52 billion on sleep aids and remedies this year alone, it seems prudent to explore some of the more wholesome options before diving into different supplements or medications. Especially considering many of them can be wasteful, ineffective, and possibly even come with scary side effects. For anyone currently in a romantic relationship, it surely couldn’t hurt to snag a worn t-shirt to cuddle up with if you’re ever forced to sleep apart. Best of all, this research study gives you a perfectly good excuse to do so!