Wheeling Jesuit University

WJU Professor and Students Find Jasmine Odor Leads to More Restful Sleep, Decreased Anxiety and Greater Mental Performance

Individuals needing a more restful night of sleep may want to consider placing the scent of jasmine somewhere in their bedroom.

According to Dr. Bryan Raudenbush, assistant professor of psychology at Wheeling Jesuit University (WJU), the scent of jasmine may allow individuals to receive a better night of sleep.

“Research shows that odors have significant effects on the human nervous system, even in the absence of attention and awareness to these odors” said Raudenbush. “Therefore, it was reasonable to expect that the human body may respond to odors presented during sleep.”

Raudenbush and WJU psychology students investigated whether the administration of an odorant during sleep would affect sleep patterns during the night, wakefulness and cognitive functioning the following morning, as well as alertness throughout the day. The researchers monitored 20 people while they slept for three nights. During this time, they were exposed to one of three conditions, consisting of jasmine odor, lavender odor or no odor at all.

Raudenbush said the decision to use these scents was based on past research that indicated these scents made individuals feel more relaxed, have less anxiety and increase their mood. “The odorants were incorporated into the room’s low-flow oxygen via an Airsep NewLife oxygen concentrator, which pumped the scented or non-scented air into the room in which the participants were sleeping,” he said.

While participants were sleeping, measures of sleep quality and duration were recorded using a Mini Mitter Actiwatch Activity Monitor, which is a device that is worn on the wrist like a watch. Following sleep, participants completed questionnaires related to mood and tests of cognitive functioning. At random periods throughout the day, they indicated level of alertness on a 0-10 scale.

When the effects of the jasmine odor were compared to the effects of the lavender odor and the non-odor control condition, the dispensing of jasmine led to greater sleep efficiency and reduced sleep movement. There were no differences in the total amount of sleep, thus the jasmine condition led to a greater quality rather than quantity of sleep. When the participants woke, those who breathed the jasmine rated their level of anxiety and vigor lower, and performed cognitive tests more rapidly.

Raudenbush noted, “When people are more relaxed, the cognitive tests are less stressful for them, therefore their performance increases. This was one of the main goals of the study, since we were trying to find a way to improve human performance without the use of drugs such as sleep-aids or mental stimulants.” In addition, level of alertness in the jasmine odor condition was greater during the afternoon hours, thus helping to maintain the students' focus on academic work throughout the day.

Raudenbush and his students conducted this study in WJU’s sleep performance lab, which is located in Donahue Hall on the WJU campus.

Through future research, Raudenbush hopes to reveal which environment is better to sleep in, the bed or the sensory attenuation chamber without any sensory feel. In addition, the chamber will be used for studies on relaxation and anxiety reduction. Raudenbush is currently planning a study using the attenuation chamber for sometime next year.

WJU psychology students working on the projects include Jeffrey Smith, a native of Mt. Pleasant, Pa.; Jerrod Koon, a native of Parkersburg, W.Va.; and Phil Zoladz, a native of St. Clairsville, Ohio.

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