Scents can have amazing powers, as anyone who has used anything from scented candles to essential oils to incense to help uplift or calm their mood can attest. Scents can be so powerful that we use them to help with cognition, to reduce migraines, and to comfort.
What if there was a smell that could help your brain learn? This year’s research from the University Hospital Freiburg reports that the smell of roses can help your brain learn new information and can improve your memory.
The primary researcher, student teacher Franziska Neumann, gathered one group tested the effect of placing rose scented fragrance sticks on their desks at home while they studied vocabulary, and they also put the fragrance sticks on the table next to them while they slept. Neumann also gathered another group and asked them to put the fragrance sticks on a table near them while they took a vocabulary test in class. Both of these groups were compared to control groups which did not have any exposure to rose scent at home or in the classroom.
When the rose sticks were used for the group during study and sleep, they did better on their tests. And while many people believe in biohacking learning while sleeping (such as listening to audio of subjects they are trying to master), previous studies have suggested that scents can help but have been difficult to reproduce in everyday circumstances. This is mainly due to the fact that scientists believed only a certain part of the sleep cycle was sensitive to scents, and this type of exposure to scents has to be done while monitoring brain activity which can only be demonstrated with EEGs in a sleep laboratory.
Since most of us do not have access to these tools, this experiment shows positive results from exposing everyday students to accessible tools that show it doesn’t matter in which phase of sleep the scent is used.
If you have a tough subject you’re trying to tackle, integrating the smell of roses while you study and then putting it next to you while you sleep can help trigger your brain into re-processing the information it learned while exposed to the scent earlier in the day.
You don’t have to keep fresh roses around or cart around a bouquet with you to class, though! Rose essential oil added to a diffuser while you sleep or a reed diffuser in your bedroom can make the scent accessible at night, and an essential oil diffuser bracelet (for men and women), necklace, or roll on stick can help during the day.
Neumann, Franziska, et al. “How Odor Cues Help to Optimize Learning during Sleep in a Real Life-Setting.” Scientific Reports, vol. 10, no. 1227, 27 Jan. 2020.