A good night’s sleep is one of the most important functional wellness habits I have. When I get 8 hours of sleep, my mood is stable and calm. I have enough energy to stay focused and workout, without falling into a nap. (Although there’s no shame in taking naps—it’s good for your brain!) On the other hand, chronic sleep deprivation makes me feel depressed and irritable. It’s also hard to get work done with a foggy brain.
How to increase your cognitive capacity and memory during sleep
Essential oil scents
So, sleeping is clearly great for your cognitive health—but there’s a way to increase its benefits even more using a simple wellness tool: essential oil diffuser. A new study by the University of California, Irvine researchers observed the effect of smell on cognitive functions of older adults. For six months, participants were given essential oil cartridges or “blank” cartridges. Diffusers were activated for two hours while they slept. Participants in the fragrance-enriched group showed a 226% increase in cognitive performance compared to the control group. These participants had improved integrity of the brain pathway between medial temporal lobe to the prefrontal cortex. They also reported higher sleep quality.
Smell & neurological conditions
As wild as this study sounds to me, the connection between olfactory sense and neurological/psychiatric diseases has long been established. Loss of the sense of smell is a symptom of Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, alcoholism, and Parkinson’s, among others. Smell loss due to COVID has been linked to cognitive decline. And scientists have been studying the positive effects of “exercising” the olfactory capacity in order to treat dementia, with patients reporting better memory and language skills.
Smell & improved cognitive performance
Smell boosts memory for people of all ages, too. A number of studies showed that students who learn materials while smelling an aroma have better recall when they later smell the same aroma. Do you have a big presentation or an exam coming up? Learn the script while wearing your favorite perfume, and be sure to re-wear the perfume on the big day.
On a daily basis, you can practice cognitive care by simply choosing your favorite essential oil and turning on your diffuser. I have one by Saje that I really love. The study didn’t place emphasis on the exact type of scent (the subjects were able to gain benefits from 7 different aromas, showing it had more to do with exercising their olfactory faculty than the type of scent). But rosemary and peppermint are some scents associated with clarity and recall.
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Photo: Egor Vikhrev via Unsplash