How to make your bedroom smell good for sleep – 6 alternatives to lavender

It isn’t just lavender that promotes good rest, these six scents are perfect for sleep too

A neutral bedroom with a large upholstered cream headboard and matching cream bedding
(Image credit: Covet House)

How your bedroom smells may not be the first thing you think of when trying to get a good night’s rest, but experts suggest it could be the key to sleeping soundly and feeling well-rested in the morning. 

Of course, when making a bedroom smell nice, we often reach for lavender – but that isn't the only scent that helps you sleep better, experts reveal.

If you are looking to switch up your bedroom fragrance, consider picking one of these alternatives to make a bedroom smell good for sleep.

How to make a bedroom smell good for sleep

Creating the perfect sleep environment goes beyond picking out the best bed sheets and the best mattress (although they certainly help). Picking the perfect scent can go a long way in promoting good sleep – but it is important to pick the right delivery system to avoid hazards, reminds November Nichols, fragrance expert and owner of CHEMIN.

We're all about using the best candles to set a cozy ambience in your room, whilst scenting it expertly. If you want to know what our in-house fragrance expert and qualified Master Perfumer, Laura Honey, uses, it's Eym's Rest triple wick candle. She says 'the blend of camomile, lavender, and sweet orange creates a soothing and calm tone in your room. It's warming and relaxing, perfect for burning at the end of a long day'.

Eym Rest Candle | View at Eym

Eym Rest Candle | View at Eym

This candle is all about quality and luxury. The triple-wick soy base naturally diffuses a strong soothing scent into your room, without it feeling too heady. The blend of camomile, lavender, and sweet orange is calming and sedative. Just make sure you don't fall asleep burning it.

Although candles are a popular choice, November Nichols recommends picking a less harmful alternative to scent a space – especially if you are asleep, such as a diffuser or a room spray to avoid fire hazards and irritation in your airways.

November Nichols
November Nichols

Chémin is a boutique fragrance and luxury goods company that specializes in custom fragrances. The brand is built upon the legacy of medicine woman Mary Lena “Chémin” Portalis, the paternal grandmother of founder November Nichols.

design a home that feels like you, bedroom with cream brick painted walls, large arched doorway to garden, beams, upholstered grey bed with blue and white bedding, table with foliage, books, sheepskin, footstool

(Image credit: The White Company)

1. Geranium essential oils

If you want a fresh, light scent to improve your sleep, but don’t fancy lavender, then geranium oil, available at Amazon, might be the next best thing, shares Betsy Miller, MS, clinical herbalist and aromatherapist for Frontier Co-op & Aura Cacia. It is also one of the most romantic scents, perfect for the bedroom. 

‘Inhalation is the fastest way to experience the benefits of essential oils,’ she says. ‘As we inhale diffused essential oils, the molecules of those oils come into contact with our sensory nerves, which stimulate the sending of a signal via the olfactory nerve to the olfactory bulb located near the brain; this olfactory bulb then sends signals to the brain, resulting in a cascade of therapeutic effects via our central nervous system,’ she explains.

‘We recommend running an essential oil diffuser for no more than two to four hours at a time for adults and 30 minutes to one hour at a time for children, with an equivalent amount of time away from the diffusion.’ For this reason, it is a good idea to pick a diffuser that has an auto shut-off feature to help you fall asleep safely. 

betsy miller
Betsy Miller

Betsy Miller is a clinical herbalist and nutritionist practicing in College Park Maryland and Sterling Virginia. She completed her Master's Degree in Clinical Herbalism at the Tai Sophia Institute, and completed her aromatherapist certification with the American College of Healthcare Sciences. 

2. Chamomile and sandalwood sprays

A chamomile tea before bed is common to help promote sleep, so why not use its scent to help you drift off and nail your bedroom routine for the best night’s sleep, recommends November Nichols, fragrance expert.

‘Chamomile and the soothing warmth of sandalwood are perfect, especially as a spritz of a scented pillow mist,’ she suggests. ‘This is a simple yet effective way to imbue your bedding with a relaxing aroma.’

November says it's important to pick a mist that is both gentle on the skin and dry quickly to prevent skin irritation, especially when spritzing your pillows.

THISWORKS Deep Sleep Pillow Spray | View at Amazon

THISWORKS Deep Sleep Pillow Spray | View at Amazon
With notes of chamomile and lavender, this sleep spray is highly-rated for its ability to promote relaxation and good sleep

3. Ylang-Ylang

Ylang-ylang is one of the scents you may have heard of, but not be your first pick when it comes to home fragrances, especially if you are not too sure what it actually is. This floral scent is perfect for helping to promote relaxation, however, and is a great fragrance to consider when you are tired of lavender, says Christina Heiser, sleep expert and senior content director at Saatva, the smarter luxury sleep company:

‘Ylang-Ylang is a commonly used fragrance in perfumes, and it has been scientifically proven to have a calming effect on the mind,’ she says. ‘In a Korean study, participants who inhaled a mixture of ylang-ylang, lavender, and bergamot once a day for four weeks experienced reduced stress, anxiety, and blood pressure levels by the end of the study.’

If you are keen on promoting good bedroom Feng Shui, then this scent is also seen as ideal for promoting good energy, especially considering that your home fragrance is thought to affect Feng Shui

CIRE TRUDON Reed Diffuser | View at Net-A-Porter

CIRE TRUDON Reed Diffuser | View at Net-A-Porter
Housed in a midnight-blue glass vessel hand-blown in Tuscany, this diffuser is richly scented with a heady mix of Ylang-Ylang, Sambac Jasmine Absolute, and Benzoin Resin.

4. Jasmine and vanilla

If you want to try fragrance layering to promote better sleep, there is no better place to start than with the classic pairing of jasmine and vanilla, states November Nichols, fragrance expert. 

‘Jasmine, known for its soothing effect, and vanilla, with its sweet, comforting notes, is ideal for setting a cozy atmosphere, which is perfect for sleep,’ she shares. 

When picking soothing fragrances to wear, November recommends picking linen sprays that can be used on your bedding, curtains, and other upholstery for a gentle, all-encompassing fragrance perfect for creating a harmonious sleep environment.

5. Herbal sachets

Adding a personalized scent to upholstery doesn't have to be done with short-lived sprays. November Nichols, fragrance expert, also recommends trying herbal sachets for a lingering fragrance that is sure to improve your sleep:

‘Herbal sachets filled with dried hops or lemon balm, tucked under pillows or around the room, provide a gentle, natural fragrance. Hops have long been valued for their sleep-inducing qualities, while lemon balm calms the mind and eases you into sleep.’

6. Cedarwood

When trying to make a house smell nice without burning candles, cedarwood essential oil is a common replacement for a relaxing scent, especially in winter, explains Christina Heiser, senior content director.  

‘A study published in the journal Autonomic Neuroscience found that smelling cedrol, a compound extracted from cedarwood oil, can increase activity in the parasympathetic nervous system and decrease activity in the sympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the "rest and digest" response, which slows down your heart rate and relaxes your GI tract muscles. By using cedarwood essential oil for sleep, you can reduce your adrenaline levels and fall asleep more easily.’

When using essential oils to promote sleep, consider a high-quality reed diffuser for a gradual but consistent fragrance that will help you through the night.  

FAQs

How do I make my room smell good overnight?

The best way to make a room smell good overnight is to ensure it is clean and use a diffuser to safely infuse your room with an essential oil scent as you sleep. This is both safer and healthier than burning a candle overnight or using artificial room fragrances and plug-ins.

Pick a calming scent to help promote relaxation for added benefits. 

Why does my room smell bad when I sleep?

If your room smells musty when you wake up in the morning, it may be due to a build-up of moisture – likely caused by a lack of air circulation. As we breathe in the night, our rooms fill with moisture and bacteria, leaving a lingering odor if it can’t escape. Consider sleeping with the bedroom door or window open, or use an air purifier or dehumidifier to help combat humidity for a fresher-smelling space. 


When making a bedroom smell good for sleep, it is important to also maintain good sleep hygiene. Not only will this make your home smell nice, promoting relaxation, but will ensure that your bed is not making you ill or compromising the quality of your sleep.

Chiana Dickson
Writer

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for a year, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.