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Aromatherapy during sleep for better memory

People over 60 who inhale essential oils of eucalyptus, rosemary or lavender, for example, improve their memory at night. They can better remember what they just heard.

Aromatherapy during sleep for better memory

For 6 months, neurologists at the University of California at Irvine had 20 people over 60 sleep while an aroma diffuser in their bedroom diffused essential oils for 2 hours. The researchers had the diffuser filled with a different aroma every day of the week. The researchers used essential oils from roses, oranges, eucalyptus, limes, peppermint, rosemary and lavender.

During the same period, 23 over-60s in a control group fell asleep every night while a diffuser in their bedroom diffused no detectable essential oils.

Before and after the 6-month experimental period, the researchers tested the mental abilities of the subjects with a battery of tests.

Overall, the researchers found no statistically significant changes in the test results. [Table]

However, there was one exception: on the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test, the test subjects' scores improved by a factor of 2.3 after aromatherapy [Olfactory Enrichment]. In this test, a researcher reads 15 words and then asks the subject to repeat as many of those words as possible. The more words you can replicate, the better your short-term memory.

Aromatherapy during sleep for better memory

On MRI scans, the researchers saw that aromatherapy in the brain increased the activity of the uncinate fasciculus. This is a kind of complex of neurons that connects parts of the limbic brain. [Acta Neurol Scand. 2020 Jan;141(1):90-97.]

In trials in which researchers provide elderly people with new stimuli, activity in the uncinate fasciculus increases.

"Our findings should stimulate larger scale clinical trials systematically testing the therapeutic efficacy of olfactory enrichment in treating memory loss in older adults", the researchers summarize.

Front Neurosci. 2023 Jul 24:17:1200448.

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