A Year In Fragrance: Scents For Sleep

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Image: Sofia Arjam (this same print hangs above my bed)

You’d imagine that after obsessing about fragrance all throughout the day I would give it a rest, so to speak, as night falls, and I ready myself for bed. Surely, you think, there is no need for perfumes and potions while you are dead to the world for 6 to 8 hours a night.
Not so, friends!

Bedtime is without a doubt, my favorite time of all the times. After a long, tiresome day I have been known to run toward the bedroom murmuring  bedbedbedBedBedBEDBED with increasing urgency before flinging myself onto the bed with a satisfying thwunk! as I sink into our approximately 100 year old mattress.

Whether this is because I long for several hours of uninterrupted me-time with no one making any demands of me, or because I love my dreamland adventures, I don’t quite know for sure, but I can tell you that before clocking out for the evening, I do like to treat myself to a scented nightcap.

I don’t think I am alone in this practice. Whether you like to spritz a fragrance all over the bed linens in a puff of decadence, or just dab a soothing scented oil on your wrists–bedtime is a lovely occasion to swath yourself in cozy comfort with a scent that is neither complicated nor intricate or –on the opposite end of the spectrum–it’s a great time to test out a new fragrance you might not want to wear in public just yet.

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Some folks have favorite warm night or chilly evening fragrances that work best for them, some prefer aromas that send them straight to the snoozes, and some seek out special scents that amplify and intensify their dreams–personally, I probably do all of these things.

What scents work best for these purposes?  Well, I think it is a matter of preferences. I know that lavender oil is highly touted as having a somewhat sedative effect that is good for anxiety and restlessness, but I find the odor too sharp and camphorous to be conducive to calm. Chamomile, also said to be a calming scent, is one that I find much more tolerable with its sweetly herbal, mildly apple-y fragrance. Though to be honest, I think I prefer it as a cup of tea before sleep rather than a blanket of scent in which to wrap myself. (Actually, I don’t pay any attention to any of holistic, aromatherapeutic stuff most of the time. It either smells like sleepy dreams to me, or it doesn’t.)

One such dreamy scent is the Warm Milk & Honey Sleep Body Mist from Bath and Body Works. I don’t know that this was necessarily something I would have purchased on my own, but it was in a gift bag from my best good friend, and I was thoroughly surprised by how much I love it.  So of course it is probably discontinued (here is a link to the lotion). I think it’s like your very favorite mug–that lovely big one with the chipped ridge–filled with softly sugared, steamed milk, in which a lovely stick of cinnamon has been steeping. It’s a spice that’s been tempered and lullabied by creaminess and a warm sweetness that’s not terribly cloying–just enough to promise the best sort of dreams. For what it’s worth, my beau says it “smells like bread”.

Moonrise was a collaboration between Alchemologie’s Julianne Zaleta and Phantasmaphile’s Pam Grossman, and is inspired by plants historically connected to the moon. Notes are “…artemesia, inspired by the Greek goddess, Artemis, who represents the new moon.  Artemis is portrayed in the fragrance by a few spare drops of wormood in the top note, supported by bergamot and petitgrain.  The heart of the perfume is made of luminous jasmine, honey absolute and balanced with rose.  Sandalwood, frankincense and oak moss form the base chord.” I find most moon-inspired fragances to be pale, wan things but Moonrise is not that at all.  Upon first application it’s got a really delightful, heavy, old fashioned dressing table sort of feel, a powdery, balsamic chypre, but with time and wear becomes quite glowing and luminous. I dare you to apply this at the base of your throat while glimpsing peeks of the full moon from an open window–it’s absolutely magical and transportive.

Astral Projection from ForStrangeWomen is composed of plant essences known for their sedative & dream-inducing properties: sweet lemon myrtle in a powdery bed of chamomile, hops, and lavender creates a relaxing aura. Valerian anchors the blend to a deep undercurrant that pulls you further into your dreams. The sedative effects of these plants are combined with the lucid clarity induced by Clary sage, cedar, and clove. When dreams are vivid, lucid, and oddly profound, it is said, you have reached the astral plane.  I don’t know that I find this a very comforting scent, but I break it out when I am feeling adventurous. Unfortunately I do not record my dreams as regularly as I used to, so I can’t say what sort of subconscious thoughts or images it may have conjured! Perhaps I will give it a go this evening.

I’m afraid that some of the scents I’ve mentioned here are discontinued…though I find, as with most things in life, it never hurts to ask! Sometimes businesses have excess stock lying around that they may sell to you. Sometimes not. But you never know if you don’t reach out to them and ask the question.

I will, however, add that for before bedtime in warm weather I love a cooling spritz of  Comme des Garçons Incense Series Kyoto (incense, cypress oil, coffee, teak wood, vetiver, patchouli, amber, everlasting flower, Virginian cedar), which is austere and meditative and calls to mind a dark prayer in a cool, shadowy forest temple. In cool weather I’ll envelop myself in Serge Lutens Chergui (honey, musk, incense, tobacco leaf, hay sugar, amber, iris, rose and sandalwood), which is an intoxicating scent that smells foreign and familiar all at once; like maybe if your idea of “exotic” is from the sumptuous illustrations in a well-worn book of fables from a far-away land. It’s all lofty sandalwood, honeyed musks, and and liquid amber tea on me, and it makes me feel like a desert queen in a strange, dusty tale.

What about you? Do you have special bedtime scents? Fragrances that encourage sweet slumbers or crazy dream trips? Tell me all about them in the comments!

If you are interested in reading previous installations from my Year In Fragrance series, see below for 2016’s entries thus far:

A Year In Fragrance: “Inexpensive” Stuff
A Year In Fragrance: Youth Dew
A Year In Fragrance: a dude thinks on stinks
A Year In Fragrance: Witch’s Workbench
A Year In Fragrance: Willow & Water
A Year In Fragrance: Tea Rose

4 Comments on A Year In Fragrance: Scents For Sleep

  1. jennifer
    July 31, 2016 at 11:15 pm (12 months ago)

    Fascinating post! I love Bpal’s Languor, but I can only apply it when I go to bed because it always makes me so sleepy so quickly.

    Reply
    • S. Elizabeth
      August 1, 2016 at 8:15 am (12 months ago)

      I don’t think I have ever tried that particular BPAL! I sometimes wear Dana O’Shee to bed; it’s one of those scents that is too sweet for me to feel comfortable wearing around a lot of people…. but one that I perversely like, anyway. See also: Aquolina Pink Sugar.

      Reply
  2. Julianne Zaleta
    March 17, 2017 at 1:28 pm (4 months ago)

    I just found this while searching the web to see what my business looked like in search engines. I was so pleased to find this review of Moonrise, I wish I’d known about it. You make me think that I should resurrect the fragrance! Thank you so much for the kind words! All the best to you.

    Reply
    • S. Elizabeth
      March 17, 2017 at 1:31 pm (4 months ago)

      Oh, I hope you do! So many people asked me about this scent after I wrote about it, and I hated to tell them it was no longer sold! I can promise you at least this–if you *do* resurrect this lovely scent, I will blab about it to anyone who will listen!

      Reply

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