does incense make you sleepy?
Better Sleep

Does Incense Help You Sleep At Night?

Last Updated on October 13, 2023 by Louise Carter

Burning incense sticks and cones are associated with mental and physical peace and relaxation.

Incense is used for religious purposes, to improve the air in domestic homes, and for aromatherapy by followers of complementary and alternative medicine.

Incense can be a sleep aid if you’re prepared to follow safety guidance. As with any activity that involves fire, incense should never be left untended or be permitted to burn out while you sleep.

Countless scents are available as incense, many of which have different sleep-promoting qualities. The best all-round incense scents for sleep are lavender, frankincense, and chamomile.

Cedar, pine, and sandalwood bolster the bedroom’s energies, rose encourages learning while you sleep, and vanilla and eucalyptus can improve your overall health.

If you burn incense in a bedroom, ensure the room is well-ventilated, as direct inhalation of smoke is harmful. Extinguish an incense stick before sleeping, using water or sand to douse the remaining embers.

What Is Incense?

Incense is a fragrant substance, usually sold in the form of sticks. They’re lit at the tip, similar to a candle (“incense” is Latin for “to burn”), and release an appealing scent through the resulting smoke.

Incense was initially popular among ancient Egyptian and Greek civilizations, but its use has continued into modern life. Incense is used to create a relaxing atmosphere, especially during religious ceremonies and holistic treatments, but it can also counter unpleasant household odors.

Experienced users may use cones rather than sticks, but the latter is more popular. Upon lighting an incense stick, it should be housed in a holder that captures any ash that drops.

Left to burn, an incense stick may remain lit for 50 to 90 minutes. During this time, you’ll likely feel increasingly relaxed and sleepy, meaning that incense can be used to lull yourself to sleep.

can you sleep with incense burning?

Why Does Incense Make You Sleepy?

The purpose of incense is to soothe the body and mind. Many of the most popular scents associated with incense promote muscular relaxation and decrease stress, encouraging a state of natural sleepiness.

This means incense can be invaluable if you struggle to fall asleep at night due to racing, anxious thoughts. A study published in The FASEB Journal found that incense promoted a similar reaction in laboratory mice to antidepressant medication.

The Journal of Ethnopharmacology elaborates on this further, claiming that incense encourages the brain to produce higher serotonin levels. This neurotransmitter is directly linked to the creation of melatonin, the so-called “sleep hormone.”

Incense is popular among followers of the Buddhist faith, as it’s believed to provide mental clarity and aid meditation. If this is part of your sleep hygiene routine, you’ll likely find that incense helps empty your head of unwelcome thoughts and drift into sleep.

Smoke inhalation can make you sleepy and light-headed, which isn’t always a positive step. Remain a few feet away from a burning incense stick, enjoying the aroma from a safe distance.

What Is The Best Incense for Sleep?

The best incense for your needs is an aroma that makes you feel calm, comfortable, and relaxed. However, the following scents have sleep-boosting properties:

Cedar

Cedar incense offers a spicy, earthy aroma comparable to the scent of wood following heavy rainfall. It’s often associated with concentration, so it’s best enjoyed if you plan to meditate before bed.

Followers of spirituality associate cedar with purification and warding off negative energy, meaning it can be a powerful tool for believers in feng shui.

Perhaps more importantly, cedar is lauded for its calming qualities. According to the Brazilian Journal of Case Reports, cedar can remedy nocturnal anxiety and respiratory disorders.

Chamomile

Chamomile tea is a popular evening drink for people looking for a moment of calm after a busy day.

Molecular Medicine Reports stated that chamomile has mild sedative and tranquilizing qualities, so incense of this scent will have a similar impact.

The aroma of chamomile is sweeter than some other incense, with an herbal scent that offers a hint of apple, so some people may find it cloying.

Plenty of other alternatives are available if chamomile incense gives you a headache.

Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus incense has a distinctive scent, blending aromatic hints of mint, citrus, and honey. The smell is medicinal, so it may make you think of a hospital ward and won’t appeal to everybody.

It can be a sleep aid if you can tolerate the smell. The Universal Journal of Pharmaceutical Research explains that inhaling eucalyptus can clear blocked airways caused by respiratory infections.

This means that eucalyptus incense may reduce snoring without additional apparatus. Both you and anybody who shares your bed will rest better if you’re not loudly snoring.

Frankincense

Frankincense was once considered among the most valuable oils in the world, and bringing this scent into your bedroom through incense will likely promote a lengthy night of sleep.

The Journal of Oleo Science explains that frankincense is a natural antioxidant that promotes feelings of tiredness and reduces stress in the body and mind.

Inhaling this scent will calm you down before bed, leaving you feeling relaxed.

While few people are familiar with the scent of frankincense, it’s often compared to the herb rosemary – the smell is earthy, with a hint of citrus and spice.

This can help you feel in touch with nature, which has calming properties.

Lavender

Lavender is arguably the most prominent and well-known natural sleep aid.

The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine extols the virtue of inhaled lavender to promote high-quality rest, especially when paired with a reliable sleep hygiene routine.

Lavender is relaxing due to its various compounds, including camphor, linalyl acetate, and linalool. Each compound has sedative properties that ease the body and mind into calm and contentment.

Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine believes that topically-applied lavender treats burns, insect bites, and muscle spasms.

Pine

Pine incense resembles cedar’s scent and impact on the mind and body. The woody scent of pine is considered cleansing and can create a cozy feeling in any room during the year’s cooler months.

According to Molecular Pharmacology, inhaling the scent of pine can also enhance the quality of non-REM sleep. This means you’ll spend longer in a deep, dreamless sleep, giving your body more opportunities to heal and repair itself overnight.

Rose

William Shakespeare claimed that “a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.” According to Scientific Reports, rose incense can improve memory retention and learning skills during sleep.

The aroma of rose, like all incense, is believed to promote sleepiness.

This scent also helped language students memorize foreign vocabulary during sleep, making it a good option for anybody aiming to improve their mental faculties while at rest.

Additionally, the aroma of roses is believed to promote positive and peaceful dreams. If nightmares frequently affect you, consider changing your diet and burning rose incense before bed.

Sandalwood

Sandalwood is, once again, comparable to cedar in its scent and impact.

People who use incense for religious purposes are particularly fond of sandalwood incense due to its supposed ability to banish unwanted and harmful energy.

The belief is that sandalwood is even more impactful than cedar in banishing negative spirals of doubt and self-loathing, clearing the mind. A peer-reviewed study backs up this theory.

The International Journal of Aromatherapy explains how users of sandalwood essential oil, which serves the same purpose as incense, reported an uplift in their mood.

This suggests that sandalwood incense may banish dark emotions that otherwise threaten sleep.

Vanilla

Some people find vanilla’s all-consuming sweetness comforting, while others consider it overpowering. Vanilla is effective, having been used for medicinal purposes since the 17th Century.

The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry explains that vanilla oil has natural antioxidant properties that can bolster human health and encourage us to fall into a deep and restful sleep.

Vanilla’s scent is also believed to act as a natural mood-enhancer, reducing stress and promoting mental relaxation and emotional regulation.

If you enjoy the smell of vanilla, this is among the best incense scents to promote calmness and sleep.

best incense for sleep

Is it Safe To Burn Incense While Sleeping?

Burning incense should be treated with the same caution as lighting a scented candle. Incense sticks involve a naked flame and should be monitored at all times.

Potential hazards involving incense include the following:

  • According to Clinical and Molecular Allergy, breathing smoke from incense for a prolonged period can lead to inhaling harmful or toxic chemicals.
  • If a gust of wind knocks over the incense stick, the flame can start a fire.
  • Incense sticks burn for hours, and the ash may fall onto the carpet or your bedsheets.

To enjoy the benefits, extinguish an incense stick before getting into bed.

Consider using an oil burner if you’re nervous about the safety implications. This will still require using a tealight, so fire safety protocol must be followed.

How To Put Out Incense Safely

Avoid blowing the end of the stick like a candle when extinguishing incense. Incense sticks have more embers, which can be distributed throughout a room.

If you’re near a bathroom and can safely carry your incense stick to this location, run the lit end under a slow-running tap to extinguish the flame.

Alternatively, keep a jug of water next to your incense stick. If you’re concerned about spilling water, a vessel filled with sand will douse the embers just as quickly.

Once an incense stick has been extinguished, ensure no stubborn embers still glow before putting it in the trash. Wait for any ash in the incense stick holder to cool down before emptying it.

Incense can be a sleep aid, especially if you respond well to aromatherapy, but always stay safe when burning incense in a bedroom. If you grow sleepy, extinguish the incense stick before sleep.