better sleepTo complement the Research Reports in the April 2015 issue of MASSAGE Magazine. Summary: A review and analysis of several studies suggests aromatherapy is effective for promoting better sleep.

A recent meta-analysis of research on the use of aromatherapy for improving sleep quality showed the modality to be effective in terms of enhancing sleep.

The study, “The effects of aromatherapy on sleep improvement: a systematic literature review and meta-analysis,” focused on evaluating 13 randomized, controlled trials that involved the use of aromatherapy for promoting better sleep.

Each study included in the meta-analysis involved adults age 20 and older. As for the specific aromatherapy interventions, the studies focused on three methods: inhalation, massage and skin application. An outcome measure for all 12 studies was sleep improvement, as assessed by variables such as length of sleep, efficiency of sleep, quality of sleep and satisfaction with sleep.

According to the meta-analysis researchers, three studies involved adults and elderly participants; seven included people with “chronic and other specific diseases”; and three focused on patients in the hospital.

Two studies used lavender oil for aromatherapy; two used a mixture of lavender and bergamot; two used a combination of lavender, bergamot and chamomile; and two used a blend of lavender and peppermint. The rest of the studies used a variety of aromatherapy oils: clary sage, rosewood, lemon, marjoram, ylang-ylang, eucalyptus and rosemary.

Aromatherapy leads to better sleep

Three selected studies found aromatherapy to be effective in improving overall quality of sleep; seven studies showed aromatherapy was effective in improving sleep disorders; one study found aromatherapy increased satisfaction with sleep; and another study reported aromatherapy as effective in improving sleep efficiency.

When comparing studies, researchers found that aromatherapy administered via inhalation therapy was more effective than aromatherapy administered via massage therapy for the promotion of sleep. The analysis also showed this effect was greater among study participants with a disease, as opposed to healthy study participants.

“Analysis of the effect size of aromatherapy on sleep indicated that aromatherapy significantly enhanced sleep,” stated the study’s authors. “The effect size of aromatherapy on sleep was smaller than the effect size on anxiety, depression and stress but was larger than the effect size on pain. Thus, aromatherapy had a moderate effect on sleep, which was greater than its effect on the alleviation of physical symptoms but smaller than its effects on psychological and mental factors.”

About the Authors

Authors: Eunhee Hwang, Ph.D., and Sujin Shin, Ph.D.

Sources: Wonkwang University, Iksan, Republic of Korea; and Soonchunhyang University, Cheonan, Republic of Korea. Originally published online in January 2015 in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.