Sleep and Biological Rhythms

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 37–44 | Cite as

Effects of essential oil inhalation on objective and subjective sleep quality in healthy university students

  • Hiroshi Kawai
  • Saki Tanaka
  • Chika Nakamura
  • Takuya Ishibashi
  • Atsushi Mitsumoto
Original Article


Aromatherapy with essential oils is one of the most popular complementary medical tools for improving sleep quality. However, only a few reports have objectively measured the effects of essential oils on sleep. Here, we used objective and subjective measures to analyze the effects of the essential oils of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) on the sleep quality of healthy university students. The participants were monitored for 15 consecutive nights as they inhaled lavender oil and sweet orange oil, in a crossover design. Their sleep was monitored objectively by actigraphy, and total sleep time (TST), sleep efficiency, sleep latency, and wake after sleep onset (WASO) were analyzed. Their sleep was analyzed subjectively using Oguri–Shirakawa–Azumi (OSA) sleep inventory scores. Inhalation of an essential oil improved sleep measures only in participant whose sleep quality was poor in the control condition. Lavender seemed more effective than sweet orange in objective measures, especially in improving sleep latency. In the subjective sleep analysis, the essential oils improved sleep maintenance, dreaming, and sleep length in subjects who had poor sleep quality. Sweet orange seemed more effective than lavender in the subjective sleep measures. The difference between the two oils suggests that expectancy bias had little effect on the hypnotic effect of lavender on objective sleep. Although no obvious effect was observed in good sleepers, the inhalation of lavender oil could be effective for helping poor sleepers improve objective sleep quality.


Sleep Actigraphy OSA sleep inventory Essential oil Lavender Sweet orange 



The authors thank the participants for taking part in this study. The authors also thank the assistance provided by H. Miyama, M. Kazato, and H. Maruyama.

Compliance with ethical standards

Human and animal rights statement

This study involves human participants.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Research Ethics Committee (Josai International University) Permission Number: 32 (dated April 18, 2013).

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in this study.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Japanese Society of Sleep Research 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical SciencesJosai UniversitySakadoJapan
  2. 2.Faculty of Pharmaceutical SciencesJosai International UniversityToganeJapan
  3. 3.Faculty of Social and Environmental StudiesJosai International UniversityToganeJapan

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