Preliminary investigation of the effect of peppermint oil on an objective measure of daytime sleepiness

Int J Psychophysiol. 2005 Mar;55(3):291-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2004.08.004.


The assertion, often quoted in the popular literature, that peppermint has invigorating properties has been investigated through objective assessment of daytime sleepiness. Pupillary fatigue oscillations have been used to give an index of pupillary unrest that can be used as a reliable measure of daytime sleepiness. When compared with a no-odour condition, the presence of peppermint oil limited the increase in sleepiness during 11 min spent in a darkened room. This significant difference in sleepiness between the peppermint oil and the no-odour conditions was shown not to be related to differences in subjective ratings of initial sleepiness, from the Stanford Sleepiness Scale (SSS). Neither was it related to differences in initial pupillary unrest or mean pupil size. It seems that in conditions that favour an increase in daytime sleepiness, peppermint oil can indeed reduce sleepiness. However, the mechanisms by which peppermint oil has its effect and the applicability of these findings to situations in everyday life will require further empirical investigation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mentha piperita
  • Oils, Volatile / administration & dosage
  • Plant Oils / administration & dosage*
  • Pupil / drug effects
  • Pupil / physiology
  • Reflex, Pupillary / drug effects*
  • Reflex, Pupillary / physiology
  • Sleep / drug effects
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Wakefulness / drug effects*
  • Wakefulness / physiology


  • Oils, Volatile
  • Plant Oils
  • peppermint oil