Sandalwood oil is widely used in aromatherapy for alleviating various symptoms. Santalol, a major component of sandalwood oil, has been reported to have central nervous system depressant effects such as sedation. In the present study, we investigated the effect of santalol on the sleep-wake cycle in sleep-disturbed rats. When inhaled at a concentration of 5 X 10(-2) ppm, santalol caused a significant decrease in total waking time and an increase in total non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep time. In order to clarify the mechanism of action, olfactory hypofunction was caused in rats by intranasal application of 5% zinc sulfate solution, and thereafter the effects of inhalation of fragrances were evaluated. In this study, it was found that the impairment of the olfactory system showed no significant effect on the changes in sleep parameters induced by santalol. This result suggests that santalol may act via the circulatory system rather than the olfactory system. That is, santalol is thought to be absorbed into the blood through the respiratory mucosa, and then exert its action. From these results, it is concluded that santalol may be useful in patients having difficulty maintaining sleep without being affected by individual differences in perfume-related preference.