Objective: Sleep disturbances are recognized as an important health and public health problem that affects physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being. Inhalation of essential oils may be a safe alternative to pharmaceutical interventions for mild to moderate sleep disturbances. Quantitative human studies on the effect of inhaled essential oils on sleep that were published between 1990 to 2012 were reviewed.
Methods: Ovid Medline, PsychINFO, CINAHL, Science Direct, and PubMed databases were searched to extract articles that evaluated the effect of inhaled essential oils on sleep in humans.
Results: The search yielded 15 quantitative studies, including 11 randomized controlled trials that examined hypnotic effects of inhalation of essential oils. A majority of the study findings suggested a positive effect of essential oils on sleep. Lavender was the most frequently studied essential oil. No adverse events were reported.
Conclusions: Inhalation of essential oils may be considered for people with mild sleep disturbances. Further studies with larger samples and stronger methods and endpoints are needed to build on the findings.