The use of aromatherapy at night improved mean scores of well-being in patients with cancer in a hospital setting. Although average sleep quality scores also improved in this study, the results were not statistically significant. These results were published in the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing.

In the oncology nursing setting, the use of aromatherapy has been correlated with improved outcomes in patients and could complement standard care. This pilot trial aimed to evaluate whether aromatherapy improved nighttime comfort in hospitalized patients with cancer, with a particular focus on well-being and sleep quality. This research evaluated whether aromatherapy would contribute to nighttime comfort in a way that could possibly improve outcomes and may even result in decreased length of stay in the hospital.

This quasi-experimental pilot trial with a single arm and a pretest/posttest design assessed the effects of nighttime aromatherapy in 34 patients with cancer in the Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills, California.

Continue Reading

Measured via the World Health Organization – Five (WHO-5) Well-Being Index, mean well-being scores increased from 46.38 (SD, 22.76) pre-intervention to 58 (SD, 26.9; P =.006). Measured via the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, mean sleep scores improved from 9.38 (SD, 3.66) preintervention to 8.45 (SD, 4.11) postintervention, but the improvement was not statistically significant.

In total, 20 of 22 respondents who submitted open-ended responses reported positive experiences with nighttime aromatherapy, including improved relaxation, soothing, sleep, and relief from nausea.

Notably, this study was designed to assess the feasibility of an aromatherapy intervention, and its structure limits broader generalizability. Additionally, the small sample size limited statistical power. Future research could be designed with more statistical power and use a randomized design.

In nursing, these results suggest nighttime aromatherapy is a feasible, safe, and possibly efficacious intervention for hospitalized patients undergoing cancer care.

“Based on these preliminary findings, complementary and alternative care modalities like aromatherapy can be used as supportive care therapies for patients with cancer,” the researchers concluded. “Healthcare providers can encourage patients to explore options to improve sleep and overall quality of life by enhancing their nighttime comfort.”

Phillips LA, Kilani M, Mendelson S, Bindler RJ. Using aromatherapy to improve nighttime comfort in hospitalized patients with cancer: a pilot study. Clin J Oncol Nurs. 2023;27(4):389-396. doi:10.1188/23.CJON.389-396.

This article originally appeared on Oncology Nurse Advisor