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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 3, Issue 3, Pages 373-377
http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ecam/nel017
Original Article

Evaluating Effects of Aromatherapy Massage on Sleep in Children with Autism: A Pilot Study

School of Psychology, University of Reading and Berkshire, Healthcare NHS Trust, UK

Received 19 February 2006; Accepted 16 March 2006

Copyright © 2006 Tim I. Williams. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Previous studies have found beneficial effects of aromatherapy massage for agitation in people with dementia, for pain relief and for poor sleep. Children with autism often have sleep difficulties, and it was thought that aromatherapy massage might enable more rapid sleep onset, less sleep disruption and longer sleep duration. Twelve children with autism and learning difficulties (2 girls and 10 boys aged between 12 years 2 months to 15 years 7 months) in a residential school participated in a within subjects repeated measures design: 3 nights when the children were given aromatherapy massage with lavender oil were compared with 14 nights when it was not given. The children were checked every 30 min throughout the night to determine the time taken for the children to settle to sleep, the number of awakenings and the sleep duration. One boy's data were not analyzed owing to lengthy absence. Repeated measures analysis revealed no differences in any of the sleep measures between the nights when the children were given aromatherapy massage and nights when the children were not given aromatherapy massage. The results suggest that the use of aromatherapy massage with lavender oil has no beneficial effect on the sleep patterns of children with autism attending a residential school. It is possible that there are greater effects in the home environment or with longer-term interventions.