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The Effect of Aromatherapy on Insomnia and Other Common Symptoms Among Patients With Acute Leukemia

Lisa Blackburn
Sara Achor
Betty Allen
Nicole Bauchmire
Danielle Dunnington
Rebecca B. Klisovic
Steven J. Naber
Kirsten Roblee
Angela Samczak
Kelly Tomlinson-Pinkham
Esther Chipps
ONF 2017, 44(4), E185-E193 DOI: 10.1188/17.ONF.E185-E193

Purpose/Objectives: To determine if the use of aromatherapy improves insomnia and other common symptoms in hospitalized patients with newly diagnosed acute leukemia.

Design: A randomized, crossover, washout trial.

Setting: An inpatient acute leukemia unit at the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard L. Solove Research Institute of the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University in Columbus.

Sample: 50 patients who were newly diagnosed with acute leukemia and hospitalized to receive their initial four weeks of intensive induction chemotherapy.

Methods: Patients were offered a choice of three scents to be used during the trial: lavender, peppermint, or chamomile. Each patient was randomized to receive either the chosen aromatherapy intervention or a placebo intervention during alternate weeks, with a washout period in between. Sleep quality and other common symptoms were measured.

Main Research Variables: Aromatherapy, sleep, insomnia, pain, tiredness, drowsiness, nausea, lack of appetite, shortness of breath, depression, anxiety, and well-being.

Findings: Most patients reported poor quality sleep at baseline, but aromatherapy had a statistically significant positive impact. Improvements were noted in tiredness, drowsiness, lack of appetite, depression, anxiety, and well-being because of aromatherapy.

Conclusions: Aromatherapy is a viable intervention for improving insomnia and other symptoms commonly experienced by patients with acute leukemia.

Implications for Nursing: Oncology nurses can employ aromatherapy safely and inexpensively, and with minimal training, as an effective tool in decreasing many symptoms that plague patients with leukemia. Patients can exercise a greater sense of control over their treatment environments through the use of aromatherapy.

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