Peppermint, a stimulating odor, increases alertness while awake and therefore may inhibit sleep. This study examined peppermint's effects on polysomnographic (PSG) sleep, alertness, and mood when presented before bedtime. Twenty-one healthy sleepers (mean age ± S.D., 20.1 ± 2.0 years) completed three consecutive laboratory sessions (adaptation, control, and stimulus nights). Peppermint reduced fatigue and improved mood and was rated as more pleasant, intense, stimulating, and elating than water. These perceptual qualities associated with sleep measures: subjects rating peppermint as very intense had more total sleep than those rating it as moderately intense, and also showed more slow-wave sleep (SWS) in the peppermint than control session. Furthermore, subjects who found peppermint stimulating showed more NREM and less REM sleep while those rating it as sedating took longer to reach SWS. Peppermint did not affect PSG sleep, however, when these perceptual qualities were not considered. Peppermint also produced gender-differentiated responses: it increased NREM sleep in women, but not men, and alertness in men, but not women, compared with the control. Thus, psychological factors, including individual differences in odor perception play an important role in physiological sleep and self-rated mood and alertness changes. © 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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