Can you learn to stop smoking while you sleep?
A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience suggests that people may be able to change certain behaviors –such as smoking – by undergoing training as they sleep.
Specifically, researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel say they were able to help people to quit smoking by exposing them, as they slept, to a combination of cigarette smoke and another foul odor, such as rotting eggs or fish.
To conduct their study, the scientists had 66 volunteers fill out a questionnaire about their smoking habits and then split them into two groups. Those in the “sleep” group spent a night in the department’s sleep lab, in which their sleep patterns were closely monitored. At certain stages of sleep, they were exposed to paired smells -- cigarettes and a foul odor -- one right after the other, repeatedly throughout the night. Although the participants said that they did not remember smelling the odors the next morning, they did report smoking less during the following week. The other group that was exposed to the paired smells when awake did not reduce their smoking afterward, nor did sleepers who were exposed to cigarette smells and two other bad odors smells, but at random times.
The researchers believe olfactory training may be a promising next step in addiction research because the brain’s reward center in closely connected with the regions that process smell.