Sleep Disorders

22 September 2008

How smells affect your dreams

Can the smell of rotten eggs or roses change the type of dream you have? Quite possibly, new research suggests.

Can the smell of rotten eggs or roses change the type of dream you have? Quite possibly, new research suggests.

Finding balance difficult in research
Stuck said that previous research had shown that other types of stimulation, such as sound, pressure or vibration, could influence the content and the emotional tone of dreams.

How the study was done
The study included 15 young, healthy females. As the women entered rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep, when dreaming occurs, they were exposed to either a non-odorous control smell, the rose smell or the rotten egg smell. Each woman underwent three REM "awakenings," so they were exposed to each test once.

Study shows we can alter emotional content of dreams
Pamela Dalton is an expert on odour perception and a sensory psychologist at the Monell Chemical Senses Centre in Philadelphia. She said, "We are aware at some level of our odorous ambient environment at all times, and I don't think we appreciate that. At some level, our brains are always aware. If this study shows that we can alter the emotional content of dreams, think about what an odour can do to your mood without you even being aware."

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Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.

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