Monday, 22 Sep, 2008 Science

Smells Can Influence Dreams, Scientists Say


Scientists discovered that specific aromas can "sweeten" your dreams. Boris Stuck of University Hospital Mannheim, Germany, tried to discover whether smells are able to influence what a person dreams about.

The scientist analyzed the effect of aromas on 15 sleeping volunteers who were exposed to chemicals that had the smell of either rotten eggs or roses. Mr Stuck said that the majority of everyday smells feature two components: the real smell and an element that can irritate your nose.

"By exposing the patients to chemicals chosen to only incorporate the smelly component, we were able to stimulate them with really high doses of the smell without them waking up," he said.

Together with his colleagues Mr Stuck waited until the participants entered the REM phase of sleep, which represents a stage at which most dreams occur. Then the team exposed the subjects to a high dose of malodorous air for ten seconds and one minute later they woke the volunteers up. After the experiment the subjects were asked about the dreams they had and how a dream made on feel.

Those who were exposed to the rose smell reported having a positive dream experience. A negative effect was reported from people who were exposed to rotten eggs. According to scientists, smells are able to influence the emotional coloration of the dream.

Now scientists look forward to observe the effect of smells on people suffering from nightmares.

Irshaad Ebrahim of The London Sleep Centre said: "The relationship between external stimuli and dreaming is something we are all at some level aware of. This initial research is a step in the direction towards clarifying these questions and may well lead to therapeutic benefits."

The scientific work of Mr Stuck was presented at the annual meeting of American Academy of Otolaryngology in Chicago.

Source: NewScientist

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