Foul smells during sleep may help smokers quit

Pairing cigarette scents with rotten egg and fish odors made people smoke fewer cigarettes

rotting fish

SERVICEABLE STINK  Smokers cut down on their cigarette intake for a few days after one night of scientists wafting the smells of rotten fish and eggs over them. 

Luke Chapman/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Call it the sweet stench of success. The aromas of rotting eggs and fish smelled while sleeping might help smokers cut back, a study suggests.

Researchers pumped the stenches of rotten fish and eggs over smokers, along with the scent of cigarettes. People who inhaled the odors during one night while sleeping lightly reported smoking 34.4 percent fewer cigarettes in the following week than they had the week before. Those who received the smells during rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep smoked 11.9 percent fewer cigarettes. Wakeful smokers who smelled the stinks along with cigarette smoke did not cut back.

The experiment, appearing in the Nov. 12 Journal of Neuroscience, fits with others finding that what people learn while asleep can influence their behavior for days (SN: 12/29/12, p. 28).

More Stories from Science News on Health & Medicine