A new study, conducted in Israel, shows that smokers smoke fewer cigarettes during the day after smelling cigarette smoke combined with foul odors during sleep. The study suggests that the sleeping brain consolidates memories and may even form new associations.

A Digital Journal news report notes that the idea behind the study is that as the human body rests, the brain continues to function, and it appears that the associations formed during sleep can lead to long-term changes in behavior.

The Israeli study focused on the number of cigarettes people smoked. The results of the study indicated that sleeping smokers who were exposed to the smell of cigarette smoke followed seconds later by the smell of fish or rotten eggs smoked 30% fewer cigarettes during the week after the sleep test compared with the week before (when they slept normally, without exposure to unpleasant smells), according to the Digital Journal news report. The effect was not observed in smokers who were exposed to the smells while awake or in those who experienced the smells at separate times during sleep.

The Digital Journal news report notes that this type of “olfactory conditioning” holds potential as a treatment for addiction, particularly because the brain’s reward center is linked to the sense of smell.

Noam Sobel, a lead scientist at the Weizmann Institute, commented on the study, saying, “We have not yet invented a way to quit smoking as you sleep. That will require a different kind of study, altogether. What we have shown is that conditioning can take place during sleep, and this conditioning can lead to real behavioral changes. Our sense of smell may be an entryway to our sleeping brain that may, in the future, help us to change addictive or harmful behavior.”

Source: Digital Journal