Here's a good reason to appreciate flowers for more than just how beautiful they look or how wonderful they make you feel. Pleasing floral smells may also improve your dreams, giving you a good night sleep.
The relationship between smells and dreams was presented at last week's Chicago meeting of the American Academy of Otolaryngology. The work had been conducted by German researchers who looked at the role of pleasing smells and the emotions of dreaming subjects.
Studies like this can be difficult to conduct. You need to use a stimulus that's strong enough to influence a dream but not so strong it wakes the subject. Some smells, like peppermint, also irritate the nasal passages. The smells used in this study were chosen with this in mind.
Fifteen female subjects spent 30 days allowing the research team to monitor their brainwaves during sleep in order to tell when they reached the REM phase of sleep. This is the stage when most dreams happen. At this point the women were exposed to a high does of scents (pleasant like roses; unpleasant like rotten eggs) for ten seconds and woken a minute later to record their dreams.
Amazingly the women didn't dream of smelling anything. . . but pleasant scents were related to pleasant emotions in dreams. Bad smells brought reports of troubling emotions.
Boris Stuck, lead researcher for the study and a professor of otorhinolaryngology at Heidelberg University, noted that, “It obviously does not determine what you dream about, but it influences how you experience a dream. "
Earlier studies have shown that stimulation like pressure or vibration as well as sounds can have an impact on the content and emotional tone of dreams.
Experts also know that smell is the only sense that doesn't “sleep" - allowing information to reach the limbic system, a part of the brain involved with memory and emotion. All the other senses must pass through the thalamus, which is closed when you sleep.
The researchers are hoping that this work will lead to treatments that can be used with those suffering post traumatic stress syndrome or nightmares. In the future they hope it may be possible to create a compact machine that monitors brain activity and releases a pleasing scent under the nose at the right moment during dreaming to provide a good night sleep.
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