Cigarettes are much less tempting when your brain associates them with something really gross, like rotting fish, according to a new study, which suggests that the seeds of behavioral change can be planted while we’re sleeping.
A group of smokers who wanted to quit headed into a sleep-science lab for a one-night sleepover. Throughout the the night, some of the sleepers were exposed to a mash-up of the smell of cigarette smoke paired with awful smells, like rotten fish or eggs. Other volunteers were exposed to the smells, but one at a time, and a third group smelled the cigarette-and-gross-thing combo while awake.
The next week, all the participants kept track of how many cigarettes they smoked, and the participants who had been exposed to the paired smells while they slept smoked fewer cigarettes than the other groups — even though they had no memory of the smells. Suddenly, something about smoking just smelled a little fishy (sorry).