Sleep Learning with Smell Could Reduce Addiction

Get rid of your addictions while you sleep? Weizmann Institute researcher Dr. Anat Arzi is not promising this yet, but she and Prof. Noam Sobel have shown that changing bad habits through sleep conditioning could someday be possible. After just one session in the Neurobiology Department’s sleep lab, volunteers reported smoking on average 30% fewer cigarettes over the course of a week.

smoked fishVolunteers given the same conditioning while awake did not reduce their nicotine consumption.

Arzi and Sobel had first demonstrated true sleep learning in 2012. This is the same conditioning that Pavlov discovered when he trained dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell: Teach the mind to subconsciously associate one sensation with another. Their twist was to use smell instead of the bell: We can register and even react to odors while we sleep without waking up. So when the volunteers were exposed throughout the night to the smell of cigarette smoke together with that of rotten fish, they did not remember it in the morning. And yet their need for a “ciggie” was not as strong as it had been.

Arzi_Sobel_lores Arzi and Sobel

The second trick was to monitor the sleepers’ brain waves and administer the smells at the right stage of sleep. The group’s previous research had suggested that the associations are formed and cemented in the brain during non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM) sleep – the stage in which researchers believe that memories from the previous day are being consolidated. The new study supported this finding quite strongly.

Arzi assiduously points out that the research has proven a point about the workings of the sleeping brain. She will be pleased, of course, if clinical researchers adopt the method and improve on it. She, herself, intends to use this window on the brain’s activity to keep investigating the mysterious phenomena of sleep and learning, and the apparently unique place of smell among our senses.

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How long will the patient have to go through this therapy to be permanently cured from the addiction?

By George B Dunn (not verified) on 10 Apr 2015 #permalink

“In Minnesota, several hundred people stopped smoking when they tuned their radios to an over-night sleep-learning program designed to help them quit. In England, a television producer announced that he would learn Spanish by the sleep-learning method. After two weeks, he demonstrated his success by broadcasting in Spanish - with a very good accent! In California, 70 people a day reported that listening to an early morning radio broadcast of sleep-learning messages dramatically decreased their desire to overeat.” http://www.sleeplearning.com/index.htm
if people can use this methods at home is it not more desirable to use this methods than the mentioned treatment ,because it can be used at home and not in institute which is labor intensive and costly.

If the addiction does not have a smell associated with it how can the addiction be reduced using this treatment? For example some pills or drugs that have no or a barely noticeable odor. Has the long term effects of this treatment been tested and could it not also perhaps have a different effect then desired? For example can someone be put off from fish, since rotten fish have a very distinct smell, and eat fish less as well or instead of smoking less?

By Chanelle Olivi… (not verified) on 14 Apr 2015 #permalink

Who would have known that treating addictions is possible while being asleep, unlike while being in the state of awareness which is more or less difficult. This arises many other possibilities, the human brain could probably be capable of doing so many other functions while the body is asleep then when the body is active.

By Sughra Hakim, … (not verified) on 15 Apr 2015 #permalink

If the addiction does not have a smell associated with it how can the addiction be reduced using this treatment? For example some pills or drugs that have no or a barely noticeable odor. Has the long term effects of this treatment been tested and could it not also perhaps have a different effect then desired? For example can someone be put off from fish, since rotten fish have a very distinct smell and eat fish less as well? Will they maybe eat fish less rather than smoking less?

By Chanelle Olivi… (not verified) on 17 Apr 2015 #permalink

I think this treatment can be very beneficial especially if combined with other treatments. Treatment must not only adress the addiction but also the triggers that led to the addiction in the first place.Like the usability to handle stress. If the triggers are removed as wel as the cravings the road to a cure is much smoother.

With this treatment isn't there a danger that the person will only swap the addiction for a new one because the patient will develop an adversity to smoking but because the cause of the addiction is not cured. Isnt this just the treating a symptom and not curing the disease.

If the addiction does not have a smell associated with it, how can the addiction be reduced using this treatment? For example, some pills or drugs that have no or a barely noticeable odor. Has the long term effects of this treatment been tested and could it not also perhaps have a different effect then desired? Since rotten fish have a very distinct smell can someone be put off from fish and eat fish less as well? Or can someone even eat fish less instead of smoking less?

By Chanelle Olivi… (not verified) on 19 Apr 2015 #permalink

Have they tested this method on people with other addictions?

What addictions can be treated with this method?

What If the addiction does not have a smell associated with it how can the addiction be reduced using this treatment? For example some pills or drugs that have no or a barely noticeable odor. Has the long term effects of this treatment been tested and could it not also perhaps have a different effect then desired? For example can someone be put off from fish, since rotten fish have a very distinct smell, and eat fish less as well or instead of smoking less?

By Chanelle Olivi… (not verified) on 19 Apr 2015 #permalink

This method of treating addiction is extremely innovative. Although it is still in the early days of testing, the results do seem promising. This may be a more effective way to quit the habit of smoking, or at least reduce the daily amount of nicotine intake by a smoker. Given how addictive nicotine is and how smokers struggle to kick the habit, I believe it is worth it to investigate this method further.

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By Estie-Lome Mouton (not verified) on 21 Apr 2015 #permalink