Sense of smell in dreams

Inspired by this week’s Lucidity Challenge on experiencing different senses in lucid dreams, I ran some database queries on some of the collections of dream reports that have been made available for research purposes.

I now have an interesting theory. It isn’t confirmed yet, because the dream databases I was looking at don’t have enough dreams to give statistically significant results. Still, I’ll mention it here anyway:

In general, people very rarely experience a sense of smell in dreams. The main exception seems to be the scent of their partner’s body (pheromones, etc). To formalize this as a statistical hypothesis: I conjecture that sex dreams (e.g. those that have a “sexuality” coding element in the Hall/Van de Castle coding) and dreams in which the dreamer experiences a sense of smell will turn out to be very highly correlated.

Hmmmm, interesting :smile:

In my personal experience, I have seldom experienced the sense of smell during my dreams
One of my first lucids had perhaps the strongest occurrence: some sweets had a very strong and good smell of cinnamon, which I was still able to recall well after several days !
Only couple more times I have managed to smell hot coffee or chocolate, but I don’t recall any dream smell linked to sexual activity in my case…

I remember from my childhood dreams with a very intense smell. Those were usually nightmares: I would walk into the house and find it on fire, there would be a chemical fire at a nearby factory, etc. The smell of smoke was painful in those dreams. The chemical fire dream had a smell of ammonia in it, and at that age I didn’t know what ammonia was.

Last night, I had a fire nightmare again. This time it was an electric fire, and it smelled like a dusty computer, just much more intense. I also have a recurring fragment where the house smells, and I can’t figure out where it comes from.

In lucid dreams, I can smell and taste perfectly. I have had excellent orange juice, wine, tea…and one of my most intense rage dreams involved the smell of bacon.

Senses of taste and smell are perfect in my dreams. Not proud about it… I just woke up from a stinky dream.

Please add me and Siiw to the outliers then.

I hope I can cooperate with Susan_Y some day on more hypothesis testing.

I had a look to see if there was any published research on this subject, and found:

Olfactory Dreams: Phenomenology, Relationship to Volitional Imagery and Odor Identification. Richard J. Stevenson and Trevor I. Case. Imagination, Cognition and Personality. Vol 24 no 1, 2004.

They suggest that a sense of smell in dreams may be connected with higher emotional content, either positive or negative. The between-participants statistical test saw a statistically significant correlation; the within-participants test saw a correlation that was too small to be statistically significant.

So there is some evidence for this theory, though it’s a bit inconclusive.

The association of smell with both negative and positive emotions fits with Siiw’s dreams where she smells smoke. (They’re examples of smell + highly negative emotion).

This makes sense. The sense of smell is directly connected to a “primitive” part of the brain, which is responsible for among other things fear and other primal instincts. The dreams where I smell smoke are nightmares of fires.

Interesting topic. I don’t remember ever having a sense of smell in dreams before coming to LD4All, in fact I remember using that as a dream sign in one of the first dreams I wrote down in my DJ here: link

After posting that, multiple members of the forum told me they do have a sense of smell in dreams, so I made it a personal goal to have it too, and fulfilled it in a dream I can’t seem to find. Its essence was that someone released deadly poison into the air, and I recognized it by its sweet smell.

Since then, I’ve had sense of smell in dreams, pleasant when it comes to food, and unpleasant usually in dreams with blood and gore.

You smell passively in waking life, I think that’s part of the reason it’s rare in dreams. You focus on what you see and hear all the time, but you only focus on smelling occasionally.

It’s not missing in dreams, like previous posters have said. If I actively try to smell something in a dream, I’m usually successful. I can recall smelling coffee and toxic chemicals in my dreams, I’m sure there are more but those are the first that come to mind.

If you make it your dreaming goal and focus on smelling different things in waking life, I’m sure you would start to smell more things in dreams.

I dont know why but i am just not able to smell anything in dreams? Maybe I just dont realise it, but I cant remember a single dream where I smelled sth. :sad:

I will make smelling in dreams a goal. It’s one of my neglected dream senses, so it seems. My sense of smell is acute irl, and I use it all the time for information and enjoyment.

My dream from Friday November 24 Dream Observers… included a strong sense of smell.
link to original dream

I can only recall two dreams where I noticed a sense of smell.

April 5, 2017
My first experience took place in the same dream where I experienced a sense of taste. Before I found and ate these little jelly candies, I could smell the musty cabin air around me.

April 25, 2017
My second experience came only twenty days later, when I found myself sitting in a jungle with a group of aboriginals. The air is damp and cool, and I can smell the freshness of the trees producing oxygen.

 From my experiences, I find that smells in the dream realm are much more intense compared to waking life, and they seem to push me towards full lucidity. Wakes me up a certain degree.

There is only one dream where a certain scent was important and this dream is nearly 10 years ago ^-^"
There was a certain person I got very close to and I like a lot. This someone smelled like sugar, very, very intense after sugar or cotton candy, something like that. There wasn’t a reason why but I think my purpose in this dream (wasn’t a LD) was to hug this someone and by that I just smelled :happy:

These sound great! This is the type of dream smell experiences I’d like to have.

I was just thinking about this the day before! I’ve been incorporating different senses in my RC’s, and it then occurred to me that smell just about never occurs for me in dreams. Sight, taste, touch, and even the sensation of moving, have all been extremely vivid, but sound is extremely rare, and smell, maybe one or two experiences (related to nostalgia). However, IWL I’m extremely sensitive to smell, and scents are one of my favourite indulgences (actively too haha), so it’s interesting that it’d never show up in dreams. Not even the act of smelling something!

I love reading these experiences of smell in dreams! What a nice touch to the dream experience IMO.

Day before yesterday I had near lucid dream where the smell of cigarettes in a mostly enclosed space nearly made me sick. I commented on it in the dream.

Such an interesting topic! And a intersting theory too!

I never used my sense of smeel in dreams and I almost thought it was impossible. Thanks to you I know it isn’t, so I’ll try to get it.

About your theory, Susan_Y, I kind of experiented myself though I’m not sure it was in a “dream”…
Several time, I selpt only a few hours during night and so I took naps (I normally never do it). And just before these naps, I had like a “pre-dream period” with very realistic hallucinations. I wasn’t sleeping, my mind was awake, but well, my eyes were closed and I was seeing and feelings unreal things.
During this period, I regularly slept with someone other in my bed. And so the hallucinations I got during the nap I took the same day was almost always the same: this person was here with me, I could see it, hear it, touch it (though I wasn’t moving at all, it was the hallucination which was coming to my body, and I could feel when it touched me) and… smell it.
So that wasn’t actually a dream… but it kind work with your theory :wink:

I will try to focuse during my next sex dreams :wink:

I don’t know why however I am simply not ready to smell anything in dreams? Possibly I just don’t acknowledge it, yet I can’t recollect a solitary dream where I smelled something.

Interesting topic. I’m quite used to actively smell things, especially medicinal plants and food, but I don’t recall ever experiencing a smell in an ordinary dream.

During a recent LD I begun wondering whether I could smell something and there I was, in my garden, next to the Lavender plant. I plucked some flowers and crushed them under my nose (as I like to do IWL) but didn’t pick up any scent - disappointing! So it’s interesting to read that many of you can experience smells in a dream.

i definitely have experienced many smells in dreams, but it isnt all that common. usually i guess i dont think about smell.

like Siiw when i think of intense smells in dreams many are quite disturbing from nightmares.