Can a smell wake you up?

22nd July 2009

Asked by: Keith Stephenson, Walsall

Smelling salts (ammonium carbonate) have been used since at least the 17th century to revive a patient from a faint. They work because the ammonia gas irritates the lungs and triggers an inhalation reflex, which alters the breathing patterns and elevates blood oxygen levels. With ordinary sleep, it is quite possible to be woken by the smell of coffee or frying bacon, which stimulates the appetite and raises arousal levels.

5 issues for £5 when you subscribe to BBC Focus Magazine