I’m pretty sure that you have problems with sleep. Maybe you come home and are very tired, decide to watch a single episode of a TV Series. “Just a single episode,” you say to yourself… Minutes pass, hours pass… Then what do you know, you’ve been watching Netflix for 5 hours and it’s 2 AM. You unwillingly close the TV and go to bed. Only to fail to fall asleep, as you try harder your sleep slowly fades away and you get filled with energy. You resort to reading Tweets on your phone for another 3 hours, until you fall asleep. Beep Beep Beep! It’s time to go to work. Since you’ve only slept for 4 hours, you can’t do much work.
Does this seem familiar to you? Well, if it does, let me introduce you to Placebo Sleeping.
Before Placebo Sleeping, you should know what the term placebo means. Placebo refers to a treatment which actually doesn’t do anything. It just makes you think you’ve been treated and your disease or condition should be under control or completely gone. Sometimes sick people who are treated with placebo feel like they’re getting better, and sometimes they actually do get better because they feel like they are getting better. That is what we call the placebo effect. If you are interested in this topic I recommend you take a look at the Placebo Effect Wikipedia page.
Now that you have a basic understanding of Placebo, we can continue with our main topic, Placebo Sleep. Let’s go back to the story, to the part where you failed to do any work because of not sleeping well. But maybe thinking that you didn’t sleep well was the cause of not being able to work efficiently. Maybe if you tried to be optimistic about failing to sleep, you’d have done a lot of work efficiently. In a study by the Journal of Experimental Psychology researchers from Colorado College tested the effects of being told you are getting enough sleep.
Participants were first asked how deeply they had slept the night before on a scale from one to ten. The researchers then gave the participants a quick lesson on sleep’s effect on mental function, telling them it was background info for the study. During the lesson they told the participants that adults normally spend between 20 and 25 percent of their sleep time in REM sleep, and that getting less REM sleep than that usually causes lower performance on learning tests. They also added that people who spend more than 25 percent of their sleep time in REM sleep have even better performance.
The researchers told the participants that they would use some equipment to measure their pulse, heart rate, and brainwave frequency. However, the equipment only recorded their brainwave frequency. The researchers also lied to the participants that these measurements would reveal how much REM sleep they had the previous night. This was false.
An experimenter pretended to calculate that each participant had either 16.2 percent or 28.7 percent of REM sleep the night before. Then, the participants took a test that assessed their “auditory attention and speed of processing,” skills most affected by sleep deprivation,” according to the study.
And the results were interesting; participants who were told that they had above-average REM sleep performed significantly better on the test while those who were told they had below-average REM sleep performed worse.
What did we learn from this? We learned that your brain works better if you think you slept well, even if you didn’t. But if you always say how tired you are, like many people do, it might make you do worse. Being optimistic about sleep does surely affect your daily life.
Thank you for reading.