How the placebo effect works when it comes to sleep

The Power of Perception

the placebo effect

Good morning

Are you surprised to learn that your perception of how well you slept last night makes a difference to your performance the next day?

A study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found this surprising result. If you merely believe you got a good night’s sleep, your cognitive performance gets a boost the next day!

The study included 164 people split into two groups. Researchers gave both groups a lecture on the importance of sleep quality and the dangers of sleep deprivation.

Then they told the participants that people get an average of 20% REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep per night. To back up their claims, researchers measured the participants brainwave frequencies and showed them formulas and spreadsheets of the results.

These figures and results were purely made up however. They were simply used to influence people’s perception of how well they slept during the night.

After the night’s ‘monitoring’ and ‘results analysis’, the first group was told that they achieved ‘above average’ sleep quality and spent 28.7% in REM sleep.

The second group was told that their result was ‘below average’ quality of sleep with only 16.2% of sleep spent in REM sleep.

Is it all Make – Believe?

But these numbers were all made up. This is where it becomes quite fascinating.

Researchers asked the participants to complete a number of cognitive tests.

You’ve probably guessed where this is heading. People who were told that they had slept above average scored higher test results in attention and memory. Those who were told they had not slept very well got lower scores.

In a little twist, the researchers also asked people to self-record how well they thought they had slept the night before.

The self reported results showed no association between how well people thought they had slept and how well they performed in the cognitive tests.

The Power of the Placebo Effect

The placebo effect is nothing new. What’s new is the realisation of how far reaching this effect is and the impact it has on our daily lives. Because it noticeably impacts the quality of our sleep, it pays to pay attention to what you chose to believe.

The power of the information we take on board and what we chose to believe effects everything in our life. Especially when it comes from a source we consider an authority. Credible sounding information has a far reaching impact on our beliefs and noticeably affects our performance. That’s a powerful reason to make sure that you look at what you chose to believe with a critical attitude.

We tend to conform to expectations and our own belief systems. When we sincerely believe something like that the quality of our sleep is above average, expectations that we will perform well are borne out by the results.

The power of the placebo effect, whilst being somewhat of a mystery, proves itself over and over again. Why not use it to your advantage? After all, you have nothing to lose – there are no side effects at all 🙂

So tonight, when you nod off, tell yourself that you will have a great night’s sleep. When you wake up it will be easier to believe that you did, in fact, sleep very well. Your performance during the day will thank you for it.

For more tips on how to sleep better, check out the post on what is the best supplement for better Sleep.


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