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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 09-Feb-14

 


Sunday 09-February-14

Pretend to sleep: it's good for you!

The placebo effect is a well-known phenomenon, where people believe their doctors can heal them and that pills prescribed will be effective. This belief is so strong that even taking pills with no medicine contained (placebos) can lead to an improvement. This is the power of belief, of mind-over-body even to the point of combating illness.

Now researchers have taken it a weird step further. Building on work by Tang and Harvey (2004), Draganich and Erdal (2014) told half their sleep-monitored subjects that they had 16.2 percent REM sleep the previous night, which indicates poor sleep quality. The other half were told they had a healthy 28.7 percent REM sleep. Then they were given a difficult arithmetic task, in which those who thought they'd had a good night's sleep outperformed those who thought their REM sleep was limited. Further research also confirmed that belief that a person has slept well leads to a superior performance.

So if you want a friend to do well in a taxing task, tell them that they slept well, perhaps mentioning evidence such as that they were snoring loudly! Maybe even you can act in ways that suggest to your own subconscious that you slept well, stretching well in the morning and telling yourself you have had a good nights sleep. Try it and see what happens.

Reference:
Draganich C, and Erdal K (2014). Placebo Sleep Affects Cognitive Functioning. Journal of Experimental Psychology. Learning, Memory and Cognition. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24417326

Tang, N.K.Y. and Harvey, A.G. (2004). Correcting distorted perception of sleep in insomnia: a novel behavioural experiment? Behaviour Research and Therapy, 42, 27-39


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