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Sat Nite Fun: Can’t sleep? Try mind over matter

File:François Riss Lullaby.jpg
Lullaby/Francois Riss (1804-1886)

Just tell yourself you slept well, and if you believe it, you’ll perform better. Or so this study suggests:

J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2014 Jan 13. [Epub ahead of print]

Placebo Sleep Affects Cognitive Functioning.

Draganich C, Erdal K.


The placebo effect is any outcome that is not attributed to a specific treatment but rather to an individual’s mindset (Benson & Friedman, 1996). This phenomenon can extend beyond its typical use in pharmaceutical drugs to involve aspects of everyday life, such as the effect of sleep on cognitive functioning. In 2 studies examining whether perceived sleep quality affects cognitive functioning, 164 participants reported their previous night’s sleep quality. They were then randomly assigned to 1 of 2 sleep quality conditions or 2 control conditions. Those in the “above average” sleep quality condition were informed that they had spent 28.7% of their total sleep time in REM, whereas those in the “below average” sleep quality condition were informed that they had only spent 16.2% of their time in REM sleep. Assigned sleep quality but not self-reported sleep quality significantly predicted participants’ scores on the Paced Auditory Serial Addition Test and Controlled Oral Word Association Task. Assigned sleep quality did not predict participants’ scores on the Digit Span task, as expected, nor did it predict scores on the Symbol Digit Modalities Test, which was unexpected. The control conditions showed that the findings were not due to demand characteristics from the experimental protocol. These findings supported the hypothesis that mindset can influence cognitive states in both positive and negative directions, suggesting a means of controlling one’s health and cognition. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved).

It works for exercise too. Here (Smithsonian) , we learn

A study that told a group of hotel housekeepers that their work was good exercise found that those workers scored higher on health indicators than a group of hotel housekeepers who didn’t think they were getting exercise on the job.

Here’s the study.

Curiously, the placebo effect is increasing, which is good and bad news. There is also the “nocebo” effect: Thinking you’re getting worse can have harmful health effects if you are already sick.

Sleep tite anyway, but if you didn’t, just tell yourself you did, in an authoritative but soothing manner. 😉

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Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose


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