Pages Menu

Posted on Feb 5, 2014 in News | 0 comments

Placebo sleep polishes performance


In the current day in age, it is an all too common an occurrence to feel a constant lack of good quality sleep. While it is common to hear people talk about how tired they are or how little sleep they are getting, new research shows that getting “placebo sleep” can actually increase performance as well.

So what is “placebo sleep”? The researchers suggest that an individuals mindset about the quality of their sleep could effect their performance. To test this hypothesis, they devised a great experiment. Participants were asked on a scale of 1 to 10 to rate the quality of the sleep, after which they were assigned to one of two random groups. They were given background information on sleep quality and specifically told that normal people tend to spend between 20-25% of their sleep time in REM sleep, with those spending more than 25% achieving higher results in learning tests.

The groups were attached to monitoring equipment and told that the researchers were calculating their REM sleep percentage to assess the quality of their sleep. The researchers were not calculating this at all, but rather assigning a score of either 16.2% REM sleep or 28.7% REM sleep based on their randomisation. After receiving the score, the participants were tasked with completing tests that assessed tasks commonly affected by sleep deprivation. A second control group experiment was conducted to reduce experimental bias.

The results showed that the placebo effect existed even for the effects of sleep! Participants who were assigned higher scores tended to perform better on the tests, while those assigned lower scores did worse. So next time you feel tired and sleepy, getting a colleague to mention how fresh & awake you look may just be more effective than coffee.


By Dr Raffy Halim