Sleep is important. Some need a little less of it, maybe 6 hours, while others need more, say 9 hours. But restful sleep is important nonetheless – that is, if we intend to be productive during the day.
Not getting enough of sleep that our body demands can result in us feeling sloppy, cranky, and miserable all day long (despite a caffeine overdose) with nothing coming of hours spent trying to do something useful. Scientists seem to have come up with an easy solution to this problem plaguing our overachieving world.
What if we said you can be up and about regardless of the actual quality of your sleep?
REM Sleep Is Only 20% Of Your Total Sleep Time
A lot of people believe that their need for sleep dwindles with age. The National Sleep Foundation thinks otherwise and advocates the importance of sleep regardless of age. Before understanding how you may deal with poor sleep quality, you must first understand the stages of sleep.
An individual general passes through 5 stages of sleep: one, two, three, four, and rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep is very deep, restful sleep where the intense dreaming takes place. About 50% of our total sleep time is in stage two, 20% is in the REM stage, while the remaining 30% is distributed over the other three stages.
Not getting enough restful sleep or having disturbed sleep can adversely affect your ability to do anything and everything the following day.
The Placebo Sleep Study
A study was conducted on 164 undergraduate students to dig deeper into this relationship between restful sleep and performance.1 The participants were asked to report how much sleep they managed to get the night before on a scale of 1 to 10.
They were then explained the effect of REM sleep on cognition. They were told that adults usually get about 20% to 25% of REM sleep a night. Individuals who have less REM sleep do not perform well on learning tests while those who have more than 25% REM sleep perform extremely well. A sort of brainwashing one may say.
The participants were then attached to an instrument that they believed could measure their heart rate, pulse, and brainwave frequency. This, however, was not true. The only parameter that the instrument could measure was brainwave activity. Based on the readings from the instrument, the participants were then told how much REM sleep they had gotten the previous night (again, not true). Half was told an above-average value of 28.7%, while the other half was told a below-average value of 16.2%.
The participants were then given a learning test. The test was designed to measure their ability to listen and their ability to process information, both parameters indicative of sleep quality.
The results of the tests showed a pre-determined bias. Based on how much REM sleep the participants were told they have, their performances varied. Those who were told they had 28.7% REM sleep performed better on the test than the other half who were told they had only 16.2% REM sleep.
This is the power of placebo sleep in determining how attentive a person can be and how well they can think.
Tell Yourself You Are Well Rested To Perform Better
It is, in fact, all in your head. Even after being sleep deprived and not getting enough hours of restful sleep, you can trick your brain into believing the opposite. This will reflect well on your performance during the day. You will be as attentive and productive as you would be if you had actually gotten a good night’s sleep. You will basically be drawing energy from the placebo sleep.
You must note, however, that if you suffer from insomnia, placebo sleep is not the solution. It is only helpful for people who are unable to get restful sleep every once in a while.
|↑1||Draganich, Christina, and Kristi Erdal. “Placebo sleep affects cognitive functioning.” Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 40, no. 3 (2014): 857.|