Problem: Who even sleeps anymore? You and everyone you know are probably loading yourselves up with coffee or whatever your stimulant of choice is so you can plod through your day as some semblance of an upright human being. Then you get home and you don’t go to bed early enough because this is the only me-time you get, damn it, and if you want to watch three hours of Netflix, then you will. Or you try to go to sleep but you fail and end up tossing and turning, because sleeping is actually kind of hard, and the more you want it, the more it slips through your grasp.
But maybe the knowledge that you aren’t sleeping enough is part of what’s keeping you trapped in your swamp of lethargy during the day. Maybe if you were sweetly, blithely ignorant of your somnial failings, you’d feel more chipper and work more efficiently. In a recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, researchers from Colorado College tested the effects of being told you’re getting enough sleep—“placebo sleep,” as they call it.
Methodology: Participating undergrads first reported how deeply they’d slept the night before, on a scale of one to 10. The researchers then gave the participants a quick, five-minute lesson about sleep’s effect on cognitive function, telling them it was just background information for the study. During the lesson, they said that adults normally spend between 20 and 25 percent of their sleep time in REM sleep, and that getting less REM sleep than that tends to cause lower performance on learning tests. They also said that those who spend more than 25 percent of their sleep time in REM sleep usually perform better on such tests.