Post by Kyle St. Romain.
Following this month’s theme of sleep studies, I have another bit of research that may help you sleep better. In a study titled, the effect of subliminal priming on sleep duration, which can be found online here, the authors found that subliminal exposure to certain words before going to sleep can improve the quality and duration of our sleep. The Boston Globe goes so far as to call it “subliminal Ambien.” To better understand how this works, we first need to understand a concept in psychology known as “priming.”
A simply way to describe priming is “that for a period of time after a word or other perceptual object is presented, less neural activity is required to process that same word of object.” In other words, repeated exposure to certain words or phrases makes it easier for your brain to associate them with a specific memory. As it relates to this study, priming your brain with sleepy word with the objective of getting to sleep faster is known as “goal-priming.” Okay, so how does it work? And more importantly, how can I prime myself to get to sleep faster?
The author of this study has stated that this type of “goal-priming” can be achieved by placing sticky notes or index cards with slumber-centric words like “calm,” “rest,” and “drift away” throughout your bedroom. So much so that the participants who were exposed to these sleepy words slept 47 percent longer and had lower heart rates than those who were exposed to “neutral” words. The study also found that the effects of subliminal priming are greater among participants who had trouble sleeping, suggesting that exposure to these subconscious cues may be a cost-effective treatment to help people with sleep problems. This may also help explain why bedtime stories are so effective for getting your kids to go to sleep.
However, this sort of goal-priming for better sleep is somewhat controversial, as other studies have been unable to replicate the results. Does it work, or not? We’ll let you be the judge. For me, it’s worth a try.