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Although placebo analgesia is a well-recognized phenomenon with important clinical implications, the possibility that placebo effects occur during sleep has received little attention. This experimental study examined whether responsiveness to acute heat pain stimuli applied during sleep could be reduced following a placebo conditioning procedure administered before sleep. Healthy individuals (n = 9) underwent polysomnographic recordings for one habituation night followed by one placebo analgesia night and one control night in counterbalanced order. Conditioning induced robust analgesia expectations before the placebo night. In the morning after the placebo night, participants reported less nocturnal pain, anxiety, and associated sleep disturbance (all p's < 0.05) compared to the control night. Furthermore, placebo induction produced a 10% reduction in brain arousals evoked by noxious stimuli during rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep (p = 0.03), consistent with our previous findings suggesting that analgesia expectations are reprocessed during REM sleep. In contrast, arousals increased by 14% during slow wave sleep (SWS) (p = 0.02). In the morning after the last recording night, placebo testing administered as a manipulation check confirmed that typical placebo analgesic responses were produced during waking (p's < 0.05). These results suggest that analgesia expectations developed before sleep reduced nocturnal pain perception and subjective sleep disturbances and activated brain processes that modulate incoming nociceptive signals differentially according to sleep stage. These results need to be replicated in future studies exploring how analgesia expectations may be reactivated during different sleep stages to modulate nociceptive responses.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Progress in neuro-psychopharmacology & biological psychiatry
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Simultaneous and continuous monitoring of several parameters during sleep to study normal and abnormal sleep. The study includes monitoring of brain waves, to assess sleep stages, and other physiological variables such as breathing, eye movements, and blood oxygen levels which exhibit a disrupted pattern with sleep disturbances.
The state of being deprived of sleep under experimental conditions, due to life events, or from a wide variety of pathophysiologic causes such as medication effect, chronic illness, psychiatric illness, or sleep disorder.
Periods of sleep manifested by changes in EEG activity and certain behavioral correlates; includes Stage 1: sleep onset, drowsy sleep; Stage 2: light sleep; Stages 3 and 4: delta sleep, light sleep, deep sleep, telencephalic sleep.
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