The Importance of Sleep on Vision and Learning

Did you know that animals without eyes (like some fish and bats) don’t sleep?  And that all animals that do sleep close their eyes and choose a sleeping spot with minimal visual distraction?  Scientists think this is because the animals need to reduce visual input in order to process the tremendous amount of visual imagery present from the day.

We’ve known for some time that sleep is necessary for forming memories.  New research shows that sleep is also essential in learning.  Scientists from Brown University have discovered that brainwave power increases after sleep, and that this increase occurs in the visual portion of the brain and is linked specifically with learning visual tasks.

We see examples everyday of how sleep affects function.  A four year old vision therapy patient named Will recently came to his appointment and his caregiver said that he had been awake since 3:30 a.m.!  It was a tough day.  Will became frustrated with tasks he had been able to perform previously and he gave up easily.  The following week, Will’s caregiver said that he had been sleeping well including daily naps.  That day, Will worked with concentration and confidence.  He was able to complete activities he hadn’t been able to in the past.

One of the culprits interfering with a good night’s sleep is electronic screens.  Sleep experts recommend turning our screens off 2 hours before bedtime.  We need to give our brains and eyes a chance to rest from the stimulation.  Additionally, many screens glow blue tricking our brains into thinking its daytime and interfering with restful sleep.

– Written by Lori Erickson