Red. Orange. Yellow. Green. Blue. Purple.
Look around and pay attention to the color you see. Is it bright and vivid? Better or worse than yesterday? Now think about how well you slept last night. Or the night before. Could it be that your ability to see colors depends on a good night’s sleep?
Now this is fascinating stuff: Research just emerging and presented at the 24th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS) earlier this month suggests that sleep literally colors your view of the world. Put simply, sleep restores your ability to see and process colors correctly.
The technicality of how this all works (and how the researchers went about figuring this out) is pretty complex, but suffice it to say that color perception — whether or not you see gray or green, for instance, shifts while you’re awake, thus distorting what color you’re really seeing. And overnight, sleep brings your color recognition back in line with what’s really there. So when you “see” gray, you can be sure it’s in fact gray and not green.
According to the authors, scientists had not previously investigated how sleep might affect the way we “see” the world around us. But I’ll point out that other recent research has discovered that our ability to recognize and remember faces is indeed influenced by the amount of sleep we get. These two abilities (distinguishing color and faces) are not so different when you consider the science behind sleep and our memory banks....
Sleep has a profound effect on our memories. It’s well-documented, for example, that sleep plays a big role in helping us to:
* Remember things.
* Learn new information.
* Process data efficiently.
* Consolidate memories. (In fact, it’s believed that dreams may play a special role in that consolidation, though we don’t know exactly how that all works yet.)
And of course we need to have sharp memories in order to recall colors and different faces — relationships that we learn. Just as you learn to know that red is red and green is green, you also learn which faces belong to your best friend, first grade teacher and mother.
What I love about this latest study is that it examines an aspect of life so prized by humans: being able to see a spectrum of color. This skill has enhanced human interactions for millennia, helpful to not just social interactions but in some cases survival. Granted, some people who are truly color-blind don’t have trouble getting through life. But if given the opportunity, I think most people would prefer to see all the colors of the rainbow clearly. Even if seeing color doesn’t always equate with survival, it sure makes life more exciting and, in a word, vivid.
So the next time you can’t distinguish blue from green so well (and you’re bickering with a significant other over whether or not that tie is blue-gray or green-gray), ask yourself: did you get a good night’s sleep?
Keep that memory sharp. Enjoy the beauty of the world around you. Keep up the good nights.
This answer should not be considered medical advice...This answer should not be considered medical advice and should not take the place of a doctor’s visit. Please see the bottom of the page for more information or visit our Terms and Conditions.
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