Sleep is a fundamental aspect of our daily lives that helps us recharge and rejuvenate for the day ahead. According to studies, the eyes require five hours of sleep a night to replenish themselves. Your eyes can’t perform to their full potential if they haven’t had enough time to rest.
The longer you go without enough sleep, the more you might notice symptoms like eye strain, involuntary eyelid spasms known as myokymia, and dry eye.
Understanding How Sleep Affects Your Eyes
For vision to occur, the eye receives and processes light, and the optic nerve transmits signals to the brain, which interprets them as images. Sleep helps keep this process efficient.
During sleep, the eyes undergo various processes crucial for maintaining good eye health. For instance, the eyes produce tears that help lubricate and protect the eyes. During REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, the eyes move rapidly, which is believed to help stimulate the retina and improve visual acuity.
Sleep deprivation can cause decreased tear production, leading to dry eye syndrome. Lack of sleep can lead to eyestrain and eye fatigue, making it harder for the eyes to focus and process visual information.
Sleep is also crucial for maintaining good eye health in the long run. Chronic sleep deprivation can increase the risk of developing eye diseases such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, and cataracts.
How Can Sleep Apnea Affect Your Eyes?
Sleep apnea increases the risk of glaucoma, a serious sight-threatening eye disease.
Sleep apnea may also cause changes in your eyelids, retina, or vision. Treating sleep apnea can potentially reverse many of the related symptoms.
Extended amounts of sleep deprivation have also been attributed to severe eye conditions, such as Anterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy (AION). This often occurs in middle-aged to elderly individuals with a history of sleep apne. This inflammatory disease of the blood vessels is especially common with aging. Over time, damage to the optic nerve from insufficient blood supply to the eye caused by AION can result in vision loss.
Ways to Improve Sleep and Eye Health
There are several ways to improve both sleep and eye health. One of the most effective ways is to practice good sleep hygiene.
This includes creating a relaxing sleep environment, staying consistent, avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bedtime, and avoiding electronic devices.
Regulate Screen Use
Many people use their smartphones and other electronic devices until or even after the moment they lay their heads on their pillows. The blue light and regular flickering of the screen can hurt your eyes and make it hard to drift off, especially in a dark room. Digital screens emit colors and rays that lead to digital eye strain but also alter melatonin production in the brain. In addition to helping you fall asleep, this chemical enables you to stay asleep.
Many physicians recommend shutting off all digital screens half an hour to two hours before bedtime, as this allows your eyes and brain to wind down for the evening.
To further combat the effect from your digital devices, consider glasses with blue light filtering and polarization features.
Establish An Exercise Routine
Exercise affects every aspect of your well-being, including your eye health. Increased blood circulation stimulates your blood vessels and organs, including your eyes, keeping them healthy and functional. Exercise also helps maintain an equilibrium of chemicals and fluids in your body, including the melatonin that enables you to fall asleep. If you make exercising a regular part of your routine, you’ll find it easier to get to sleep and stay asleep, while your eyes will enjoy a double benefit of sleep and exercise.
Don’t forget to schedule your annual eye exam. It’s the only way to catch early signs of dry eye, unnoticed corneal abrasion, or other issues compromising your eye health and vision.
When you arrive for your next eye exam, make sure you come prepared with questions about your keeping your eyes healthy, including the link between good vision and sleep.
Book an appointment with Dr. Chinn's Vision Care and our dedicated team will help ensure your eyes get the rest they need to perform effectively!
How many hours of sleep do I need to maintain good eye health?
Experts recommend sleeping 7-9 hours each night to maintain good eye health.
Can lack of sleep lead to permanent eye damage?
Yes, chronic sleep deprivation can increase the risk of developing eye diseases such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, and cataracts, leading to permanent vision loss.
Can electronic devices cause eye problems?
Yes, prolonged use of electronic devices can cause eye strain and fatigue, leading to other problems.
Can a lack of sleep cause blurry vision?
Tired eyes can lead to blurry vision. Our optometric team recommends people who experience blurry vision and other symptoms of eye fatigue give their eyes a 15 to 20 minute rest when they are reading or doing other near work.