You know how you feel when you don’t get enough sleep – cranky, foggy, dragging through the day? And your eyes may be red and puffy with black bags underneath. But not only does lack of sleep affect the appearance of your eyes, but it can also interfere with your eye health. How? Your eye doctor explains all about the connection between sleep and your vision.
What do eyes do during sleep?
Studies have shown that when you sleep throughout the night, you experience three to five episodes of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, comprising 20-25% of your sleep time. During these sleep stages, most of your body’s muscles shut down and relax, but not your eyes. In fact, eyes move so fast during REM that they can reach up to 1,000 degrees of movement per second.
The precise purpose of REM sleep remains unknown, however, we do know that if you don’t get enough solid zzz’s, serious eye problems can result.
What happens when your eyes don’t sleep enough?
Puffiness and dark circles under your eyes
These are only cosmetic issues and not a dangerous side effect of sleep deprivation. But they can be quite unattractive and make you look old and tired.
Sometimes a poor night’s rest leads to popped blood vessels in your eye. Though they’re not painful, most people don’t like sporting the zombie look.
Twitching or eye spasms
Also known as myokymia, these involuntary eye movements can be uncomfortable, but they will pass after you get more rest. Yet, in the meantime, they can be very frustrating and make it hard to drive, work, or read.
Dry, itchy eyes
Without enough sleep, the fluid circulation of lubricating tears in your eyes doesn’t work well, leading to dry eyes or making a case of dry eye syndrome even worse. Not only do dry eyes cause irritation, but they can also compromise the health of your eyes. You may experience increased sensitivity to light or blurry vision. Also, people with dry eyes tend to rub them, which exacerbates the problem and can lead to infection. And of course, if you are sleep deprived, your immune system is weakened; so infection can occur more easily. If your dry eyes last more than a few days, call our office to book an eye exam and get relief from personalized dry eye treatment.
By the way, if you try to solve your sleep problem with sleeping pills, beware! According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, these drugs can have serious side effects that may complicate your body’s ability to secrete moisture, which can cause dry eye.
This sight-threatening eye disease happens when too much pressure builds up inside the eye and there is damage to the optic nerve. A 2019 article published in The Journal of Glaucoma reported the results of a study of more than 6,700 people over 40 years old in the US who have glaucoma, and a strong link was found between having glaucoma and having various sleep problems.
AION – Anterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy
This condition is closely linked to sleep apnea. AION is a persistent inflammation of eye vessels, which can lead to vision loss eventually. It results from the optic nerve not getting a proper supply of blood and oxygen.
Did you know eyes eat as you sleep?
When you doze through the night, your body organs get nourished. Everything you eat passes first through your liver, and at night, the energy from this food travels throughout your body – including to your eyeballs. So to keep your eyes healthy and your vision working efficiently, you need solid, restful sleep!
If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, our team advises you to ask us about taking eye vitamins to counteract some of the side effects of sleep deprivation. These supplements can alleviate some of the pain of dry eye too.
Are you tired?
Most likely, you’re fully aware of when you are sleep-deprived. And if you aren’t self-aware, then usually someone around you – family, co-workers, friends – will point out your grouchy attitude. When that happens regularly, it’s time to take a look at your daily habits and figure out the root of your sleep loss (before you lose your friends too!). Remedying this problem can give you a whole new perspective on waking up in the morning!