How lack of sleep affects vision
If you’ve ever had a bad night’s sleep (and who hasn’t?), you’re probably no stranger to the occasional puffy eyes or dark circles. But can a regular lack of sleep also affect your vision? We’ve already discussed how stress and screen time can affect our vision, so let’s take a look at the importance of sleep for our eyes.
Eye fatigue symptoms
Our eyes need at least five hours of sleep every night to rest, repair and be able to function properly the next day. For example, sleep helps us relax the muscles that control our eye movements; it also helps us lubricate our eyes by having the lids closed for an extended period of time. Without adequate rest, you may experience symptoms such as:
- Difficulty focusing
- Double-vision: tired eye muscles can cause misalignment
- Dry eyes
- Light sensitivity caused by dry eyes
- Eyelid twitching, called myokymia
- Red eyes: popped blood vessels caused by eye strain
The effects of sleep apnea on vision
Sleep apnea is a condition that causes breathing to intermittently stop and start during a night of sleep; it affects almost one billion people worldwide between the ages of 30-69. People with sleep disorders such as sleep apnea are at a higher risk of developing ischemic optic neuropathy (ION) - when blood does not flow properly to the optic nerve, which causes permanent vision loss.
Sleep apnea is also a risk factor for glaucoma, another vision-threatening condition.
Ophthalmologists are sometimes able to discover and diagnose sleep apnea in a patient, if they see the beginnings of glaucoma or ION and inquire about their sleep health. Properly managed sleep apnea can help prevent serious effects to the eyes.
Tips for better sleep
Getting a good night’s rest is important for our physical and mental health, and is part of a solid self-care routine. Here are some of the basics to get you started, but you may find that other techniques work well for you too:
- Put the screens away before bedtime
- Avoid caffeine or alcohol at night
- Don’t eat too close to bedtime
- Keep your room dark and quiet
- Have a sleep routine; a relaxing bath or meditation can work for some
- Go to bed at the same time every night
- Keep your room on the cooler side
Once you’ve settled into a deep sleep, you may also notice that you remember your dreams more frequently, where our visual cortex plays an active role in helping us “see” different objects, scenes, and people. Hopefully by putting these tips into practice, you will ensure a restful night’s sleep for both you and your eyes.