Your sleep schedule is an important part of your overall health. On average, adults should be getting seven hours of sleep a night, but studies show that one in three adults aren’t getting enough sleep. Losing sleep can have a major impact on your health; it can lead to stress, anxiety, weight issues, and more. When it comes to your eyes, how much sleep you are getting, or how much sleep you are losing, can affect your eye health in a myriad of ways. Some of the effects can be manageable in the short term, but if left untreated or your sleep patterns continue to worsen, then your eyes may need the help of over-the-counter treatments or prescription aid given by an optometrist. Here are some ways your lack of sleep can affect your eye health and what you can do to help.
Eye spasms are a common occurrence when you haven’t had enough sleep, and they are usually a tell-tale sign of sleep deprivation. These spasms are the involuntary twitch of the eye or spasm of the eyelid. While they are not painful and they do not damage your vision, they can be quite irritating and frustrating as they are not something you can control while they are happening.
There are a few things you can do to try to combat the twitching. One of the first is to try and alter your sleep schedule. While this is something that seems obvious, allowing yourself more time to sleep will help reduce eye twitching. Limiting caffeine consumption throughout the day can also help alleviate the spasms as caffeine can over-excite your nervous system and lead to an increase in eye twitching.
As many people toggle between looking at their computer screen and the phone screen throughout the workday, the overstimulation from extended screen time can also cause dry eyes and eye twitching. Giving yourself frequent breaks from your screens during the day can help mitigate the onset of a spasm, and when you feel one coming on, applying a warm compress to the eye area can help reduce the spasm’s lifespan.
When you find yourself losing sleep, your eyes may become sensitive to the lights of the world around you, including the natural light from the sun and the artificial light from the devices you use daily. Light sensitivity can impact many areas of your health; your eye irritation can lead to issues like headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Suffering from this sensitivity can make completing tasks that much harder as you are feeling overall discomfort and have visual impairments like blurry vision and difficulty focusing.
There are a few things you can do to combat this issue. The first is lowering the screen brightness on your devices, many of which will have a dark mode or night shift mode that lowers light levels and manages the different wavelengths of light your eyes absorb. Decreasing screen brightness and switching to this setting, especially at night, will reduce eyestrain and subject the eye to warmer tones that are less harsh on your eyes. Reducing your eyestrain before bedtime will allow you to fall asleep more easily and have a more quality sleep overall.
Another thing you can do is wear a pair of glasses that decrease blue light emission while you use your devices. Blue light is a wavelength of light that every digital screen emits; televisions, smartphones, computers, tablets—you name it. Managing the amount of blue light your eyes consume by wearing these glasses throughout the day and into the night will help lessen eye fatigue and light sensitivity.
Dry eyes are a common symptom of insufficient sleep patterns for various reasons that stem from before and during sleep. Dry eyes occur when your tears do not provide enough lubrication for your eyes, leaving your eyes, red, itchy, and overall irritated. When left untreated, dry eyes can lead to worsening eye problems, like eye infections and glaucoma.
Your nighttime routine can affect how dry your eyes get in the hours before sleep. Allowing screen time in the hours before bed can affect your blink rate as screen use slows down your blink rate, allowing your eyes to dry. Consider introducing a screen-free hour to your nighttime routine. Fill the hour before bed with some self-care activities like meditation, journaling, or even some soothing skincare. Spending your time away from screens can give your eyes a much-needed break from screens and give them some great prep time for sleep.
While you are sleeping, you may sleep with your eyes slightly open, allowing your exposed eyes to dry. You must also take the environment of the room you are sleeping in into consideration; managing the humidity of the bedroom will be beneficial for your eye health as an overly dry room can affect your eyes.
Those suffering from sleep issues and disorders like sleep apnea are more likely to have eye conditions like glaucoma. Glaucoma is an eye disease that results from the build-up of pressure inside the eye which damages the optic nerve. One of the immediate symptoms of this pressure is alternations to your peripheral vision. This change is usually the symptom that brings you to your optometrist for help and treatment. If treatment is not sought and the condition worsens, glaucoma can lead to severe eye issues such as vision loss.
The treatment of glaucoma will not reverse the damage done, but it will slow the effects of the disease. Your optometrist will run tests to understand what stage you are at with the disease and devise a treatment plan from there. These treatment plans can include prescription-strength eye drops to reduce the pressure in the eye, oral medications, or even surgery to help with drainage and pressure relief.
Including a better sleep schedule in your treatment plan can help mitigate the progression of the disease. Continuing to lose sleep, and not sleep as much as you should, will only create more problems for your eyes and your health. Discussing with your doctor the right amount of sleep you should be getting based on your age range and making it a part of your treatment plan can help you become more accountable for making time for quality sleep.
Your eyes and how they react to your sleep patterns are a great way to know if you are sleeping enough. You may feel general fatigue from a less than stellar sleep, but when it starts affecting your eyes and how they function on a daily basis, it may be time to reflect on what is keeping you from a good night’s sleep. Overthinking your sleeping schedule can lead to things like sleep anxiety, so being open to combating sleep troubles will help you maintain your health overall.
Alaska Sleep Clinic works closely with some local ophthalmologists to learn more about the connection between sleep apnea and eye disease. Watch the KTUU Channel 2's "Moms Every day" segment with Dr. Sherry Lentfer from Katmai Eye below.