We always hear to eat your carrots and avoid reading in the dark to keep your eyes healthy. You might not have known that getting proper sleep is just as important for your vision. Read on to learn the effects of sleep deprivation and how you can adjust your habits to enhance the quality of your sleep and the health of your eyes.
There Are Benefits to Sufficient Shut-Eye
Caring for our eyes with proper sleep is important to our well-being. As we sleep, our mind cycles through four stages: three stages of non-rapid eye movement (NREM), or quiet sleep, and one stage of rapid eye movement (REM), or active sleep. We enter REM sleep approximately 90 minutes after falling asleep, and at this time our eyes begin moving rapidly and dreams occur.
When we have reached the four complete sleep stages by receiving enough hours of sleep, our eyes reap the benefits of clearer eyesight, no loss of moisture, and healthier nerves and tissues in and around our eyes. When we sleep properly, we avoid the risks of sleep deprivation.
Sleep Deprivation Harms Your Eyes
Here are some of the consequences that a lack of sleep can have on your eyes:
- Eye fatigue and strain
- Sunken or puffy eyes
- Dark under-eye circles and bags
- Irritated, red, watery eyes
- Diabetic Retinopathy
- Popped blood vessels
- Eye twitching or spasms
- Dry Eyes
- Blurred vision
- Ischemic Optic Neuropathy
- Eye infections
- Central Serous Retinopathy
- Light sensitivity
Tips to Care For Your Eyes and Improve Your Sleep
Adjusting our habits can prevent us from having to experience the side effects of sleep deprivation. Here are a few easy ways you can simultaneously improve your quality of sleep and your eye health.
Sleep in a Dark Room - It’s important to sleep in a dark environment to give yourself the best chance of good quality sleep and to give your eyes much-needed relief. Darkness is important to our eyes as it helps to protect them and ensure they rest properly. Less light helps us keep our eyes closed for hours of uninterrupted time to moisturize.
Reduce Screen Use - In this digital age, it is so important for our health to avoid screen time before bed. The blue light emitted from screens tricks our minds into reacting as if it was daytime. Our body doesn’t produce the melatonin we need to feel tired and stay asleep. The colors and lights of the screens overstimulate our eyes, causing digital eye strain. Physicians recommend shutting off all digital screens half an hour to two hours before bedtime, as this gives your eyes and brain an opportunity to wind down for the evening.
Remove Your Contact Lenses - Leaving in your contact lenses overnight might not allow your cornea to receive enough oxygen. Sleeping with your contacts in also significantly increases your risk of an eye infection. Risks can occur regardless of your lens type, so get in the habit of taking them off when you’re unwinding for bed.
Exercise Regularly - As nature’s magic pill, exercise can even improve our eye health. Workouts stimulate your blood vessels and organs, including your eyes, helping them stay functional and healthy over time. Exercise can also maintain melatonin equilibrium, helping you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
Get into a Routine - In order to feel your best, set a sleep schedule and listen to your body when you notice your eyes feel tired or dry at the end of the day. When you keep your circadian rhythm in check you’ll also find you will not need as much caffeine to wake you up in the morning and feel energized throughout the day.
Lower Your Caffeine Intake - Reaching for a cup of coffee when you need a pick-me-up will not harm you, but excess caffeine intake can leave you tossing and turning at night and increase the likelihood of developing glaucoma. This occurs because of an accumulation of deposits formed on the eyes. Additionally, too much caffeine can increase blood sugar levels, leading to blurred vision or sudden spasms of the eyelids. If you have a habit of drinking too much caffeine, opt for water instead of a coffee or energy drink.
Stay Hydrated - Along with many other health benefits, drinking 8-10 glasses of water per day helps keep our eyes moist to reduce eye strain and dry eye syndrome. Our eyes rely on water to produce tears to stay clean, blink comfortably, and operate properly. Going to sleep hydrated will also reduce night-time muscle cramps, prevent headaches and migraines, and regulate our core temperature to fall asleep easier.
Yearly Eye Exams - Preventive and routine eye and vision exams are important to maintaining good eye health and are especially important if you have sleep issues. Often, eye and vision problems do not have obvious symptoms or signs but are easily diagnosed by a board-certified ophthalmologist. By diagnosing eye and vision conditions early on, ophthalmologists are able to provide treatment options and, in many cases, restore vision or prevent vision loss. If it’s been a while since your last optometrist visit, consider requesting an appointment today as an investment in your eye health.