Why is sleep important for your eye health?

03 May 2022

Author: Kate Green

sleep eye health

How much sleep should we get?


The average adult needs to sleep for seven or more hours per night in order to feel rested and rejuvenated. Getting sufficient sleep also helps us to be mentally more alert, as well as feeling physically rested. However, up to 40% of adults get less than six hours of sleep a night leading to countless side effects and negative impacts on your overall health. We’ve all seen the tell-tale external signs of a short night’s sleep such as dark rings around the eyes, bloodshot eyes, and puffy bags and eyelids, but what’s actually going on inside the eyes as a result of little sleep? We’re going to look at eye conditions which can occur when you regularly sleep for less than the recommend amount, as well as tips for sleeping better which, over time, should help to improve your eye health.


Symptoms of sleep deprivation


First things first, how do you know your eyes are suffering due to sleep deprivation? We’ve briefly touched on the common signs such as eye bags, red eyes and puffiness, but other symptoms can include:

  • Eye strain
  • Light sensitivity
  • Blurry vision
  • Burst blood vessels
  • Dry eyes
  • Itchiness
  • Eye twitches (also known as myokymia)
  • Higher risk of infections


The majority of these symptoms occur as a result of tired eyes not being as well lubricated as well rested eyes. They produce fewer tears over a shorter number of hours when they’re closed during the night, as this is the time that your body replenishes the natural tear supply to hydrate the eyes. A lack of lubrication in the eyes first and foremost leads to dryness, in turn resulting in itchiness, blurred vision and eye strain. You can read more about dry eyes on our blog here. Over the recommended 7+ hours of sleep, your eyes can produce sufficient tears to prevent these unpleasant symptoms the following day. If there ever was an argument for an early night, this is it!



Does poor sleep increase your glaucoma risk?


Sleep apnoea is a sleep disorder where you stop breathing for periods while you’re sleeping. These periods can be between 10-30 seconds long and, in the most severe cases, they can occur up to 400 times a night. As you would expect, your body experiences a lack of oxygen during these periods when you’re not sleeping, preventing the oxygen flow to your eyes. This has been linked to the development of glaucoma, a condition which causes damage to the optic nerve due to a build-up of pressure in the eye. Over time, if left untreated, glaucoma can lead to the loss of vision, beginning with damaged peripheral vision. You can read more about glaucoma on our blog here.


Another condition which occurs due to a lack of sleep and affects the optic nerve is ischemic optic neuropathy. This begins due to poor blood flow that occurs because of a lack of sleep, and it can result in sharp pain. Ischemic optic neuropathy can affect one or both eyes.


How can you sleep better?


There are a number of steps you can take to ensure that you get more good quality sleep. These mostly pertain to your activities in the hours leading up to bedtime in order to help your body wind down. Above all, it’s crucial that you have a routine and stick to it. It might sound obvious but if your body is used to going to bed at 10pm every night, then you’re likely to disrupt things if you start throwing in later bedtimes or earlier wakeup calls. Keeping to your regular routine as much as possible should help improve your amount and quality of sleep.


You can also try to:

  • Minimise screen time in the hours before bed as the blue light can keep you awake
  • Exercise throughout the day in order to tire your body out
  • Eat at least three hours before sleeping to minimise energy required to digest food
  • Reduce your alcohol intake (alcohol consumption can result in light, poor quality sleep)


If you’re having trouble falling asleep and this is an on-going problem, speak to your doctor. They will be able to offer advice and potentially treatment to help you achieve good sleep. This should help you feel refreshed, rested and rejuvenated, as well as providing immeasurable benefits for your eye health and vision.

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