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What Does Lack of Sleep Do to Your Eyes?

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We’ve all had nights where we just didn’t get enough sleep! Whether you pulled an all nighter at school, or you just binge watched late into the night, you know how hard it is to function the next day. While we can temporarily fix issues like fatigue and bloodshot eyes with some caffeine and eyedrops, regular sleep is needed to let our eyes rest and heal.

The American Sleep Association recommends that adults get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. While our fast paced world often makes it difficult to get enough shut-eye, lack of regular sleep can lead to several health problems, including with your eyes.

Decreased Eye Function

Lack of sleep can lead to decreased eye function. Eyesight needs two main parts to work, the eyes and the brain. Sleep has a direct impact on our brain, and how well neurons work.  Not enough sleep directly impacts our brain’s ability to process, leading to limited cognitive function, how we learn, remember and problem solve.

34% of the world’s population has nearsightedness (myopia).  Myopia mostly develops during childhood and adolescence, so any efforts to slow it down needs to happen during these years.  One study showed that 12-19 year olds who got less than 5 hours of sleep per night, were 41% more likely to have myopia than those who got more than 9 hours of sleep per night.

That doesn’t mean that lack of sleep caused it, but it was correlated with a reduction in sleep.  If we start with good sleep habits in children, we can maximize all we have done to support our health through the span of our lives.

Eye Twitching 

Have you ever had a day where your eye, or more accurately your eyelid, kept twitching? This uncontrollable eyelid spasm is known as myokymia.  It can be caused by a lack of sleep.  Catching up on sleep, and having a consistent sleep schedule can help resolve this issue.  See an eye doctor immediately if you experience persistent twitching.

You Need More than a Spa Day

Have you ever woken up in the morning and mistook yourself for a raccoon when you looked in the mirror?! We’ve all had those days when we’ve had black circles under our eyes.  You’ve most probably experienced puffy, dry, itchy and bloodshot eyes, too. Here are some tips to help these unsightly issues:

Cucumbers, eyes creams and cold compresses. The swelling around our eyes is caused by extra accumulation of fluids (edema) in the surrounding skin tissue of our eye, creating a puffy eye.  Several issues can cause this, but exhaustion and lack of sleep definitely contribute.

Did you know that your eyelids need a morning routine? We don’t create tears while we are sleeping.  Blinking is to eyelids like walking is to legs.  When you wake up and start blinking, some puffiness can go away.  You can also slice up a cold cucumber (or make a cold compress) and create a relaxing, spa-like experience that can help reduce the swelling.  If swelling doesn’t decrease after a cold compress and a good-night’s sleep, it’s time to call the eye doctor.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.  If you wake up with dry, itchy or bloodshot eyes, don’t only reach for the eye drops, reach for your water bottle.  You can also use eye drops for refreshing and to help get rid of red irritation. Eyes heal as they sleep…they produce less tears when we don’t get enough sleep, which can open the door to eye infection.  If after applying drops and getting a good night’s rest, your eyes are still dry, itchy or red, reach out to an eye doctor to get them evaluated.

So How Can I Get Enough Sleep? 

Fact: More than one third of American adults don’t get enough sleep.

In our busy, screen-loaded world, getting good sleep is easier said then done.  Here are some CDC-approved techniques:

  • Sleep in a room that is both cool in temperature and dark.
  • Make sure to get in some movement during the day.
  • Develop routines that train your brain that it’s time to wind down.
  • Don’t use any electronics in your bedroom.

Give us a call at Anderson Family Vision Care. While we can’t give you a good night’s sleep, our eye doctors can help with any eye questions you may have.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Does reading my smart phone or tablet in the dark damage my eyes?

  • A: Reading from a tablet or smart phone in the dark is okay for your eyes, as long you don't spend an excessive amount staring at the screen. These devices, however, emit blue light, a short wavelength light with high energy that may cause damage to the structures of the eye if exposed to this light for a long period of time. Moreover, studies have shown that blue light can disrupt melatonin production which is required for a healthy sleep cycle. Anderson Family Vision Care eye care professionals recommend limiting screen use in the last hour prior to bedtime.

Q: I am seeing some black/grey dots and/or strings in my vision that float around when I move my eyes. Should I be concerned?

  • A: Most of these dots and threads are called floaters— and they're generally harmless. However, if you had a recent eye injury or an impact to the eye, see a new onset of them or see a lot of them, and/or they're accompanied by flashes of light, please call us to make an emergency eye appointment with our eye doctor. Sometimes these floaters may indicate retinal detachment, which is a serious eye problem that can lead to permanent vision loss if not treated early on.

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