Sleep & Your Eyes

I woke up this morning, having slept only 3-4 hours due to some out-of-town guests, and my eyes were just killing me – scratchy, irritated & bloodshot. I doused them with some artificial tears & within a few minutes, WOW – what a difference! This got me thinking about just how much sleep (or lack thereof) can affect our eyes.

In today’s fast-paced world, it’s pretty common to run a little short on sleep. Not getting enough rest can wreak havoc on our eyesight. Although the brain and body need more, studies have shown that our EYES need a minimum of 5 hours of restful sleep per night in order to be refreshed and ready for a new day. Lack of sleep contributes to dry eye problems, such as discomfort, light sensitivity, redness, and blurred vision.

Sleepy Doctor

Have you ever gotten random eyelid spasms and wondered why? While almost always harmless, these twitches can be rather annoying & inconvenient. This condition is called myokymia, and can be another result of lack of sleep. Stress is the #1 cause of myokymia, but one step in the right direction is improving your rest.

A much bigger problem is the effect of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) on the eyes. Sufferers of OSA repeatedly stop breathing for 10 seconds or longer due to obstruction of the upper airway during sleep. This problem is linked to some pretty serious eye conditions, such as glaucoma, optic nerve disease, and retinal vascular problems. Some symptoms of OSA are: loud snoring, waking up with a sore/dry throat, gasping or choking while asleep, chronic daytime sleepiness, morning headaches, memory or concentration problems, and restless sleep. Talk to your doctor if you have some of these symptoms. OSA is also linked to high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke as well as other problems.

If you are someone who has trouble sleeping, here are some recommendations: Schedule your bedtime and stick with it. Try drinking a cup of herbal tea before bed, or try reading a book until you feel sleepy. Limiting caffeine is important for many people. Lastly, avoid doing things that stress your brain (like work) or body (such as exercise) late in the day, as it can be difficult to wind down afterward.



Written by Bart W., one of the Technicians of Milwaukee Eyecare Associates