Sleep has many benefits to our mental and physical health. However, the connection between sleep and eye health is still unclear, partly because vision isn’t a priority to many people when it comes to proactive self-care.
How does sleep affect our vision? What does lack of sleep do to our eye health? How much sleep do you need to maintain good eyesight? This article answers these and more questions that you might have regarding the sleep-vision connection.
What happens to your eyes when you sleep?
When you sleep, your eyes close. This is except for about 20% of people who suffer from a condition known as nocturnal lagophthalmos. Your eyes will retain the ability to sense light after you fall asleep, whether you close them or not, explaining why you will almost always wake you up if someone flashes a bright light in your face.
Beyond that, your brain will not receive any signal from your eyes while you sleep. Even after you kip, it will take up to 30 seconds for the connection to be restored.
Our bodies experience five sleep phases, grouped into the non-REM and REM (rapid eye movement) stages. We experience eye movement during sleep in the REM stage, which is the shorter and latter of the two. The first stage, non-REM, is further divided into four stages, which combined make up 80% of the sleep cycle.
Is sleep deprivation bad for your eye health?
Dark circles below your eyes are one of the most common signs that you didn’t get enough sleep the previous night. The more significant damage is usually concealed and may not be felt until it has piled enough to affect your overall eye health.
Anything less than six to eight hours of sleep per night will take a toll on your vision, even if marginally, and the effects may be long-term. Eye spasms are among the most common effects of insufficient sleep. These are rapid eye twitches that happen when you have eyelid spasms. The spams, also known as myokymia, are typically painless and do not affect your vision. However, they’re highly disruptive and can affect your productivity during the day.
Without at least seven hours of sleep per day, fluid circulation takes a dip, and the eyes may fail to get enough lubrication. This leads to dry eyes or the worsening of dry eye syndrome if you have it. Usually, you will experience irritation and become more sensitive to light. Some people’s vision becomes blurry until they sleep again.
Also worth noting is that people tend to rub their eyes a lot when they have dryness, which worsens the situation and can cause infection.
Insufficient sleep can also result in the bursting of blood capillaries in your eyes. This is not as painful or grave as it sounds, but the unsightly look of bloodshot eyes can cause self-consciousness.
Glaucoma is one of the more severe conditions that can result from sleep deprivation. Its sleep-related causes are poor sleep quality, low sleep efficiency, prolonged sleep latency, and short sleep duration. A severe case of glaucoma can cause vision loss. It’s advisable to go for regular eye checkups if you haven’t been sleeping enough.
Ischemic Optic Neuropathy
Consistently getting insufficient sleep deprives your eyes of proper blood flow, putting you at risk for ischemic optic neuropathy (ION). ION is a condition characterized by optic nerve damage, unclear sight, and sharp pain.
How to protect your eyes from sleep deprivation
There is no way to mitigate the effects of sleep deprivation on your eye health other than getting enough sleep. Here are tips to help you with that:
Eyesight is considered our most important sense. By getting enough, quality sleep, you bolster its functioning, keep it healthy, and improve your life.