How Does Sleep Affect Your Eyes?

Thursday, 19 September 2019
How Does Sleep Affect Your Eyes?

We all know getting enough sleep is important for staying healthy and alert, but have you ever thought about what a lack of it can do to your eyes?

Sleep is restorative for all parts of the body including cognition and immune function. Getting enough shut eye will keep you alert, more able to fight off infection and give your eyes the moisture and rest needed to perform at their best.

We have a look at how sleep can impact your eyes and give you some tips on how to sleep more efficiently.

 

What your eyes do when you sleep

 

There’s a stage of our sleep cycle called rapid eye movement (REM). During REM sleep, our eyes move rapidly behind our eyelids and our bodies become more still. It’s during this stage that we dream. It’s not known why our eyes move so much during this stage, but some believe it could be because we’re watching the scenes in our dreams.

 

Why do my eyes hurt when I don't get enough sleep?

 

When you don’t get enough sleep, your eyes can feel strained, dry and itchy the next day. Lack of sleep can cause eye strain, burst blood vessels and dry eye. Our eyes go through a lot during the day. After spending so many hours using your eyes, it's important for them to get enough recovery time when you're asleep. Getting enough sleep will give your eyes moisture throughout the night so that they can function properly when you wake up.


a woman holding her eye in pain


Is it OK to keep your contacts in when you sleep?

 

Some contact lenses are designed for extended wear and can be worn overnight, however, these should be prescribed by your optician.

Generally, you shouldn’t go to bed with your contact lenses in. Sleeping with your contacts in will stop oxygen from accessing your eyes at night, which can cause them to become dry and irritated. Always remove your lenses at night or before taking a nap.

 

Why do some people sleep with their eyes open?

 

Sleeping with your eyes open is called nocturnal lagophthalmos. People who sleep with their eyes open usually have damage to their facial nerves or their eyelids. This condition isn’t harmful, but it can lead to eye health problems. The eyes remaining open at night become very dry because they don’t have the eyelid to help spread tears across the surface of the eyes.

The symptoms of dry eye and nocturnal lagophthalmos are very similar. If you experience painful eyes in the morning and throughout the day, you could try using a soothing eye gel such as  Artelac Nighttime Gel which is gentle enough for even sensitive eyes. If symptoms persist then it might be best to visit your eye doctor for a full eye examination.

 


a woman sleeping in a bed


How to have a good night’s sleep

 

Sleep plays an important part in our overall health. Despite this, a lot of people choose not to prioritise being well rested. Some night owls live by the saying “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” but this kind of attitude leads to sleep deprivation and the longer this goes on, the higher your chances of gaining health problems. We need at least 5 hours of rest for our eyes to fully recover from the day. If you have trouble sleeping, here are out top tips on how to get more sleep:

 

  1. Get as much light/sun exposure during the day as you can

 

Light absorption during the day will help your body to stay more alert. It will also increase the quality of your sleep in the evenings, both natural and artificial lights will help. You could go for a walk outside during your lunch break at work or use a lamp with a daylight bulb at your desk.

 

  1. Limit your exposure to light (and screens) at least 2 hours before bed

 

Just as getting more light in the day helps, the reverse is true for the evening. You should limit the amount of light you’re exposed to at least 2 hours before bedtime. The blue light from your screens can stop you from sleeping it tricks your body into thinking it’s still daytime and you should be awake. Try listening to a podcast or reading a book in the evening, you could also use a lamp instead of the main light.

 

  1. No matter what time you go to bed, wake up at the same time every day (as much as possible)

 

Having a consistent bedtime will help you to sleep better because your body will start to get tired on cue. After a while of doing this you might find that you naturally wake up just before your alarm. Even if you don’t always manage to stick to your routine, the more you can do it, the better.

 

  1. Avoid alcohol at night

 

Although alcohol consumption will initially help you fall asleep, you’ll end up having very light and poor-quality sleep. This is one of the reasons people tend to feel so tired when they’ve had a lot to drink the night before. If you do have a drink, make sure it isn’t right before bed.

 

  1. Consider wearing an eye mask to sleep

 

Especially in the Summer months when it gets very light in the mornings, an eye mask can help block out the light. Light helps you to wake up, so if you’re eyes are exposed to light too early in the morning you’ll wake up before you’re ready, resulting in less time asleep. If eye masks aren’t your thing you could also try blackout blinds.

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