Most of the content we publish around vision care includes recommendations for regular eye exams, the importance of choosing the right vision care provider, or information about some of the most common eye issues or vision concerns.
Today, we want to focus on a lesser-discussed topic: the connection between healthy sleep habits and vision health.
Establishing Healthy Sleep Habits Is Good For Your Eyes & Vision
Sleep is a vital part of the body’s restoration processes. During the hours in which you slumber, your body cleans out toxins and recycles dead cells. It regulates hormone balances and replenishes the immune system. The list goes on, but it’s essential to understand that sleep is also necessary for vision care.
Here are some of the ways that sleep and vision are related and tips on how to establish good sleeping habits for yourself and your family.
Prevent harmful eye rubbing
Sleepy eyes feel dry and scratchy. Then, they become red, watery, and irritated. As a result, it’s tempting to rub your eyes again and again. As good as it can feel to rub your eyes in the immediate moment, it is a terrible habit.
Chronic eye rubbing can:
- Scratch the eye’s surface or cornea
- Thin the cornea by wearing it down
- Put you at greater risk of developing an eye infection
- Worsen glaucoma
- Make allergies worse by elevating histamine levels
- Damage tissue underneath the eyes leading to saggy, wrinkly, or discolored bags under the eyes
Read our post, Why You Shouldn’t Rub Your Eyes, to learn more. If you’re getting plenty of sleep but still can’t resist the urge to rub, schedule a visit with your optometrist. You may have unaddressed allergies or dry eyes that we can treat.
Minimize risk of infections or allergies
Your immune system plays a huge role in supporting the health of your eyes. The bacteria, viruses, and fungi that cause eye infections are typically present before your eyes demonstrate any symptoms. In the beginning phases, your immune system puts up a brave fight trying to eliminate them.
However, a repressed immune system simply can’t fight back, which leaves you susceptible to getting infections more often. The better you rest each night, the better chance your eyes have of fighting off potential infections before they become painful for uncomfortable.
Keep your eyes moist
Dry eyes are becoming increasingly more common due to our prolonged screen use at both work and school. In addition, lack of sleep can negatively impact your eyes’ ability to lubricate themselves. This is one of the reasons tired eyes often feel itchy, dry, or irritated.
In addition to getting enough shuteye, drink plenty of fluids and take frequent “eye breaks” when using screen-based technology to ensure you blink enough. Read our post about the links between eye strain and screen time and begin establishing healthy screen habits with your family.
Lower your risk of glaucoma (especially if you have sleep apnea)
Sleep apnea is one of the most common causes of poor sleep. If you snore or frequently wake up startled and gasping for a breath, you may have sleep apnea. Believe it or not, eye doctors are sometimes the first to know you have sleep apnea, based on changes in the tissue around your eyes, eyelids, retina, and vision.
There is a link between patients with sleep apnea and higher rates of glaucoma, a serious eye condition that leads to vision loss. Treating sleep apnea can be as simple as getting a custom-fit dental device that prevents snoring or may require the use of a CPAP machine. A trip to your doctor for a checkup is your first step to treating sleep apnea, getting a better night’s sleep, and protecting your vision.
Support eye surgery recovery
Are you planning to take advantage of LASIK or cataract surgery in the future? Your overall health is essential to the healing process. By focusing on getting a good night’s sleep, you’re also supporting your eye surgery recovery and reducing your risk of post-operative infections.
Reduce your risk of injury and eye trauma
Tired people are far more likely to experience workplace injuries or mishaps that lead to eye trauma or injury. On the other hand, if you’re well-rested, you have a lower risk of being involved in a car accident, sporting injury, or workplace injury that might result in damage to your eyes or vision.
5 Tips To Create Healthy Sleep Habits
Ready to start getting a healthy night’s sleep? Here are a handful of tips to get you o the right track.
Pay attention to current sleep habits and adjust
What are the factors that currently affect your sleep habits? Each one may have its solution attached.
- Snoring partner? Wear earplugs and schedule an appointment with their doctor to treat the issue
- Getting up to go to the bathroom? Minimize fluid intake after dinner, especially caffeinated beverages and alcohol
- Bright lights from the streetscape or a neighbor’s porchlight? Invest in heavier window coverings that blackout ambient light (which isn’t good for you at night anyway – more on that below)
- Stress or anxiety? Practice writing down your list of worries or a “to do” list before bed so your brain can stop churning. Consider using mindfulness, meditation, or breathing exercises to help you calm before bedtime.
Establish consistent sleep/wake times
Our bodies rely on their circadian rhythm to establish sleep/wake cycles. If you are all over the map with sleep/wake times, it can screw up the internal clock. Create consistent sleep/wake times for the next six to 10 weeks to balance your circadian rhythm again. Allow enough time to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
Create a soothing nighttime ritual
Humans are creatures of habit, so creating a soothing nighttime ritual is an effective way to honor your new sleep time. Examples can be as involved as taking a warm bath or shower or massaging the soles of your feet with a soothing essential oil to simply taking a few deep breaths and quieting your mind before drifting off.
Turn screens of at least 30-minutes before bedtime
The blue light from TVs, phones, and gadgets interrupts your brain’s production of Melatonin, an important sleep hormone. Turning off your devices and screens at least 30 minutes before going to bed gives you time to create a soothing nighttime ritual and gives your brain the space it needs to make you sleepy.
Invest in high-quality bedding to help create healthy sleep habits
Your mattress, pillows, and bedding are essential to sleep comfort – including supporting your head, neck, and spine. Investing in high-quality bedding can revolutionize the way you sleep, especially if you’re someone who experiences frequent back, neck, or head pain.
The Atlantic Eye Institute wishes you sweet dreams and uninterrupted sleep until we see you back in our office for your routine eye exam.