Optician reveals eye conditions caused by lack of sleep

Optician reveals eye conditions caused by lack of sleep

According to a study by BMJ Open, people who sleep too little have an increased risk of developing glaucoma, a common eye condition where the optic nerve that connects the eye to the brain becomes damaged. If not managed early, this can lead to blindness. Lack of sleep can also contribute to other eye issues which can impact vision.   

Nimmi Mistry, professional services optician at Vision Direct, shares four common eye conditions caused by lack of sleep.  

1. Dry eyes  

Your eyes rely on tears for many reasons, from protection to keeping them moisturised and preventing infections. Tears are formed when we blink and are made up of a balanced formula of oil, mucus, and water. To achieve their maximum benefit, tears should stay on the eye for around 10-15 seconds before a new one is formed.   A lack of sleep can impede the regeneration of the outer layer of the cornea and alter the tear film, potentially resulting in less tear fluid.  

Dryness can cause the eyes to feel itchy, irritable, and tired. This will put a strain on your eyesight making it difficult to concentrate during the day. Not only this, but dry eyes can also cause them to become sensitive to light and blur your vision, impacting your vision.   

If you are suffering from dry eye, it is best to switch to contact lenses made from silicone hydrogel and use some hydrating eye drops until your eyes feel comfortable again.  

2. Eye spasms   

Eye spasms, or myokymia, are a common problem caused by insufficient sleep and stress. The condition causes involuntary eye twitching which can be uncomfortable. Eye twitching is when muscles in the eyelids move without your control. Sleeping will allow the muscles in your Eyes to relax which can reduce twitching eyes.   

In most cases, it’s temporary. However, if your eye closes completely when the twitches occur, be sure to see a doctor straight away.  

3. Blurry vision  

If you have blurred vision, the things you see will not be sharp and clear. There are several common causes for blurry vision such as – eye infections, dry eye, damage to the cornea, or diabetic retinopathy but if you are sleep-deprived it is difficult for the muscles in the eyes to focus.   

If the blurred vision is caused by an infection or injury, lack of sleep can also slow down the healing process. During sleep is when your bodies repair and regenerate, meaning if you are not completing sleep cycles, you will take longer to heal. If your blurred vision comes on suddenly seek medical help immediately.   

4. Eye Floaters  

Eye floaters are small shapes we see floating in our vision. They increase with age but are more apparent when looking at a bright background such as the sky. You may notice them more after a lack of sleep. Skipping a good night’s sleep will only put stress on your eyes, hence it’s important to rest your eyes in order to avoid experiencing this.   

5 quick tips for protecting your eye health 

Although the obvious remedy for these conditions is getting more sleep, a recent survey found that 37% of Brits admit to not getting enough sleep day to day, luckily there are some ways to help protect your eye health, both in the short and long term, which can help mitigate the risk of developing these conditions. 

1. Stay hydrated 

It may seem like an obvious tip, but it is vital to stay hydrated to help eye moisture. Adults should be drinking at least 2 litres of water per day (around 6-8 glasses) when you are hydrated, so are your eyes.  

It is important to mention that coffee, tea, fizzy drinks and alcohol are diuretics which means they remove water from the body, although most are mild diuretics it is best to ensure you are consuming the recommended water as well as these drinks.  

2. Use eye drops 

If you are experiencing high levels of discomfort due to dry eye, and infection has been ruled out, then purchasing some eye drops may help speed along recovery and provide comfort. These drops act as artificial tears and re-hydrate the eyes, removing the scratching, sore feeling caused by being dry.  

The eye drops can be purchased online, in supermarkets or in high-street pharmacies without a prescription. 

3. Take vitamins specifically for your eyes 

Certain vitamins can help increase the supply of nutrients your eyes receive which will not only improve and protect overall eye health but decrease dry eye discomfort, eye problems, as well as eye diseases. The most effective vitamins for eyes include lutein and zeaxanthin. Research also suggests vitamin A, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids aid in lubricating the eye and reducing dry eye symptoms. 

Some foods which contain omega-3 fatty acids include: 

  • Salmon (2,150 mg per serving) 
  • Chia seeds (5,050 mg per serving) 
  • Mackerel (4,580 mg per serving) 
  • Walnuts (2,570 mg per serving) 

4. Be strict with screen time 

Spending a lot of time on your phone or computer can lead to “digital eye strain,” which manifests itself in the form of headache, blurred vision, dry eyes, and pain in the upper body, including stiffness around the neck. 

The blue light emitted by these devices are short in wavelength but high in energy. When exposed to such electromagnetic waves for a prolonged period, there is the potential of damage to the structures within the eye. In addition, we blink less when concentrating, leading to discomfort and dryness of the eyes. 

It is also important to note that the blue light emitted also disrupts normal melatonin production, which is the sleep hormone, therefore screen time could be impacting your sleep beyond the clocks going forward. 

Research does suggest more evidence is needed on this topic, however, it’s important to take frequent breaks and adopt changes, such as adjusting screen brightness/contrast and making sure the screen is at an appropriate distance. Using a screen filter can also be beneficial. 

You can also incorporate the 20-20-20 rule into your daily routine, this requires taking screen breaks every 20 mins and gazing at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. 

5. Do some eye exercises 

There are a range of eye exercises which can help rebuild the moisture in dry eyes, as a result of lack of sleep, too. For example:

– Blinking consciously: This involves keeping your eyes closed for half a second before reopening. Repeating this 20 times will help the eye rebuild its natural hydration. 

– Palming: Place the palms of your hands slightly cupped over the eyes, without applying pressure. Let your fingertips overlap, resting on the forehead and try to not let any light through and breathe deeply for a minute. 

Adding these exercises to your daily routine will help keep eyes hydrated and prevent dry eye. 

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