In fact, studies even show that not getting enough sleep has many of the same effects on the mind and body as alcohol. There’s an interesting relationship between our quality and quantity of sleep and our eyes. We can encourage better eye health with good sleep and we can use our eyes to get better sleep!
Some symptoms of sleep deprivation (particularly over an extended period) you may be familiar with, including a weakened immune system, weight gain, high blood pressure, memory issues, and mood changes, but it also specifically impacts our eyes.
In order to replenish themselves and function well throughout the day, our eyes need at least five hours of sleep per night. This isn’t just about being able to keep your eyes open; the longer you go without enough sleep, the more you might notice symptoms like eye strain, twitchy eyelids, and dry eye. The good news is that our eyes can be part of the solution to getting better sleep!
No matter how smartphone savvy you are these days, biologically speaking, your eyes still find these high-tech devices very confusing. Laptop, tablet, or smartphone screens all put out a lot of blue light. In nature, the only source of blue light is the sun, so when we see blue light, our eyes think it’s still daytime and that we should be awake!
Because of this, browsing the internet right up until bedtime can make it much harder for our brains to go to sleep, which really cuts into the time we could’ve been sleeping. Looking at bright screens in dark rooms also leaves us more vulnerable to digital eye strain.
We aren’t here to tell you that you should get rid of your smart devices, and we won’t even insist that you completely avoid them before bedtime. As with many things these days, there’s an app for that (or, in some phones, built in Night Shift settings). If you absolutely have to be online right before bed, take advantage of these apps or features that reduce the blue light emitted by the screen. Your tired eyes will thank you!
Whether or not you remember to take your contacts out at night might not affect your overall health or your quality of sleep, but it does make things harder on your eyes. Our eyes get oxygen directly from the air. Contact lenses block air from reaching them, especially during the hours our eyes are closed for sleep.
Some types of newer contact lenses allow much more oxygen flow, but taking them out overnight will still be the healthier choice. In addition to letting your eyes breathe freely, it reduces your risk of eye infection from the bacteria that likes to accumulate around contact lenses. In any case, check the labeling of the boxes your contacts come in to make sure you’re only wearing them for the recommended length of time.
If you have any questions about the relationship between sleep and eye health, make sure to bring them with you to your next eye exam! Even if you have no questions, get plenty of sleep, and remember to take your contacts out before bed, however, we’d still love to see you on a regular basis to make sure your eyes are staying functional and healthy.