Studies show that sleep deprivation has similar effects on the body and mind as alcohol. But what does sleep have to do with eyesight? You might be surprised. Getting enough sleep does wonders for our overall health, including our eye health, and we can also achieve better quality sleep by changing what our eyes see before bedtime.
Most of us are familiar with a few of the symptoms of sleep deprivation over a night or two: drowsiness, grumpiness, and difficulty concentrating. In the long term, sleep deprivation can actually weaken our immune systems, make it harder to lose weight, increase our blood pressure, and contribute to memory loss and mood changes. We want to focus on how it affects our eyes.
It takes at least five hours of sleep per night for our eyes to replenish themselves so they can function well throughout the day. It goes beyond simply being able to keep them open. The less sleep we get over time, the more likely we are to experience symptoms like dry eye, eye strain, and even twitchy eyes. Fortunately, our eyes are actually part of the solution to getting more and better sleep.
Even the most tech-savvy among us can’t change the biology of our eyes. Throughout human history, light from the blue end of the visible spectrum has only come from the sun…until we invented devices with screens. Before that, the absence of blue light from the sun was the signal to our brains that it was time to finish things up for the day and get some sleep.
Now, with blue light coming from screens even after sundown, our brains might not get nature’s bedtime signal when they should. If you’ve noticed that it takes longer to feel tired while using your smart phone late at night, or that you struggle more to fall asleep, that screen could be the culprit because it’s tricking your brain into thinking it needs to stay awake!
The solution to the blue light problem is simple: put the devices away at least half an hour before going to sleep. Okay, we know that’s not going to be the easiest thing for everyone to do, but that’s why many devices now have built-in Night Shift settings that enable you to turn down the blue light close to bedtime on those evenings when you still need to be online that late. This should help you get more out of your night’s sleep, which will in turn help your eyes do their job better!
Wearing contacts overnight might not change the quality of your sleep on the whole, but it will make it less restful for your eyes. The cornea (the clear outer layer of the eye) gets its oxygen directly from the air. At night, when our eyes are closed for hours, contact lenses block much more of the air flow to the corneas than they do during the day.
Even with contacts that are designed for extended wear, it’s still healthier to take them out overnight. In addition to helping your eyes breathe easier, it also reduces the risk of eye infection. No matter what, make sure never to wear contacts for longer stretches of time than the packaging recommends.
Be sure to bring any questions you still have about how eye health and sleep are related when you come in for your next eye exam! We hope all our patients will get plenty of sleep, practice good care and safety habits with contact lenses, and remember to turn down the blue light before bed.