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How Sleep and Vision Intersect

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Sleep deprivation hits the body and mind a lot like alcohol, but how does it affect our eyes?

Getting enough sleep is great for our overall health and our eye health alike. At the other end of things, we can improve the quality of our sleep if we are more careful about what we put in front of our eyes before we go to bed.

The Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Eye Health

Nearly everyone knows what it’s like to feel sleep deprived in the short term. We feel grumpy and drowsy and struggle to concentrate. Over time, however, the effects are more dramatic. Chronic sleep deprivation can weaken our immune systems, make it harder to lose weight, increase our blood pressure, make us moodier, and make us more prone to memory loss. Our eyes don’t escape unscathed either.

We need at least five hours of sleep each night for our eyes to replenish themselves for a new day. Beyond helping us keep our eyes open, our eyes need sleep to prevent eye strain, dry eye, and eye twitches. Thankfully, our eyes also play a role in getting more and better quality sleep that will help them function at their best!

Blue Light From Screens Can Mess Up Our Internal Clocks

As tech-savvy as we become with our modern devices, we still can’t change the biology of our eyes. Only the last few decades of the entirety of human history have included sources of blue light that come from anywhere but the sun. Our brains are wired to interpret blue light as daytime, when we should be awake. The later we look at our screens in the evening, the more we trick our brains into thinking it’s not bedtime.

Limit the Blue Light Around Bedtime

Anyone who’s had a harder time falling asleep in the smartphone era might have better luck if they avoid screens in the hour before bed. If that isn’t possible, blue light filters on the screen can help significantly as well. Try it out and see if it makes a difference for your quality of sleep. It will also help your eye health!

Take the Night Off From Contact Lenses

The cornea (the clear layer at the front of our eyes) is the only part of the human body that gets its oxygen directly from the air. Modern contact lenses tend to be far more oxygen-permeable than they used to be, which means they allow our eyes to breathe better. Still, it’s better to take contacts out overnight than to leave them in.

Giving your eyes that break from contact lenses during sleep helps to reduce the risk of eye infections and give them time to recover from working hard providing your sense of sight all day. Anyone who prefers to leave their contacts in should first make sure that they’re following the instructions on the packaging for how often to take them out.

Make Eye Exams a Priority

We’re happy to answer any questions our patients have about the connections between sleep and eye health, and we can easily do so the next time you see us for an eye exam. Until then, try to get plenty of sleep while practicing good care and safety of your contact lenses, and don’t forget to dim the blue lights before bed!

We’re excited to see you at our practice!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

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Written by Dr. Rania Montecillo

Dr. Montecillo calls Redmond her home after living all over the world. She was born in Egypt and raised in England where her parents were both studying medicine. Dr. Montecillo moved to Redmond to attend the University of Washington, where she attained her BS in Psychology. In 1998 she went on to Pacific University and earned her Doctorate in Optometry. Since graduation, she has been practicing right here in Redmond. In 2004, she joined Dr. Forrey at Redmond Eye Doctors and in 2007 she took over ownership.

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