Most of us are aware that poor sleeping habits affect our health. Sleep deprivation can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes and heart failure, as well as depression, a reduced immune system and a lower sex drive.
But what’s lesser known is that it could also be impacting your vision.
According to a study by BMJ Open, people who don’t get enough sleep have an increased risk of developing glaucoma, a common eye condition where the optic nerve which connects the eye to the brain becomes damaged. If this isn’t managed early, it can lead to blindness.
Lack of sleep can also contribute to other eye issues which can impact vision, as well as the physical appearance around your eyes.
Nimmi Mistry, professional services optician at Vision Direct, shares five common eye changes that can be 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.
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 – not to mention annoying.
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.
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. If you are sleep-deprived, it’s also 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 body repairs and regenerates, 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. Bags under the eyes
Not getting enough sleep can also result in puffy and dark circles under the eyes.
It’s thought that lack of sleep tends to increase the retention of blood and fluid around the eyes giving the appearance of pesky puffy bags or the dreaded dark circles.
Getting eight hours of sleep every night isn’t easy so here are some ways you can get some more shut-eye.
Quick tips for getting more sleep
Avoid screen time before bed. Cutting down on screen time before bed helps limit exposure to blue light. Blue light is on the same wavelength as visible light, which tricks our body into not producing melatonin, the sleep hormone, making it harder to sleep.
Cut your caffeine intake. Coffee has been shown to affect your eyesight but, of course, it also affects your sleep too. Those partial to coffee, tea and soft drinks should be aware that caffeine has an average half-life of between four and six hours, meaning you should avoid drinks containing caffeine six hours before bed.
Manage your stress. As well as stress impacting your eyesight, it also has a detrimental effect on your sleep. When stressed, it’s harder to drop off due to high levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Try writing down worries in a journal throughout the day to alleviate your mind at night, take part in some meditation before bed or try a weighted blanket to ease anxiety.