Insufficient sleep is an increasing problem in America. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 40 million Americans get fewer than six hours of sleep per night. People who report that they do not sleep well at night are more likely to develop chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and depression. Although experts may not agree on how many hours of sleep are optimal, it is clear that insufficient sleep produces a reduced quality of life (Source: CDC).
Lack of adequate rest at night can also take its toll on your eyesight. Without at least five hours of sleep, the eyes cannot replenish and work at their full potential. Three of our Your Sight Matters physicians offered some valuable insight regarding three potential eye problems that can occur if you do not get enough sleep.
Eye spasms, or myokymia, are harmless involuntary eyelid twitches that are aggravating and disruptive. According to Dr. Timothy Ehlen of Minneapolis Eye Center, “Eye spasms are usually not painful and will not damage your vision, but they are bothersome and can be very distracting. Getting better sleep is the best remedy, as well as trying to relax. Being stressed about your eye spasms may just make them worse.”
Popped blood vessel
A popped blood vessel is called a subconjunctival hemorrhage. “It sounds very serious, but it actually looks and sounds much more harmful than it actually is,” said Dr. David P. Rowell of Salem Laser and Surgery Center. “A subconjunctival hemorrhage can occur after very minor trauma to the eye. About half of the hemorrhages we see occur after a mild event like a poke with a finger or after lifting, straining or coughing. The other half occur with no known trauma, the very red eye just appeared for no reason. Fortunately, a subconjunctival hemorrhage is almost never a cause for concern. It will gradually resolve with no treatment. It can look serious but is never a threat to vision and requires no specific treatment.”
Dr. Jeff Taylor, of the Eye Surgery Center of Paducah in Paducah, Ky., said that inadequate sleep can cause dry eye, a condition where your tears do not sufficiently lubricate your eyes. “Dry eye can manifest itself in many ways such as redness, itching, burning, sensitivity to light and blurred vision. For a temporary solution, you may try using lubricating eye drops. However, there are some natural remedies for dry eye such as taking fish oil supplements and eating foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids.” Dr. Taylor also suggested that wearing glasses instead of contacts for a few days can reduce dry eye, but he agreed that nothing can substitute for getting plenty of rest at night.
If you are finding that your schedule is getting too demanding, it may be time to re-evaluate your priorities and commit to getting to bed at an earlier hour. Most adults need 7 or 8 hours of sleep each night to function well. Even if you are extremely busy, you will find that you are more productive if you get a good rest and finish your work the following day when you are fresh. Your body and your eyes will be able to work more efficiently and you will be more productive. Don’t sacrifice your long-term vision for short-term results.