A new study indicates sleep problems could be a cause or effect of glaucoma, one of the leading causes of blindness.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a family of eye diseases that elevates inner eye pressure to dangerous levels and can damage the optic nerve. Deterioration of the optic nerve can lead to permanent vision loss or even blindness. Currently, glaucoma affects more than three million Americans, but many are unaware because glaucoma often has no noticeable symptoms in the early stages. Therefore, early diagnosis and early intervention are imperative to minimize optic nerve damage and preserve vision.
Glaucoma and Circadian Rhythm
Michael V. Boland, M.D., Ph.D., co-authored a study that suggests high eye pressure damages retinal cells, which may mediate other functions in the body like sleep and circadian rhythms.
Dr. Boland examined data from a cross-section of patients: some with glaucoma, some with vision loss and some with no vision problems. Patients answered questions about sleep medication, sleep duration, sleep disorders, sleep disturbances and daytime drowsiness.
The results of the study showed a connection between glaucoma and long and short sleep duration. Glaucoma was three times more prevalent in participants who slept ten or more hours per night compared to participants who slept seven hours per night.
Dr. Boland discovered patients with glaucoma were more likely to fall asleep very quickly or take a longer time to fall asleep. Glaucoma was more prevalent in patients who fell asleep in nine or fewer minutes or patients who fell asleep in 30 minutes or more. There was also a connection between glaucoma and pronounced daytime sleepiness.
Poor Sleep Quality Does Not Always Indicate Glaucoma
Sleep problems and glaucoma are not always related, but it is important to consult a doctor to help resolve sleep issues. Dr. Boland said he would continue to research the connection, but he encourages more communication between physicians and patients. “Ophthalmologists may want to consider asking their glaucoma patients about their sleep quality,” Boland explained.
According to SleepHealth.org, an estimated 50 to 70 million Americans experience sleep-related problems. Sleep disorders are common among both genders and all ages and socioeconomic classes, and sleep deprivation can cause chronic health concerns.
How to Improve Sleep Quality
Are you having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? Here are a few easy ways to improve sleep quality:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
- Stop eating at least three hours before bedtime.
- After dinner, dim the lights in your home and only use floor lamps.
- Put electronic devices away at least two hours before bedtime.
- Do not watch television in bed or sleep with the television turned on.
Make an Appointment for a Comprehensive Eye Exam
If you struggle with insomnia or another sleep disorder, make an appointment with your eye doctor as well as your primary care physician. A comprehensive eye exam is the best way to receive a full evaluation of your vision health. Your doctor will check your prescription and test you for degenerative eye conditions like cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration. Treatment can begin immediately, so you can enjoy years of clear vision.
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