Sleep impacts virtually every function in your body—and that includes your vision.
If you want optimal eye functioning, then getting proper sleep is a must. “To maintain good eye health and optimal vision, it’s essential to get an adequate amount of sleep,” says Julia Giyaur, ophthalmologist and founding director of New York Laser Vision.
But what’s the connection between eye health and sleep? Can lack of sleep affect eyesight? And how can you optimize your sleep in a way that supports better eye health? Keep reading to find out.
Sleep and eye health: Can lack of sleep affect vision?
When it comes to how sleep can impact eye health, one of the main questions is can lack of sleep cause vision problems?
“Yes, lack of sleep can affect vision—and it can have various impacts on your visual perception and eye health,” says Giyaur.
So, in what ways can sleep impact vision and eye health?
- Can lack of sleep cause eye strain? Lack of sleep can lead to fatigue—and that includes eye fatigue. “When you’re tired, your eye muscles can become fatigued, leading to difficulties focusing on objects, especially when using screens or reading for extended periods,” says Giyaur.
- Can lack of sleep cause dry eyes? Dry eyes—and the discomfort that goes with it—are a common side effect of not getting enough sleep. “Lack of sleep can reduce the production of tears and cause your eyes to become dry and irritated,” says Giyaur. “This can lead to symptoms like redness, itching, and a gritty feeling in your eyes.”
- Can lack of sleep cause blurry vision? It can—thanks to how a lack of sleep impacts the eye’s lubrication. “Sleep deprivation can cause your eye’s natural lubrication to decrease, leading to blurry vision,” says Giyaur. “Your eyes may have trouble maintaining a stable tear film, which is essential for clear vision.”
- Can lack of sleep cause light sensitivity? “Your eyes may become more sensitive to light when you are sleep-deprived, making it uncomfortable to be in bright or harsh lighting conditions,” says Giyaur.
One important thing to note: Generally, the impact of lack of sleep on the eyes is temporary; getting poor sleep doesn’t cause existing vision problems—for example, near-sightedness—to progress or get worse. (There are exceptions; more on that in a moment.)
“Yes, lack of sleep can affect someone’s vision—but not because it would change their glasses or contact lenses prescription,” says Washington, DC-based ophthalmologist Michael Brusco. “In other words, being tired doesn’t usually make someone more or less near-sighted or far-sighted, and it wouldn’t likely affect someone’s astigmatism. Rather, lack of sleep can temporarily or chronically cause the body to be fatigued or exhausted, including the eyes.”
Sleep apnea and vision loss
While lack of sleep doesn’t generally cause vision to deteriorate, there’s one exception: when that lack of sleep is caused by sleep apnea.
“Sleep apnea has been linked to an increase in intraocular pressure (IOP), which is a significant risk factor for glaucoma,” says Giyaur—and glaucoma can lead to vision loss.
How much increased risk? According to a recent meta-analysis, patients with obstructive sleep apnea had a 40% greater risk of glaucoma.
How to sleep better and keep your eyes healthy
Getting better sleep can support eye health, both in the short and long term. But how, exactly, can you get the sleep you need to keep your eyes healthy?
Keep a consistent sleep schedule
The more consistent your sleep schedule, the easier it is to get better sleep.
“Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day,” says Giyaur. “Consistency helps regulate your body’s internal clock.”
Choose a bedtime and a wake-up time that works for your schedule, and then stick to it—even on weekends.
Change how you interact with screens
Too much screen time can wreak havoc on your sleep. “The blue light emitted from screens—[including] phones, tablets, computers, and TVs—can interfere with your body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep,” says Giyaur.
So, if you want to get better sleep—and support eye health in the process—you should try to minimize screen time, particularly as bedtime approaches.
“Try to avoid screens for at least an hour before bedtime,” says Giyaur.
In addition to contributing to lack of sleep-related eye issues, too much screen time in general can cause eye strain. To minimize strain, Brusco recommends the “20/20/20 method,” which gives the eyes frequent breaks.
“Every 20 minutes, rest your eyes for 20 seconds by looking away 20 feet,” he says. “If you’re in a small room, then just look at the farthest wall away from you. This will help protect your eyes from dryness and strain.”
Create the ideal sleep environment
If you want to minimize eye issues, then you need to get a good night’s sleep. And that often comes down to your environment—and how conducive it is to getting high-quality shuteye.
“Ensure your bedroom is completely dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature,” says Giyaur. “Ensure your mattress is of high quality and the right firmness for you. Consider using blackout curtains, earplugs, or a white noise machine if necessary.”
Get tested for and manage sleep apnea
As mentioned, sleep apnea can increase the risk of glaucoma and vision loss. If you’re experiencing symptoms of sleep apnea (including loud snoring and stopping breathing while sleeping), then it’s important to get tested—and if you do have sleep apnea, it’s important to take steps to treat and manage the condition.
“Managing sleep apnea through appropriate treatment, such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy or lifestyle modifications, may help reduce the risk of vision-related problems and improve overall eye health,” says Giyaur.
Another thing to consider is, from a sleep apnea and glaucoma perspective, what’s the best sleep position for eye health?
Research has found that IOP is higher when lying horizontally—so people with sleep apnea (which is also associated with higher IOP) should “consider sleeping in a bed that allows a head elevation of 30°.”
Can lack of sleep cause vision loss?
In the short term, lack of sleep won’t directly cause vision loss. But certain sleep conditions, like sleep apnea, can increase the risk of eye problems—including glaucoma, which may cause vision loss.
Can being tired make vision blurry?
Yes, a lack of sleep can cause blurred vision.
What do sleep-deprived eyes look like?
While different people exhibit different symptoms, lack of sleep often causes red eyes and dark circles underneath the eye area.
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