Is Sleep Important for Your Eyes?

by Nov 11, 2020

A good night’s sleep is important not only for optimal cognitive functioning but also for the health of the body and eyes long term. Unfortunately, there are certain conditions that can cause an individual to get a less than optimal night of sleep, or that affect how the body recovers during sleep. Read on to learn about how some of these conditions can affect the eyes.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

This condition involves breathing stopping and starting repeatedly during the night with associated snoring. This is the most common subtype of sleep apnea and is due to the throat muscles relaxing and blocking off one’s airway during the night. One treatment option for this condition is to use a device that keeps the airway opening, often known as a CPAP machine.

The CPAP machine is great for treating sleep apnea but unfortunately can also cause side effects on the eyes. When the mask is not fitting well, it is possible that the mask will cause dry eyes. The air blowing past the eyes will dry out the front surface and cause discomfort.

Another condition often associated with sleep apnea is floppy eyelid syndrome, a condition in which the upper eyelid is extremely flexible. Due to the anatomy, the eyelid everts spontaneously during sleep rubs against the bedding or pillows. This ultimately causes chronic dry eye along with inflammation and irritation of the eyelid.

Sleep apnea is also associated with more serious conditions like non-arteritic anterior optic neuropathy (NAION) and glaucoma.

Opening Your Eyes When Sleeping (Nocturnal Lagophthalmos)

In some individuals, their eyelids are not completely closed during sleep. This can range from the eyes being open as if they are awake to only leaving a small opening still exposed.

Even a small slit open at night can cause air to dry out that portion of the cornea, the front surface of the eye. This dryness can cause irritation during the day as well as induce blurry vision. Without treatment, a patch of dryness can cause significant visual changes and damage to the cornea. 


Sleep Deprivation

During stressful times, many individuals have difficulty sleeping or choose to pull long nights with limited hours of sleep. Just as the body takes a toll on limited sleeping hours, the eye is also affected.

Sleep deprivation can also lead to less tear production, ultimately causing or exacerbating dry eye symptoms. The eyelid can begin to twitch or spasm, which can last from days to weeks. Certain inflammations and infections in the eyes are also more likely when the immune system is dampened or when stress hormones are more prevalent in the body.


Our eye doctors at Wilmington Family Eye Care in Wilmington, DE excel in prescription of glasses, contact lenses and the diagnosis of a variety of eye diseases. Call our optometrists at 302-299-1286 or schedule an eye exam appointment online if you would like to learn more about interested in learning more about how sleep (or lack of) can affect your eyes. Our eye doctors, Drs. Daniel Baruffi, Joseph Goldberg, Karen Darrell and Patricia Jones provide the highest quality optometry services and eye exams in Wilmington, Delaware and its surrounding areas.

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