Can Lack of Sleep Affect My Eyesight?

Dry, sticky eyes in the morning after going to bed late? We all know the feeling. But are the lack of sleep side effects something to worry about or merely unpleasant?

Your sleep and eyesight are closely related. It’s not only poor sleep that can damage your eyesight, but also eye health problems like dry eyes that can affect your sleep.

Learn more about how one affects the other and discover the key effects of lack of sleep on your eyes.

The Link Between Sleep and Eyesight

Sleep helps the body’s cells heal and recover. The eyes are no exception. Every day, your eyes are exposed to UV radiation, light from artificial sources, pollutants, dust, and other sources of environmental damage.

Free radicals may also damage your eyesight. These are unstable atoms that occur in the body as a result of normal essential metabolic processes or smoke, chemicals, or air pollutants.

Losing sleep repeatedly or not getting enough good sleep may take its toll on your eyes. Your eyes won’t have the chance to heal. Having to spend many hours in front of a computer or working in a dry, windy environment can make the problem worse.

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, sleep deprivation can cause glaucoma over time. Sleep apnea, a condition in which breathing stops and starts during sleep, is a known risk factor for glaucoma. Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness. Around 10% of people with glaucoma experience vision loss despite receiving adequate treatment.

Signs of Sleep Deprivation on the Eyes

When you experience lack of sleep, your eyes feel it and will often send you warning signs. Often, you can see the lack of sleep effects on your eyes the next morning when you look in the mirror. These signs can include:

  • Puffy, swollen eyes
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Dark circles under the eyes
  • Eye twitches or spasms
  • Blurry vision
  • Redness in one or both eyes
  • Eye strain
  • Itchy, gritty, dry eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Tearing

Sleep deprived eyes don’t only look tired and bloodshot. They don’t produce enough tears. Tears help protect the eyes against infection. They act as a defense barrier against dust, pollutants, and microbes. Having dry eyes because of lack of sleep increases your risk of eye infections.

Losing more than one night’s sleep can make the symptoms worse. A diet lacking in nutrients for the eyes may compound the problem. Lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, vitamins D, C, and E, omega-3 fatty acids, and zinc are essential nutrients essential for eye health. Factors that affect your sleep may also affect what and when you eat, so it's important to remember to nourish your eyes through your diet.  

closeup of woman's eyes

Dry Eyes: Lack of Sleep to Blame?

Sleep deprivation affects the quality of the tear film which lubricates the surface of the eye.

A study involving 71,761 participants aged between 19 and 94 years analyzed the dry eyes lack of sleep connection. The study found a strong association between dry eyes and poor sleep across ages and sexes. It noted that one in two people with dry eyes symptoms often have poor sleep. Also, people with more frequent symptoms were more likely to experience poor sleep more often.

Another study found that patients with dry eye disease had worse sleep than people suffering from chronic conjunctivitis and other diseases affecting the surface of the eyes. Lack of sleep and dry eyes just don’t go together too well, it seems.

Losing sleep can be a contributing factor leading to dry eyes. At the same time, having dry eyes can affect your sleep quality. This, in turn, can make your dry eye symptoms worse.

The research above indicates that people who don’t address the underlying causes behind their dry eyes and/or poor sleep may find that one problem worsens the other.

As an adult, you need to sleep 7 hours or more every night to give your eyes and the rest they need to perform at their best. Constantly sleeping less than 7 hours can lead to more than eyesight problems. It increases the risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and depression. Sleep is simply crucial for overall good health.

What You Can Do About It

Lack of sleep can affect your eyesight, that much is clear. Every day, your eyes go through a lot. Unless you give them good rest every night, you may experience dry eye symptoms. Over time, your eyesight can be affected.

While your body can recover from a night or two of lost sleep, chronic sleep problems are dangerous for your eyes. Here are some essential tips that could help you sleep more and better and safeguard your vision.

  • Be physically active every day. If your body is tired at the end of the day, falling asleep will be easier.
  • Avoid using screens in the hour before going to bed. Or even better, don’t use them at night at all.
  • Don’t drink caffeine in the second part of the day.
  • Don’t go to bed with a full stomach or feeling hungry. An overworked or empty stomach can keep you up at night.
  • Consider taking dietary supplements for eye health and any other nutritional deficiencies you may be at risk of developing.
  • Meditate and use other strategies to manage stress and worries that can keep you up at night.
  • Spend more time in the sun.
  • Address any underlying eye or health problems you may have and that can affect your sleep.

Take the Dry Eye Test

Do you experience signs or symptoms of dry eyes? Finding out whether you may have dry eyes can be the first step to better managing the condition and improving the quality of your sleep.

To make the process easier for you, we developed a simple, 3-minute dry eye test. All you have to do is answer a few questions about your symptoms to find out whether you may have dry eye disease.

Dry eye is easy to neglect in its early stages. But listening to the signals your body is sending you is important. It will help you improve your eye health and take better care of your eyes.

Take the Dry Eye Test.