Eye Health and Sleep
Eye care isn’t just important when you’re awake but also while you sleep. Taking care of your eyes is more than just being able to see.
You should take steps toward maintaining good eye health, like eating healthy foods, hydrating your eyes, and getting enough sleep.
Some of the most common problems people run into with eye health are dry eyes, sleeping with contacts, and the effects of sleep deprivation.
Waking up With Dry Eyes
Dry eyes occur when your eyes aren’t producing enough tears or staying wet enough—often described as gritty and uncomfortable. Dry eyes are common among older people and those with diabetes, thyroid problems, or blepharitis.
Another common reason for waking up with dry eyes is a condition called lagophthalmos. People with this condition find it difficult to keep their eyes closed while sleeping, caused by the weakening of the seventh cranial nerve or the facial nerve.
How to stop waking up with dry eyes
There are a few things you can do at home to solve your dry eye problem:
- Stay hydrated. You should drink 8-10 glasses of water a day.
- Use artificial tears. Over-the-counter eye drops before bed can help keep your eyes lubricated.
- Use warm compresses. A warm compress or heated towel will help unclog the oil-producing glands that may be preventing tear production.
- Use a humidifier. Humidifiers help add moisture to the atmosphere and keep your eyes moist.
Sleeping With Contacts
While contact lenses are a safe and effective alternative to prescription eyeglasses, they require more eye care. One-third of people who wear contact lenses fall asleep in them. While some may only wake up with dry or irritated eyes, far worse effects can happen.
Wearing contact lenses to sleep makes you 6-8 times more likely to get an eye infection. In worse cases, an eye infection can lead to corneal damage or vision loss. While there are contacts that are FDA-approved for sleep, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) disagrees.
Accidentally falling asleep with contacts.
If you accidentally fall asleep while wearing contact lenses, you should remove them immediately. Your eyes may be dry, making them difficult to remove. Instead, use a sterile solution to saturate your eyes before trying to remove them.
Avoid wearing your contacts for at least a day to monitor how your eyes feel and check for any signs of an infection.
Sleep deprivation can irritate your eyes. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, you may have red, dry, or itchy eyes. Not getting enough sleep can also cause uncomfortable and unsightly eye spasms.
The only way to solve this problem is to improve your sleep quality. There are many practices you can incorporate into your lifestyle to get better rest, including:
- Making a sleep schedule.
- Improving your sleep environment.
- Meditation and relaxation.
- Breathing exercises.