How Sleeping Helps Your Eyes
The benefits of sleep.
We all know what it feels like to have had a great night's sleep. You get up, looking forward to your day ahead, feeling positive in mind, refreshed in body and with eyes awake and alert.
But why is this so?
On average, adults in the UK get about six hours sleep each night,1 although as many as 30% are believed to suffer from insomnia on a regular basis.1 But while insomnia can happen to anyone, for most of us it only happens every now and then. Perhaps if you're worried or excited you might not be able to get to sleep for a short periods. However, you will usually get over it and quite soon you're back to sleeping how you did before.
You need your sleep in order to:
- Stop feeling tired all the time
- Stop yourself falling asleep the next day at times when you need to be alert, such as driving or concentrating at work
- Make decisions using your best possible judgment
- Help prevent serious health issues
- Fully interact with family life
Lack of sleep can therefore affect several major aspects of your life. One obvious part of your body that's connected with sleep is, of course, your eyes.
How tiredness affects your eyes
Lack of sleep may not only cause physical, emotional and mental fatigue the next day, but if your body is deprived of sleep, the symptoms of eye fatigue can get worse.2
If you're suffering with eye fatigue, or eye strain, your symptoms could include:
- Irritated eyes
- Sore eyes
- Dry eyes
- Watery eyes
- Disturbances in your vision
- An increase in your sensitivity to light
These can often accompany the physical consequences of poor sleep, like aches and pain in your neck, back and shoulders, together with tired legs.
When you're trying to go about your day with eye fatigue, other aspects of your life may make it even worse:
- Constantly needing to read things - documents at work, road signs etc.
- Needing to write or use a keyboard
- Driving the children to school, or yourself to work
- Staring at computer screens and smartphones or video games
Let's face it, particularly when driving, we need all the visual alertness we can possibly get. Having eye fatigue is perhaps one of the worse burdens possible in this situation. Other tasks, like reading and writing, are mostly everyday necessities and you may feel you just have to push yourself into doing them. However, doing so can take its toll to a greater and greater degree on your tired eyes.
How your eyes can feel better after a restful sleep
Even though your eyes move during certain periods of sleep, called REM or rapid eye movement, sleeping actually helps overworked eye muscles to relax. Also while you're sleep, your eyes become replenished with nutrients that can be essential for their health.2
The best way you can help eye fatigue is to get more rest and sleep. Eye drops and sprays are available which can help with the symptoms of eye fatigue.
Preventing eye fatigue
If you think you're suffering symptoms of eye fatigue, try to assess your daily routine and take note of those areas that may currently be contributing to the problem.
- Are you too close to the TV or computer screen? If so, try to get into the habit of viewing from a more appropriate distance, by moving or tilting screens to help you. Adjusting your seat to the optimal height, angle and distance can help improve your focus on the screen - and take some strain off your eyes
- Keep screens nice and clean and at the correct brightness, using a filter if necessary to make viewing more comfortable and less straining on the eyes
- Take regular breaks from looking at computer screens, even if it’s just for a few seconds to close and rest your eyes, or to blink them in order to spread tear film and stop your eyes from drying too much. You could also look away from the screen and focus on a more distant object or view for a few seconds.
- Do simply adjust the brightness, but vary the contrast, on your screen too. Many people don't think about doing this and can be surprised how much better it is to see with improved contrast, and they risk straining their eyes less as a result
- Try not to drive late into the night if you can. Eyes can be strained and become even more tired when the light is dimmer, especially during winter months
- Ensure your driving seat is comfortable and positioned correctly
- Some people don't need to wear glasses for every occasion. If you find wearing your glasses whilst driving gives you a little extra sharpness, then putting them on more often may help prevent eye fatigue
- Take regular breaks from driving if you're going a long distance. Tiredness and tired eyes can be dangerous too
If you wear glasses or contact lenses:
- Do you have the right prescription glasses or contact lenses? Or is it time to get your eyes tested again? Squinting and constantly having to adjust your focus can put more strain on your eyes. So check when your last eye test was and consider having your eyes retested if you need to. It's easy to just put up with the glasses or contact lenses you already have, because you have simply become used to the adjustments you may have made in order to compensate. It probably won't be helping your eyes in the long run
Get more rest and better sleep
Easier said than done, you're saying. Have you considered what you do BEFORE going to bed, rather than just how you try to get to sleep once in bed?
Establishing a good bedtime routine is not a bad way to start. This is because a routine helps to prepare your brain for the "wind down" to bed and to sleep. Consider these tips:
- Before you settle down to relax, write down, or go over in your head, what you need to do the next day. Organising and preparing yourself in this way can stop you lying in bed worrying about it
- Rest and relax without watching the TV or reading. Although some people find reading helps them relax and then sleep, others may end up just causing more eye fatigue. So why not put on some relaxing music, close your eyes and sit back and listen. You're not trying to sleep, merely trying to unwind, rest your eyes and begin to let your mind relax and prepare for sleep - that's all at this stage
- Have a hot bath before bed. Again this can become part of the routine, something to really look forward to. You can close your eyes and rest them while soaking away and beginning to switch off
- Very light, gentle exercises such as stretching or gentle yoga techniques can also help you wind down. You could close your eyes while doing so, and begin to rest them too
- Don't drink coffee or caffeinated drinks before bed
Now we're getting to the real business end of things! Let's say you're feeling relaxed, and now, with your new pre-sleep routine that all important body, mind and eye resting sleep is beckoning. Check that your bedroom:
- Hasn't got lights glowing in the dark - alarm clock, phone, LEDs from DVD players or the TV. If there are some, try to cover them or switch them off completely if you can. You don't need any distractions, especially from lights. Put up darker curtains if it's too bright outside. Street lighting can be a particular challenge if you live in a busy town or city. You could also try wearing an eye mask
- Install double glazing to cut out noise from your bedroom, or get some earplugs (a slightly cheaper option)
- Make sure the room isn't too warm - excess heating won't help you get to sleep easily
- If you've need a new mattress and can afford to do so, go and treat yourself. We spend more time in bed than on any other piece of furniture, so it’s a sensible investment for good health
Treatment for tired eyes
Once you're getting better sleep, you may find that your eyes gradually feel less sore and puffy or red in the mornings and perhaps that darkness around them will finally begin to go. Meanwhile, you could consider a soothing eye treatment during the day. For example, Optrex ActiMistTM Eye Spray for Tired & Uncomfortable Eyes can provide instant relief for the symptoms of tired eyes due to disturbed lipid layer of the tear film, for up to 4 hours. The spray helps to restore the outer lipid layer of the tear film of the eye and helps to replenish your eyes natural moisture.
Alternatively, Optrex Refreshing Eye Drops is enriched with a natural plant extract to help refresh, soothe and cleanse tired and uncomfortable eyes.
In fact, there is a whole range of Optrex eye treatments to help you. You can find details of what might be most suitable for you with our solutions finder, available here.
Optrex eye care. Always read the label. Optrex ActiMist™ 2in1 Eye Spray for Tired + Uncomfortable eyes*,
Optrex ActiMist™ 2in1 Eye Spray for Dry + Irritated eyes*, Optrex ActiMist™ 2in1 Eye Spray for Itchy & Watery eyes*. Always read the instructions.
*Dry, irritated, itchy, watery and tired eyes symptoms due to disturbed lipid layer of the tear film, approximately 80% of dry eye cases.