Healthy Sleeping Habits

How Your Eye Health Can Impact Your Sleep Quality, According to an Optometrist

Photo by Getty Images/Boy_Anupong
So many factors of life play into sleep quality: exercise habits, coffee consumption (and timing!), and the sleep environment itself, to cite just a few examples. But one component that you may not have realized plays into your snooze game? Eye health.

A recent study of 70,000 Dutch people found that poor eye health, particularly having dry eye disease, is associated with poor sleep. But optometrist Jennifer Chinn, OD, co-owner of Dr. Chinn’s Vision Care in San Diego, adds that eye health and sleep quality are more generally bidirectionally linked, with common (and seemingly unsuspecting) eye-compromising habits getting in the way of people's REM, and poor quality sleep also opening up the risk of eye-health issues. "Getting a good night's rest helps facilitate better eye health and visual functioning, while healthy eye habits can help us get a better nights sleep," she says.

Below, Dr. Chinn breaks down the best practices for optimal eye health (and better sleep!) as well as ways to avoid issues related to eye health and sleep quality altogether.

3 eye-health-compromising habits that risk your sleep quality, too

1. Sleeping with your contact lenses in

Falling asleep with your contact lenses is a top mistake people make when wearing them, and one that Dr. Chinn says “is a sure way to harm the health of your eyes.” Our eyes use sleep to replenish, in a sense, which they do by taking in oxygen. Sleeping in contact lenses reduces the oxygen flow to the eyes, which can cause dry eyes and eye infections, says Dr. Chinn. Irritation, eye fatigue, and dryness related to lenses left in overnight can all resulting in lower-quality sleep, Dr. Chinn says.

2. Scrolling on your phone at night

This is particularly inadvisable if you’re not using your phone's built-in night mode, which reduces the amount of blue light you’re exposed to. Since overexposure to blue light can throw off your circadian rhythm (or internal body clock) and melatonin production, it's important to be mindful of how much time you spend on the phone around bedtime. Using your phone around bedtime may contribute to you being “awake longer and prevent the eyes from getting their much-needed rest,” says Dr. Chinn.

If you can't part with your nighttime tech habits, consider wearing blue-light-blocking glasses to help make sure you don't disrupt your slumber.

3. Falling asleep with makeup on

“After many hours, products like mascara and eyeliner can build up and affect how your eye glands produce tears,” says Dr. Chinn. If you’ve had a long day, you might feel like it’s impossible to muster up the energy to wash your face, but Dr. Chinn encourages people to seriously consider removing their makeup before calling it a night, as not doing so may result in eye irritation.

“With the dryness and damaged eye glands come eye infections, styes, inflammation, and much more,” adds Dr. Chin. “If the irritation and dryness becomes extreme, it can be painful and cause you to wake up at night, impeding your ability to sleep because of the discomfort.” (Pro tip: Keep a bottle of micellar water and some cotton balls on your nightstand so you can at least get some of the makeup off.)

3 ways to optimize eye health for better sleep

1. Maintain a healthy diet

According to Dr. Chinn, maintaining a nutrition-rich diet is one of the most important components of eye health, with leafy greens and particular vegetables being great for eyesight. Spinach, for example, offers benefits like protecting you against degenerative eye disease, and brussels sprouts help protect against dry eyes, which Dr. Chinn links to lower-quality sleep. Since consuming nutrient-rich foods can support optimum eye health, doing so also helps you avoid the possibility of losing sleep because of dry eyes.

2. Exercise regularly

Walking and doing low-impact exercises can contribute to healthy blood flow, which also promotes eye health. In turn, Dr. Chinn says, you’re also reducing your risk of diabetes and hypertension, which she says can increase the risk of eye disease. Taking a walk in the morning is also linked to higher quality sleep, so you’ll be hitting two birds with one wellness stone.

3. Wear eye protection

It’s important to protect our eyes from things that aren’t supposed to be in them, whether that be harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun, machinery at work, gardening, or otherwise. To do this, Dr. Chinn suggests wearing UV-blocking sunglasses and protective eyewear. Otherwise, if an external object enters your eye, it's possible you'll have an eye injury, which could make you miss out on quality slumber.

“All of these tips help to not only maintain a healthy lifestyle, but will ensure clear vision for all of your daily activities,” says Dr. Chinn. And since your eyes will be healthy, you’ll be more likely to be able to clock higher-quality sleep.

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