It’s that time of the year, when Daylight Savings Time kicks back in, meaning two things. One, that the days are going to be shorter and we’re going to be spending more time in the dark (booo), and two, that we get an extra hour in bed this weekend (yay!).
Not only is that extra hour great for an indulgent lie in, or extending your night out when you probably shouldn't, it's also beneficial in terms of your eye health. Healthy eyes and sleep are intimately related, and the more sleep you get, the better your eyes are going to feel.
Is sleep good for your eyes?
Does sleep improve your eye health?
Experts recommend that we get at least 7 hours of sleep each night to stay both physically and mentally refreshed, but it’s estimated that between 30-40% of adults get 6 hours or less of sleep per night. It’s often said a lack of sleep leads to black rings around your eyes, but did you know it can affect how well they function and how comfortable they feel?
Your eyes need a minimum of 5 hours of sleep every night to replenish themselves and be ready for the next day. This means that sleeping for 6 hours or less is not giving your eyes much opportunity to recover and thrive. Instead they’re operating on the bare minimum of recovery time.
Why is sleep important for your eyes?
With the pressures of modern day life, your eyes truly need a break as they’re almost constantly required to focus. Whether you’re using a computer to work, reading books, researching things on your phone or driving, you’re putting strain on your eyes. Even the environment around you can contribute to tired eyes, for example, working in an air-conditioned office can cause your eyes to feel dry and uncomfortable. These factors all make getting a good amount of sleep each night important so that you can recover from the strains of the day.
So how does sleep benefit your eye health? As well as being a long period of time that your eyes don’t need to focus, during sleep your body replenishes the supply of natural tears that keep them feeling hydrated. This means that you’re more likely to avoid dry eyes during the day if you get 7+ hours a sleep per night. Well-rested eyes are also less likely to be affected by burst blood vessels, which can lead to an unappealing red and bloodshot appearance and discomfort.
REM (‘rapid eye movement’) sleep, might sound like it’s just as tiring as using your eyes during the day, but it’s important in their recovery. The small movements your eyes make during this part of sleep work the way that stretches do for your body, and help to relax your eyes so that they perform better. They also prevents eye spasms which, while usually harmless, can be uncomfortable and irritating, particularly if they happen often.
How can I get enough sleep to keep my eyes healthy?
Now that you know the importance of getting enough sleep and how it affects your eye health, you should consider the different ways you can make sure you’re getting a good amount each night.
A few tips for getting a restful sleep and healthy feeling eyes:
- Plan your next day by writing down what you’re going to do, so you don’t lie in bed thinking about it
- Relax for a bit without using a screen or reading. Although reading can sometimes help people to drift off, it does require your eyes to work hard as they focus on the words
- You could take a hot bath to help unwind
- Light yoga or stretching can help the body unwind before bed, but make sure that you don’t do anything too strenuous
- Avoid any glowing lights, particularly from phones or laptops
If you find that your eyes are feeling dry or irritated during the day, you can use eye drops
to get instant relief from the symptoms. Getting a healthy amount of sleep can stop these irritations from occurring in the first place, so try and get an hour or two more each night if you can.