Article by leading eye health specialist and ophthalmologist Alastair Lockwood at Feel Good Contacts
City workers know that getting enough sleep is important for staying healthy and alert when you’re in the office, but have you ever thought about what a lack of it can do to your eyes?
Sleep is restorative for all parts of the body including cognition and immune function. Getting enough shut eye will keep you alert, more able to fight off infection and give your eyes the moisture and rest needed to perform at their best.
Alastair Lockwood eye health specialist and ophthalmologist at Feel Good Contacts discusses how sleep can impact your eyes and gives you some tips on how to sleep more efficiently, starting from the moment you wake up.
What your eyes do when you sleep
There’s a stage of our sleep cycle called rapid eye movement (REM). During REM sleep, our eyes move rapidly behind our eyelids and our bodies become more still. It’s during this stage that we dream. It’s not known why our eyes move so much during this stage, but some believe it could be because we’re watching the scenes in our dreams.
Why do my eyes hurt when I don’t get enough sleep?
When you don’t get enough sleep, your eyes can feel strained, dry and itchy the next day. Lack of sleep can cause eye strain and dry eye. Our eyes go through a lot during the day. After spending so many hours using your eyes, it’s important for them to get enough recovery time when you’re asleep. Getting enough sleep will give your eyes moisture throughout the night so that they can function properly when you wake up.
Is it OK to keep your contacts in when you sleep?
Some contact lenses are designed for extended wear to be worn overnight. However, these should be prescribed by your optician. Generally, you shouldn’t go to bed with your contact lenses in. Sleeping with your contacts in will stop oxygen from accessing your eyes at night, which can cause them to become dry and irritated. Always remove your lenses at night or before taking a nap.
Why do some people sleep with their eyes open?
Sleeping with your eyes open is called nocturnal lagophthalmos. This can happen to people whose eyes are pushed forward in the orbit, for example in association with an overactive thyroid gland or have damage to their facial nerves or their eyelids. This condition at the mild end of the spectrum isn’t harmful, but it in more severe disease can lead to eye health problems such as exposure keratopathy (inflammation, infection and scarring of the window of the eye). The eyes remaining open at night become very dry because they don’t have the eyelid to help spread tears across the surface of the eyes.
The symptoms of dry eye and nocturnal lagophthalmos are very similar. If you experience painful eyes in the morning and throughout the day, you could try using a soothing eye gel such as Artelac Nighttime Gel which is gentle enough for even sensitive eyes. If symptoms persist then it might be best to visit your eye doctor for a full eye examination.
How to have a good night’s sleep
Sleep plays an important part in our overall health. Despite this, a lot of people choose not to prioritise being well rested. Some night owls live by the saying “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”, but this kind of attitude leads to sleep deprivation and the longer this goes on, the higher your chances of having health problems. We need at least 7-9 hours of rest for our eyes to fully recover from the day. If you have trouble sleeping, then read my tips on how to get more sleep:
Get as much light/sun exposure during the day as you can
Surprisingly, good sleep starts the moment you wake up and start absorbing light. Light absorption during the day (both natural and artificial) helps your body to stay more alert during the day and then helps to increase the quality of your sleep in the evenings. So, you should try to go for a walk outside during your lunch break or use a lamp with a daylight bulb at your desk.
Limit your exposure to light (and screens) at least 2 hours before bed
Just as getting more light in the day helps, the reverse is true for the evening. You should limit the amount of light you’re exposed to at least 2 hours before bedtime. The blue light from your screens can stop you from sleeping as it tricks your body into thinking it’s still daytime and you should be awake. Try listening to a podcast or reading a book in the evening, you could also use a lamp instead of the main light.
No matter what time you go to bed, wake up at the same time every day (as much as possible)
Having a consistent bedtime will help you to sleep better because your body will start to get tired on cue. After a while of doing this you might find that you naturally wake up just before your alarm. Even if you don’t always manage to stick to your routine, the more you can do it, the better.
Avoid alcohol at night
Although alcohol consumption will initially help you fall asleep, you’ll end up having very light and poor-quality sleep. This is one of the reasons people tend to feel so tired when they’ve had a lot to drink the night before. If you do have a drink, make sure it isn’t right before bed.
Consider wearing an eye mask to sleep
Especially in the summer months when it gets very light in the mornings, an eye mask can help block out the light. Light helps you to wake up, so if you’re eyes are exposed to light too early in the morning you’ll wake up before you’re ready, resulting in less time asleep. If eye masks aren’t your thing you could also try blackout blinds.
About the author
Alastair Lockwood is an eye health specialist and ophthalmologist at Feel Good Contacts, a doctor and surgeon who is passionate about trying to stop people going blind from glaucoma – a leading cause of irreversible blindness. His research specializes in how to treat those patients who are unresponsive to conventional treatment, and he is in the stages of developing new models for surgery to treat glaucoma. His interest in research stems from undergraduate training at Cambridge University and clinical training at Oxford University. He completed an MRC funded PhD at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and Moorfields Eye Hospital.
About Feel Good Contacts
Established in 2008 by qualified optometrists, UK based, Feel Good Contacts is one of the UK’s leading online suppliers of discounted contact lenses and eye care products. It is also the only UK company to offer this discounted service via a mobile app. The matrix below shows the price per contact lens box charged by Feel Good Contacts compared to high street opticians.
The company has been striving to improve its green credentials both at its London based offices and warehouse and is now one of the first online contact lens retailers to actively participate in reducing plastic waste with the recycling of contact lenses.