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Balancing the demands of work and family mean people are constantly on the go. Smartphones and tablets add to the endless activity by making it possible to communicate anytime, anywhere. Unfortunately, it often feels like there isn’t enough time to get everything done, and sleep is often the first casualty. Working late or getting up early is no longer an occasional practice – it is part of today’s lifestyle. However, lack of sleep can have a big impact on your eyes.

The Early Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Your Eyes

You might already be aware that chronic sleep deprivation can lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and depression, but you may not realize that your vision can also be affected. In addition to common eye problems like dryness and spasms, lack of sleep can cause serious eye diseases. Sufficient sleep is a critical component in the overall health of your eyes.

The first signs that your eyes are reacting to sleep deprivation can occur after your first overly short night. Symptoms can appear any time you get less than five hours of sleep, as this is the minimum amount of time your eyes need to replenish after working all day. You will notice that you have trouble focusing your eyes, and in some cases, you might have double vision.

These issues occur because the muscles that control your eyes are exhausted. For example, the ciliary muscle is important for reading. The extraocular muscle is responsible for moving the eye up and down, as well as side to side. When the two eyes are not coordinated, a misalignment occurs. You experience the misalignment as double vision.

Many people feel a repetitive twitch, which is known as myokymia. These involuntary spasms of the eyelids are not dangerous and stop after a good night’s sleep. However, they can be unpleasant for those experiencing the constant unexpected tics. A feeling of dryness in the eyes often follows a night of insufficient sleep. Because the body uses this downtime to repair cells and regulate hormone levels, you might experience lower tear production. This leads to irritation, which feels like stinging, burning and/or grittiness.

Lack of sleep causes dark circles under eyesThe appearance of your eyes often suffers when you do not get adequate sleep. In addition to the dark circles that are a well-known side effect of sleep deprivation, you can suffer from a burst blood vessel in your eye due to overuse and strain. While this isn’t painful and it won’t permanently damage your vision, it can be an upsetting development.

Long-Term Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Lack of sleep is one thing, but severe sleep deprivation, such as the type of sleep interruption that occurs with sleep apnea, is quite another. It can have serious long-term consequences for your vision. Individuals with sleep-related issues are at a higher risk of developing ischemic optic neuropathy (ION), which causes permanent vision loss. This condition occurs when the blood flow to the optic nerve is interrupted, much like a stroke interrupts blood flow to the brain. The optic nerve is irreversibly damaged, causing blindness.

While sleep requirements can vary from person to person, the standard recommendation is that adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. If you have difficulty falling asleep, some simple lifestyle adjustments can help. Turn off devices with screens, such as smartphones and computer, at least an hour before bed. Refrain from caffeine in the evenings and try exercising in the morning instead of just before bed. Getting enough sleep is an important part of maintaining your overall health, and making sleep a priority ensures you can perform your responsibilities at full capacity throughout the day.

Lack of sleep can seriously affect your vision

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  1. Best eye surgeon in lucknow says:

    It is recommended that our eyes get at least 5 hours of sleep each night in order to replenish them and operate to their full capacity. Unfortunately for some, sleep is a lavishness, and harder to come by. Whatever the conditions may be, lack of sleep not only affects your health, but has an impact on eye care as well. Over time, lack of sleep can lead to serious ramifications on your vision including popped blood vessels due to eye strain.

    • Graham stsbler says:

      I have been suffering with floaters recently the option found I have a small blood vessel burst behind the retina I am only getting a couple of hours sleep a night . Could this be the reason I have burst the vessel

  2. Trish says:

    I gave severe sleep deprivation and my sight is getting really blurry and bad, please help, I don’t know what I do, I’ve been visiting the optician and hospital to no avail

    • Hi Trish,

      It’s difficult to determine from your description whether or not your blurred vision is a direct result of the sleep deprivation, or if there is another cause. To be sure, we would need to complete a full exam to rule out any other factors. Please feel free to contact our office during regular business hours to schedule an appointment. Thank you!

  3. Barbara Cook says:

    Hi I don’t sleep that well awake lot of the night. At the moment have been getting itchy eyes whether thats to do with little sleep

  4. Debbie says:

    Thanks for this info. I’ve been suffering from lack of sleep for over two years now. At least one or two nights a week zero sleep, might get one night of four hours if I’m really lucky, but otherwise average 3 hours or less and that can be interrupted. I hadn’t connected my eye issues with lack of sleep before, though I also have some life and work stresses too. I currently have a broken blood vessel in my eye , which is getting me some alarmed looks, (my googling about it found this site) and I have dry eyes, pronounced twitching for about a couple of weeks now, and blurred vision when I try to read for any length of time. Especially in the morning. It can take my eyes an hour to be able to focus properly again. I also have a LOT of those shadowy floaters behind my eyes 🙁 I’ve been following recommendations to get better sleep, not sure what’s up.

    I’m waiting to have a test for a Sleep Deprived EEG – related to another issue. I didn’t mention my eye issues to the Neurologist yet.

  5. Rose says:

    My daughter has sleeping issues and is having a problem with “staring” with her eyes. It happens multiple times a day. She is able to blink herself out of it. Had EEG and various neurological testing that came up negative. Could this staring issue be caused by lack of sleep? Thank you.

    • Nick says:

      I’m no doctor, but this might be her having a bout of microsleep. Microsleep itself is harmless (it’s actually forcing the body to get some sort of rest, however brief), but is a symptom of sleep deprivation.

      The other thing it could have been would be a certain type of seizure, but since the EEG and neurological testing came back negative that seems to discount that.

  6. Becky Ebersole says:

    Can lack of sleep cause problems in your eyes when you get older.I am having problems with my cornea getting scratched in my sleep now.

  7. Edward harman says:

    Will sleep deprivation cause your eyes to dilate?

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