What Happens To Your Eyes If You Don’t Get Enough Sleep?

sleep and eye health

Is the concept of “beauty sleep” a myth? Not at all. According to leading doctors, beauty sleep is important to general health and vision – perhaps more so than you ever imagined! We know that what happens when you sleep with contacts can have an impact on your eye health, but what if you don’t get enough sleep? One of the far-reaching effects of sleep deprivation is dilated blood vessels within the eye. This reaction is responsible for puffy eyes, dark circles and sallow skin – and none of these issues are attractive. More worrisome, however, are the side effects on your vision from not sleeping enough. Studies show that at least five hours of sleep each night is needed to sustain eye health. Those who skip Z’s place themselves at risk for blurred vision, eye floaters and also a series of chronic vision issues.

Vision Issues Associated With Chronic Lack of Sleep


Do you ever get an unexplainable twitch that occurs in your eyelid? Such twitches are known as a condition called myokymia. Insufficient rest is the number one cause of myokymia. Although this condition will not cause any permanent damage to your eye, it is an unpleasant sensation. Getting enough rest each night will help to relieve its symptoms. Normally, eye twitches go away on their own. However, if eyelid twitching persists, it can be symptom to take notice of. The tick could be an indicator of  one of several eyelid conditions associated with eyelid twitching.

Dry Eyes

If you are tired and under stress, dry eye syndrome can cause occasional eye twitching. During the sleep cycle, the eye goes through a process of lubricating itself.  Individuals who chronically skip sleep lose this critical replenishing period and may suffer from dry eyes. An estimated half of older Americans suffer from dry eyes.

Benign Essential Blepharospasm

Chronic eye twitching can be a symptom of benign essential blepharospasm. The condition, which causes involuntary spasms, is most likely caused by dry eyes, conjunctivitis or light sensitivity.

Hemifacial Spasm

Most often, hemifacial spasms are caused by a blood vessel pressing on the facial nerve. A hemifacial spasm involves more than just the eyelid muscles and only affects one side of the face.

Subconjunctival Hemorrhage or Popped Eye Vessels

A lack of sleep causes basic eye strain and can lead to blood vessels of the eye bursting.  In subconjunctival hemorrhages, the clear section of the eye (the conjunctiva) is not able to soak up the blood being delivered to the eyeball. Most of the time this condition is painless, but in rare occurrences some individuals claim to feel mild pain. The look is unpleasant. The eye will appear to have a bloody mark for up to 14 days. However, the condition will clear up on its own.

Ischemic Optic Neuropathy

Ischemic optic neuropathy can occur when the flow of blood is disrupted to the eye. Lack of sleep is thought to sometimes be a contributing factor to this condition.  This disorder occurs without warning and is noticed after awakening. The eye’s vascular optic nerve lesion will cause a painless, but sudden and noticeable loss of vision. The vision field will seem cloudy. If untreated, in a few days this condition can lead to permanent vision loss. If you have any symptoms like that of ischemic optic neuropathy, see your eye physician as soon as possible.

Anterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy

Anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (AION) is a condition that is most often experienced by middle-aged and elderly persons who experience a long history of sleep apnea. AION is an inflammatory disease of the blood vessels that supply blood to the optic nerve. When the blood supply is clogged or cut off from the optic nerve, permanent vision loss may be experienced.

Development of Glaucoma

A chronic lack of sleep might lead to the beginning stages of glaucoma. Without a good night’s rest, the eye misses out on vital lubrication processes. Sleeping gives the human eye time to replenish itself.

Glaucoma is a progressive eye disease that attacks the optic nerve cells. In a properly functioning eye, the gland behind the upper eyelid fills with lubricating liquid. This supplies oxygen and nutrients to the eye and keeps it inflated. In a glaucoma-infected eye, the liquid does not drain and instead gets clogged and begins to build pressure in the eyeball.  This pressure pushes on the optic nerve. The result is that blood no longer reaches the optic nerve. Vision will slowly begin to deteriorate along the edge of the eyes, causing tunnel vision. Untreated glaucoma will lead to blindness. According to the US Glaucoma Foundation, only half of individuals who have glaucoma are aware of it, likely because its presence is usually painless.


Adequate nightly sleep is integral to your vision health. Make sure that you get at least five to eight hours of sleep every night. If an all-nighter is inevitable, be sure to keep your eyes hydrated with a pair of extended moisture contacts for dry eyes, like Acuvue Oasys or Air Optix Aqua.  While you sleep, your eyes renew themselves. Repairing, restoring and rebalancing are all happening while you enjoy a good night’s rest and hopefully a sweet dream.

Are Contact Lenses Right For My Child?

Maybe. In fact, contacts may even benefit your child more than glasses. Human eyes can tolerate contact lenses at a very early age. Sometimes infants are fitted with contacts to correct congenital eye problems before they become serious.

In general, though, contacts are appropriate when a child is old enough to wear and care for them responsibly. Over-wearing lenses—especially sleeping with lenses designed only for daytime use—greatly increases the risk of eye problems. Also, your child must be able to easily apply and remove the lenses, as well as clean/disinfect them in the proper solution.

In 2008, the Contact Lenses in Pediatrics (CLIP) study found that children as young as 8 years old are mature enough to handle contact lenses, and children aged 8 – 12 had no more contact lens-related eye problems than teenagers. Kids are also more resourceful than you might think: 83 percent of preteens enrolled in the study said contacts were easy to maintain, and 92 percent chose to continue wearing them.

Results from another study suggest contact lenses may have an additional benefit for young children—boosting self-esteem.

In another study 484 children ages 8 – 11 were randomly assigned to wear eyeglasses or contact lenses for three years.  Results suggested that children's perception of their own physical appearance, athletic ability and social acceptance may improve with contact lens wear.

Contacts may also have long-term benefits. Some experts believe that kids who wear contact lenses that block the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays may have a significantly reduced risk of eye problems like cataracts or macular degeneration later in life.

Perhaps most important, however, is a child’s motivation to wear contacts. Just because you wear contacts doesn't mean your child will want to; some children are perfectly happy wearing glasses and don't pursue contact lenses until much later in life, if at all.  Make sure to discuss the options with your child and his/her eye doctor.