Sleep is vital to our physical and mental health and well being. If we don't get enough sleep physical repercussions can include weight gain, high blood pressure and a heightened susceptibility to certain diseases. A lack of sleep can also negatively impact our mental health through our mood, energy level, and alertness to the extent that we can even be more prone to accidents! When you are well rested all parts of your body function more efficiently.
At Eyes Focused on You, we strive to educate our patients with the information they need to take charge of their health. As sleep is a cornerstone of good health, understanding its importance is the first step toward ensuring we get the kind of good-quality sleep we all need.
When you look at the body as a whole, it is reasonable that a lack of sleep can also cause problems with your eyes. Dry eye is a common condition that can be triggered and exacerbated by a lack of sleep because our eyes are open longer each day than nature intended. When eyes become dry they are at greater risk of becoming irritated and "scratchy". By the time you feel discomfort, often the dry eye is quite advanced. Dry eye can also impact our vision, making it feel like we are looking through a dirty window. It is very important to be proactive about preventing dry eye, not reactive to symptoms and trying to get enough sleep.
A lack of sleep can also impact how well our eyes focus. As an extension of the brain and to function at their best, our eyes need a well-rested brain. Poor focus can lead to difficulty concentrating and learning, which is particularly concerning in children given that learning is an essential part of childhood and that 80% of learning is through vision.
Getting enough sleep is important but, for many, the kind of deep, restorative sleep the body and mind need, can be elusive. In fact, about a third of Canadian adults suffer from poor sleep, with stress often cited as the culprit. Taking steps to reduce stress through things like nutritional changes or supplements, meditation or counseling can help lower the level of the stress hormone cortisol which rises when we're stressed and keeps us up and alert.
Whether it's stress keeping you awake or something else, here are a few steps you can take to help get you off to sleep and keep you there:
- Make sleep a priority.
- Exercise daily.
- Avoid sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and
- Establish a calming routine prior to bedtime, such as a bath, yoga, or reading.
- Turn off electronics and ensure your bedroom is dark.
- Avoid a heavy meal right before bedtime.
- Ensure your mattress, pillow and room temperature are conducive to sleeping.
- Follow a regular sleep routine of going to bed and getting up at the same time each day.
Making sleep a priority and establishing a new routine will take time and effort. Just keep your eye on the prospect of a healthier, happier and more resilient you!