Sleep & Your Vision
Not Enough Sleep?
There is a significant correlation between getting enough deep sleep and overall state of health, and most of us could verify this through personal experience. Research has shown that cumulative loss of sleep can lead to a wide range of serious health conditions, from heart disease to a lower quality of life.1
Eye health and function will also be affected by under-sleeping, and chronic insomnia may be linked to chronic eye troubles. When attending to eye conditions, it is wise to address any abnormalities in our sleep, and insomnia should not be overlooked.
Insomnia refers to difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking irregularities, and can occur in short intervals or become chronic -- lasting over a month. The elderly, women, those with heart conditions, suppressed immunity and obesity most often report experiencing insomnia.2
Insomnia can often be due to a more serious condition, sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is defined as the obstruction of proper airflow during sleep, and the cessation of breathing for considerable intervals. These symptoms will typically occur over a significant period of time, causing chronic sleep disruption.3
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when part of the nasal tissue called the soft palate collapses during sleep restricting oxegen consumption. Optic neropathy, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, floppy eyelid syndrome, and retinal vein occlusion are some of the conditions often found in sleep apnea patients. Difficulty in recovering from other conditions, such as macular degeneration is more common in patients suffering from OSA.
Sleep Apnea & Macular Degeneration
One study on the connection between sleep apnea and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) found that sleep apnea likely leads to resistance to recovery from treatment for AMD.4
Sleep Apnea & Glaucoma
Additionally, studies have connected sleep apnea and symptoms of glaucoma (the second-leading cause of blindness).5
Though we cannot conclusively determine what effects insomnia has on all eye troubles, we now know that long-term loss of sleep is correlated with more serious symptoms of eye degeneration.
If you struggle with sleep, or experience any level of insomnia, we encourage you to seek solutions!
Common Vision Drugs May Cause Insomnia
Some drugs prescribed for common eye conditions may actually contribute to insomnia and in that way worsen overall health. For example, about 1% of vision condition patients who take Visudyne report insomnia. This drug is often prescribed for macular degeneration, choroidal neovasularization, retinal detachment and other retinal problems. Insomnia was reported for 1-2% of glaucoma patients: Xalatan (1.7%), Lumigan (1.9%), Timolol maleate (2%), Latanoprost (1%) and Cospopt (1.4%).
If you are taking vision or other drugs that you suspect are causing insomnia you should work with your medical provider to see if the problem can be eliminated through adjustment of your prescription(s).
Solutions for Better Sleep
When experiencing chronic sleep disturbances or insomnia, we now know it is wise to address them, rather than letting symptoms persist long-term. Experts suggest attending to sleep challenges as soon as we are able, looking to basic causes, and implementing recommended healthy-sleep habits such as:
- Creating a regular sleep schedule (avoiding daytime naps), and not relying on weekends for sleep "catch-up."
- Limiting intense exercise in the evening and night.
- Limiting TV viewing and all "screen time," including cell phones, for two hours before a planned bedtime.
- Refrain from peeking at your cellphone during the night
- Reducing or eliminating the consumption of caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol, particularly in the late afternoon and evening.
- Using meditation, yoga, gentle stretching, or other stress-reducing and calming practices.
- Receiving acupuncture or acupressure, as these therapies may be useful alternative treatments for insomnia and general stress. 7
Sleep position is also correlated with physical health, as well as eye health. One study found that sleeping at a 30-degree angle was superior to lying flat for those with glaucoma. 8
There is evidence to support the inclusion of psychological and therapeutic support for the management of insomnia as well, such as biofeedback and multi-faceted cognitive behavioral therapy (often referred to as CBT-I).9 The effectiveness of non-pharmacological therapy for insomnia has been recognized quite extensively. Thoughts, emotions, and stresses that are correlated with the sleep disturbances are systematically addressed, and healthy sleep routine is supported, leading to greater overall relaxation and balance. 10
Supplementation and Complementary Medicines
Melatonin is a common supplement suggested for managing the symptoms of insomnia, and many find it to be very helpful, as it assists in regulating circadian rhythms. One study found it to be beneficial for an elderly population struggling with chronic sleep disturbances,11 and another recognized its benefits for a general population of people exhibiting standard symptoms of insomnia.12
Magnesium therapy has been used in a clinical study to address insomnia and related restless leg movements during the night, and symptom improvement was noted.13
Research also points to the benefits of supplementing with magnesium, melatonin and zinc for insomnia, and still other studies recommend a multi-vitamin supplement regimen which includes the addition of calcium.14
Many other alternative medicine options are available for balancing sleep and reducing or eliminating symptoms of insomnia over time. We recommend the following nutrients, in addition to the above supplements:
- Valerian Root, American Skullcap, and Lemon Balm as sedatives
- B-vitamins for overall physiological balance2
1. Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem, The National Academics Press, 2006.
2. Insomnia information page
3. National Heart, Lung Blood Institute: NIH, What is Sleep Apnea?, July 10, 2012.
4. F. Lowry, Untreated Sleep Apnea Interferes with Treatment for AMD, Medscape, May 28, 2012.
5. Study Finds a Connection Between Glaucoma and Sleep Apnea, American Academy of Ophthalmology, September, 2013.
6. M Hitti, Healthy Living: 8 Steps to Take Today, WebMD.
7. N Gooneratne, Complimentary and Alternative Medicine for Sleep Disturbances in Older Adults, Clinical Geriatric Medicine, February 2008.
8. Sleep Position can Improve Eye Pressure in Glaucoma Patients
9. C.M. Morin, et al, Nonpharmacologic Treatment of Chronic Insomnia. An American Academy of Sleep Medicine Review, Sleep, 1999.
10. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I), Stanford Health Care.
11. I Haimov, et al, Melatonin Replacement Therapy of Elderly Insomniacs, Sleep, 1995.
12. M Rondanelli, et al, The Effect of Melatonin, Magnesium, and Zinc on Primary Insomnia in Long-Term Care Facility Residents in Italy: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial, American Geriatrics Society, January 13, 2011.
13. M Hornyak, et al, Magnesium Therapy for Periodic Leg Movements-Related Insomnia and Restless-Legs Syndrome: an Open Pilot Study, Sleep, 1998
14. D Carroll, et al, The Effects of an Oral Multivitamin Combination with Calcium, Magnesium, and Zinc on Psychological Well-Being in Healthy Young Male Volunteers: a Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Study, Psycho-pharmacology, June 2000.