Sleep is vital for our health and well-being. We spend many of our lives sleeping, yet most know little about what our bodies do during that time. In particular, what are our eyes doing as we sleep? Are they completely shut off, or are they still active? In this blog post, we’ll separate fact from fiction and explore what our eyes do as we catch some Zs.
Rapid Eye Movement or REM Sleep
When we sleep, our brain and body go through several stages, including Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. During this stage, our muscles are paralyzed, but our eyes continue to move rapidly in all directions. These eye movements, also known as saccades, are the fastest movements the human body produces, reaching angular speeds of 900 degrees per second. Researchers are not entirely sure why our eyes move during REM sleep, but some studies suggest that our eyes follow images in our dreams.
How Does Sleep Deprivation Affect Your Eyes?
Sleep deprivation is a common problem, with more than 40 million American workers getting fewer than six hours of sleep per night. Most of us know that sleep deprivation can affect our reaction time and concentration, but it’s not as well-known that our eyesight can also suffer. Our eyes are busy replenishing when we sleep, and they need at least five hours of sleep per night. Without adequate rest, our eyes can experience several side effects, including eye spasms (myokymia), popped blood vessels, optic nerve swelling (Papilledema), and dry eyes.
Tips for Better Sleep
Getting enough sleep is crucial for maintaining good health, including the health of our eyes. Adults should get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, while kids need 10 to 11 hours (infants and toddlers need even more). If you’re having trouble getting enough rest, there are several tips you can follow to improve your sleep hygiene. According to the Mayo Clinic, these include sticking to a sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine and nicotine, creating a relaxing sleep environment, and winding down with a relaxing bedtime routine.
Schedule an Appointment
Call us today at 970-408-3263 or fill out our online appointment request form to schedule an appointment with Dr. Kirk. We welcome patients from Windsor, Fort Collins, and throughout Northern Colorado to our ophthalmology office in Loveland.