ADHD: A Parenting Guide

Sleep Deprivation: Not A Friend To Your Eyes

Not only can chronic sleep deprivation negatively affect your cognitive and physical health, but the lack of sleep may have detrimental effects on your vision as well. Like the rest of your body, your eyes need rest to be healthy. Otherwise, there are a number of eye and vision problems related to lack of sleep that can occur.

Brain Fog

Sleep deprivation slows the brain's ability to process sensory input, including visual information. This can affect your depth perception and vestibular function – both of which can affect your balance when the brain misinterprets what you are seeing.


The eye spasms related to myokemia aren't painful and don't affect your vision, but they can be annoying. Although the condition usually affects the bottom eyelid, it can affect the upper eyelid. This involuntary eye twitching usually resolves on its own, often by getting more sleep.

Dry Eyes

Dry eye is a symptom that often occurs as a result of lack of sleep. When your eyes get fatigued, they produce less tears. Inadequate lubrication of the eyes can cause dry eye symptoms such as itching, light sensitivity, sore eyes, and sometimes blurred vision.

Bloodshot Eyes

Symptoms of eye strain, which may lead to persistent eye irritation, can develop when you don't get enough sleep. Bloodshot eyes – caused by tiny blood vessels in the eye bursting – generally affect your appearance; however, sleep deprivation over time can cause a serious eye condition known as nonarteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION).

NAION – a key cause of sudden vision loss, particularly in individuals older than age 50 – is an inflammatory disease of the blood vessels characterized by insufficient blood supply to the eye. The condition often occurs in individuals with a history of sleep apnea. In fact, studies suggest a link between obstructive sleep apnea and NAION – a nerve condition that can eventually damage the optic nerve and cause painless vision loss.

Oculomotor Nerve Dysfunction

The oculomotor nerve is a pair of cranial nerves that controls the movement of the eyes upward, downward, and inward. The lack of adequate sleep can affect the function of this nerve, which also controls the involuntary changes in pupil size – the narrowing and widening of the pupils that adjust to how much light enters the eye. Another problem associated with oculomotor nerve dysfunction is that it impairs the ability of the eyes to focus and follow an object as it moves across your field of vision.

Peripheral Vision Loss

When you get tired, you may not pay as close attention to objects in your peripheral (side) vision. While the loss of peripheral vision may be temporary, any blind spots in your field of vision decrease your ability to maneuver when you are walking and make driving dangerous.

Glaucoma is another common cause of peripheral vision loss, and research indicates that individuals with obstructive sleep apnea may be at increased risk of glaucoma. Peripheral vision loss caused by glaucoma is permanent; therefore, it's essential to see your eye care professional for proper diagnosis.


Chronic loss of sleep can lead to nystagus – rapid involuntary movement of the eyes. The movement may be up and down or side-to-side (the more common movement). The condition can make the images you see appear shaky; therefore, you may compensate by tilting your head so that you can see more clearly.

For an ophthalmologist, contact a doctor such as Jo Johnson, M.D.