Sleep plays a vital role in our physical health and overall well-being. Sleep allows our bodies to reset and restores the ability to function for another day. Just as all of our organs and bodily functions benefit from sleep, our eyes are definitely no exception. Take a moment to think about the number of hours our eyes are open and actively working compared to our legs, arms, fingers and toes. Our eyes are generally open all day, and sleep is their only respite.

“Sleep is one of those functions that is important for our whole body – our cognitive capacity, immune function and even mood and anxiety levels can be affected by the quality of our sleep,” says Dr. Danielle Gordon. “Just as the muscles in our bodies have the opportunity to repair and relax during sleep, so do our eye muscles.”

“Additionally, adequate sleep helps keep our eyes moist during the day.”

Even thought we all know how important sleep is, it can be a daily battle for some, and an emotional topic for many of us. Balancing work, family, healthful eating, exercise, and self-care is enough to fill a 24-hour day, let alone adding in good sleep hygiene.  However, as overwhelming as it may be to factor in our rest into our busy lives, sleep isn’t an area in which to skimp or sacrifice.

“Lack of sleep can cause our eyes to feel dry and irritated the next day,” says Dr. Danielle. “This dryness is rooted in inflammation, so oftentimes our tired eyes will look red too.”

Dry eyes can also lead to increased light sensitivity, blurry vision, and increased risk of infection.

Lack of sleep can also add to the dreary dark circles around your eyes.

“Sleep deprivation can affect the quality of the skin around our eyes, causing it to look dull and dehydrated. Fluid accumulation beneath the lids can also result from lack of sleep, leaving our eyes to look puffy and creating the appearance of dark circles under our eyes,” Dr. Danielle says.

“Because sleep deprivation augments so many physical and psychological problems, investing our resources into improving the length and quality of our sleep is time well spent.”

Dr. Danielle says the ideal amount of sleep varies by age and between individuals, but for the majority of adults, we should aim to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. She recommends practicing mindfulness exercises that endeavour to improve the mind-body connection and help with relaxation, mood, and consequently sleep, to help improve our sleep outcomes.

“Activities like meditation, tai-chi, yoga, and even mindful eating and walking have all been shown to be helpful,” says Dr. Danielle. “Add these to good sleep hygiene practices like lowering our lighting, turning our music down or off, and putting our digital devices away, and we are well on our way to giving ourselves the best chance at a restful nighttime experience.”