It is no mystery that sleep is one of the most important aspects of a healthy lifestyle. Most experts can agree that adults need 7-8 hours of sleep every night, whilst children and teenagers need over 8-9 hours of shut eye.
Many of us are aware that our bodies heal from various ailments and fights infections by boosting our immunity while we sleep. The same is true of our eyes as well. When our eyes are closed, the eyelids fully cover the cornea, bathing it with moisture, and nourishing it with nutrients, antibodies, and immune cells that help fight pathogens.
Other benefits of good sound sleep are better productivity and concentration, lower risk of weight gain due to better calorie regulation, greater athletic performance, lower risk of heart disease, more social and emotional intelligence and lower inflammation throughout the body.
To illustrate the importance of sleep let me tell you about a 16 year old patient of mine. About 3 months ago soon after the lockdown I saw this young man who was complaining of burning, stinging eyes. His mother mentioned that he was up late at night on his laptop. Upon exam his vision was 20/25 in both eyes and the health of the surface of his eyes showed typical signs of dry eyes. One thing I noticed that every time I shined some light in his eyes he flinched. He admitted that he felt more sensitive to lights and hated the early morning sun. Otherwise, the health of his eyes was unremarkable.
I recommended that he refrain from using his laptop for the next two weeks at least one hour before going to bed, and aim to get at least 7 hours of sleep. I also counselled him on developing good habits while using his laptop or his cell phone. This included taking breaks, blinking exercises, hydration, ergonomics, lighting, monitor set up, home eye therapy and outdoor time. I saw him again for a follow-up appointment one month later and he reported that he had taken “90%” of my advice and his eyes felt much better with no light sensitivity. In addition his mood had improved and he felt more energetic. Most of the dry patches on the ocular surface of his eyes had also resolved.
There are few takeaways that we can learn from this case. Sleep and night-time screen use just don’t mix. The use of digital devices in general can affect the ocular surface especially in people that have eye lid disorders such as incomplete lid closures, blepharitis and meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD). Another point is that repetitive, prolonged screen use at night can cause sleep deprivation and perhaps also shift a person’s circadian rhythm because of the effects of the blue light. My 16-year old patient proved that sound sleep, along with proper visual hygiene during digital screen use, can help in managing the symptoms of computer vision syndrome (CVS) or digital eye strain.
At Urban Opticians, our optometrists take the time to counsel our patients that suffer from symptoms of CVS including asthenopia/tension headaches, eye strain, dry eyes and intermittent blurry vision. We provide coaching on ways to habitually cope with CVS using visual and auditory cues. The only cure to CVS is to drastically reduce screen time or completely stopping it which may not be an option in most cases. As such it is important to implement these cues to form these habits because otherwise the likelihood of failure becomes perpetual as we can easily get engrossed in our work without realizing. To implement these habits in your work routine we have used the teachings from a book by James Clear called Atomic Habits to successfully help patients with these symptoms. Call us to book an appointment for an assessment if you work in front of digital devices more than 5 hours a day and experiencing these symptoms.