"Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed ..." 

The saying may be synonymous with a good night's sleep, which is beneficial to eye health.

It should be no surprise that adequate sleep helps replenish and rebuild our bodies after the wear and tear of daytime activity and stress, and the eyes are no exception, said Dr. Joseph Calderone, of Better Vision New Jersey in Cranford.

How can eye health be affected by lack of sleep?

Inadequate sleep can occur in three ways: insufficient sleep, interrupted sleep, and sleep apnea.

Calderone said insufficient sleep means a person is getting less than five to seven hours a night and it can result in a sunken eye appearance with dark circles under the eye, and twitching of the eyes.

A person with dry eye syndrome and inadequate sleep can lead to bloodshot, itchy, red, or watery eyes, blurry vision especially after waking up, and a person runs the risk of ocular surface infections, as well.

Sleep is often interrupted by bathroom visits. This comes with age or drinking too much liquid before bedtime. Calderone said getting up in the middle of the night can make it harder to get back to sleep, leading to insufficient sleep.

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Sleep apnea is also connected to eye health. Sleep apnea involves interrupted breathing while sleeping, caused by tissue in the back of the throat collapsing and blocking the airway and blocking breathing, which then reduces the amount of oxygen being delivered to the body, said Calderone. This can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, depression, erectile dysfunction, and, yes, glaucoma.

Calderone said the connection between sleep and glaucoma is interesting. Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that can damage the optic nerve, which is vital for good vision.

According to a study from The American Academy of Ophthalmology, glaucoma is more likely in people who take less than 10 minutes or more than 30 minutes to fall asleep.

Glaucoma patients are more likely to have a significant visual loss if they suffer from memory difficulties or difficulties concentrating while doing hobbies or routine things because of daytime sleepiness, he added.

In the same study, glaucoma patients were also more likely to have vision loss if they slept less than three hours per night or more than 10 hours per night.

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How to improve sleep habits and eye health?

Calderone said first, limit screen use before bed. That means cell phones, computers, laptops, and gaming systems. The flickering lights can overstimulate the brain and reduce the production of melatonin in the brain which is supposed to help with falling asleep. Stop screen use about 30 minutes before bedtime and don't take electronics to bed either.

Set a sleep schedule. The body gets used to sleeping at the same time each night. When sleep is done mostly in the bed, the body knows what to do when you go to bed.

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Reduce caffeine intake to make sleeping easier and greatly reduce the amount of twitching.

Regular exercise makes falling and staying asleep easier.

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Don't drink anything 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime to reduce bathroom visits in the middle of the night.

Don't fall asleep with contact lenses in the eyes. Sleeping without contacts improves oxygen delivery to the eyes.

Use lubricants like artificial tears if you have a dry eye problem. Use a lubricant ointment at bedtime if needed.

Get sleep apnea diagnosed and treated. This can be life-changing or even life-saving.

Jen Ursillo is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at jennifer.ursillo@townsquaremedia.com

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