New research now suggests that dry eye disease is linked to poor sleep quality.
What is dry eye disease?
Dry eye disease occurs when tears do not adequately moisturize the eyes. This can lead to symptoms of discomfort such as a feeling of dryness or grittiness, burning, itchiness, visual fatigue, sensitivity to light, and blurred vision.
Is dry eye disease linked to poor sleep?
A 2016 study published in the journal Clinical Ophthalmology set out to investigate the link between dry eye disease and sleep.
Since dry eye disease is often associated with the use of computer screens, researchers conducted a survey of 672 middle-aged office workers who used computer screens at work. Participants underwent eye exams to determine whether they had dry eye disease and completed questionnaires to evaluate symptom severity and sleep quality.
Researchers found that 45 percent of individuals with dry eye disease reported poor sleep quality compared to 34 percent of those without dry eye disease. Furthermore, those with dry eye disease reported longer screen use compared to those without the condition.
Why is there a link between sleep quality and dry eye disease?
A 2016 study found the sleep quality of patients with dry eye disease was significantly worse compared to that of patients with other ocular surface diseases — and that more severe dry eye disease symptoms were associated with more severe sleep quality issues.
The authors of the 2016 study suggested that sleep quality was affected by the distress related to the symptoms of dry eye disease rather than the condition itself. They speculated that such distress could even lead to the development of a depressive disorder which may, in turn, lead to a sleep disorder.
Medications may also play a role; long-term use of antidepressants has been linked to dry eye disease, and some sleeping pills may suppress tear secretion.
How to alleviate the symptoms of dry eye disease
If you work with computers, try to take small, frequent breaks from staring at the screen and pay attention to how often you are blinking (studies have found that we blink a third less often when using a computer). Switching out contact lenses for glasses can also help prevent your eyes from drying out.
Alleviating the discomfort associated with dry eye disease appears to be the key to alleviating the sleep issues associated with the condition. If you recognize any of the symptoms of dry eye disease, speak with your doctor.
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