We spend an average of 2,920 hours a year sleeping, which accounts for about a third of our lives. It looks like we’re doing nothing–just lying still and being unresponsive–but our brain and eyes are in fact very active!
What are your eyes doing as you sleep?
Rapid Eye Movement or REM sleep
While the muscles of the body are paralyzed during sleep, the eyes continue to move during a type of sleep called REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep which is the time of sleep we are actively dreaming. And not just a little bit–these eye movements, also known as saccades, are the fastest movements produced by the human body, reaching angular speeds of 900 degrees per second. Why the eyes move during REM sleep is not entirely known. Some studies reveal that our eyes are following images in our dreams.
How does sleep deprivation affect your eyes?
If you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re in good company. The CDC conducted a study revealing more than 40 million American workers are getting fewer than six hours per night. While most people know that sleep deprivation can affect reaction time and concentration, it’s not as well known that eyesight is also affected. The eyes are busy replenishing when we sleep and need at least five hours of sleep per night to do so. Otherwise, side effects such as eye spasms (myokymia), popped blood vessels, swelling of the optic nerve (Papilledema), and dry eye can occur.
For the sake of your eye’s health, as well as your overall health, make sure you get enough sleep. That’s a full 7 to 9 hours for adults and 10 to 11 hours for kids (even more for infants and toddlers). If you’re one of the many people who has trouble sleeping, here are some tips from the Mayo Clinic for better sleep.