The benefits of healthy sleep habits cannot be overstated. In addition to refreshing your mind and getting you fired up for the day, it also lowers the risk of health issues like diabetes and heart disease. Choosing to pass on one, however, can not only make you cranky but can also put you at high risk of blindness due to glaucoma particularly when it builds up, suggests a recent study.  

Researchers from China have reported that engaging in unhealthy sleeping habits like snoring, insomnia, and sleeping too little or even too much increases the risk of developing this condition due to these habits causing a build-up in intraocular pressure in the eyes.   

Glaucoma is an eye disorder responsible for most cases of irreversible blindness in the United States and the world. Records show that over three million Americans have glaucoma with more than ninety percent of them being over the age of 40. Although it arises mainly due to a build-up in intraocular pressure in the eye leading to damage of optic nerves, cases have been diagnosed with normal or even lower than normal ocular pressure. 

Study Methodology

During the course of the research, the authors studied a total of 409,053 people aged between 40 and 69 from the United Kingdom Biobank, all of whom were recruited between 2006 and 2010. Individuals with a prior diagnosis of glaucoma or who had undergone eye surgery before the recruitment date were exempted from the study. 

All participants provided information on personal sleeping behaviors like sleep duration, insomnia symptoms, snoring habits, etc as well as background information like lifestyle, weight, ethnicity, level of physical activity, and educational attainment amongst others

Taking into account the self-reported sleeping habits and the background information provided, all 409,053 participants were monitored for possible development of glaucoma over the years. 

Results

During the almost 11-year follow-up period, 8,690 cases of glaucoma were identified. The results showed that participants who developed the eye disorder were more likely to be older and also more often men. Lifelong smokers as well as patients with hypertension and diabetes at the point of recruitment also showed higher odds. 

Upon analyses of sleep behaviors, the results showed that having unusual sleeping habits greatly increased the odds of developing glaucoma. According to the authors, sleeping above or below seven to nine hours a day increased the odds of developing glaucoma by 8 percent while insomnia raised the odds by 12 percent. With snoring, the odds were 4 percent while people who slept a lot during the day had a 20 percent greater risk of developing the disorder.

With both snoring and daytime sleepiness, the odds of developing glaucoma was 10 percent while insomniacs and those with short or long sleep duration patterns had a 13 percent chance.

As for the relationship between these unusual sleeping habits and glaucoma, the study authors proposed several explanations. 

Firstly, lying down in flat positions is a crucial factor in the development of glaucoma. Also, with insomnia comes an altered sleep hormone balance and mood changes like depression and anxiety, all of which can increase the pressure within the eyes.

Taking in reduced amounts of oxygen which occurs when people snore could cause direct damage to the optic nerves of the eyes resulting in glaucoma.

Takeaway

When health workers preach the gospel of the benefits of a good night’s sleep, the 7-9 hour range is almost always specified because with sleep like everything else, too little or too much can cause harm. Maintaining good sleeping habits improves one’s ability to get a healthy amount of sleep each day which greatly benefits a person’s general well-being. 

Granted, most unusual sleeping habits can’t exactly be turned off like a light switch but with interventions like sleep therapy, one stands a fighting chance. 

“As sleep behaviors are modifiable, these findings underscore the necessity of sleep intervention for individuals at high risk of glaucoma and potential ophthalmologic screening among individuals with chronic sleep problems to help prevent glaucoma,” the researchers conclude.  

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