Possible Connection Between Sleep Problems and Glaucoma

A research of over 6,700 participants residing in the United States over age 40 responded to a survey about their sleep. The survey revealed a possible relationship between glaucoma and sleep problems.

Glaucoma is a disease related to the damage of the optic nerve. This nerve sends signals from the eye to the brain which enables you to see. Severe damage to this nerve can cause vision loss if left untreated. Complications with this nerve are often unseen until an eye exam reveals the nerve is damaged or until the patient is already experiencing critical vision complications.

Possible Connection Between Sleep Problems and Glaucoma

The Research and Glaucoma

The research reviewed data from the 2005-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The research participants were patients with glaucoma exhibiting evidence of optic nerve damage and vision loss in some parts of their visual field. Respondents were examined using fundus photography to examine the optic nerve and automated visual field testing to check for areas of vision loss.

Participants of the survey reported their experiences with the following:

  • Duration of time slept
  • Challenges falling asleep
  • Sleep disruptions (waking up during sleep)
  • Sleep disorders, like sleep apnea
  • Use of sleep prescriptions
  • Problems with drowsiness during the day

Possible Connection Between Sleep Problems and Glaucoma

Study Results Relating Glaucoma and Sleeping Disorders

The study found a connection between having glaucoma and having sleep problems. Among the verdicts:

  • Persons who slept for 10 or more hours a night were 3 times more prone to have glaucoma-related optic nerve damage than those who slept 7 hours a night.
  • Persons who fell asleep in 9 minutes or less, or those who required 30 minutes or more to fall asleep, were 2 times as likely to have glaucoma than those who took 10-29 minutes to fall asleep.
  • The chances of having missing vision were 3 times higher between people who got 3 or fewer or 10 or more hours of sleep per night, compared with those who got 7 hours a night.
  • People who said they had forgetfulness because of daytime sleepiness were twice as likely to have visual field loss than those who said they were not sleepy during the day with no memory problems.
  • People who said they had trouble working on a hobby because they were sleepy during the day were 3 times more likely to have vision loss than people with no daytime sleepiness.

Michael Boland MD, Ph.D. says, “This study is interesting in that it adds to other research looking at the association between glaucoma and sleep problems,” “We already know that doctors should talk with their patients about the importance of healthy sleep for good overall health. With studies like this, we can add that glaucoma may be related to sleep health issues,” adds Dr. Boland.

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