Sleep and the Eyes

Resident Consultant Ophthalmologist, Hospital Fatimah Ipoh
Dr S.S. Gill

Ipoh Echo’s EYE HEALTH series continues with Consultant Eye Surgeon Dr S.S. GILL talking to us more about SLEEP and the eyes. 

A good night’s rest may not only affect your mood the next day, but also your eyes. Sleep is a way to rejuvenate and refresh not only your body but also your eyes, “recharging” them for the day ahead. When you don’t get sleep, your eyes will feel tired, just like how the rest of your body may feel, says Dr Gill.

Sleep is often taken lightly but in fact, it is no laughing matter. People these days are often on the run, having to meet various targets apart from the numerous chores to do in a day. Due to this increased number of work hours, the number of sleep hours is reduced drastically.

It is no secret that the lack of sleep is a cause for a great number of illnesses. Generally, the eyes (and the body too) need at least five hours of rest. When there is inadequate time for the eyes to revive, they will not be able to work to their full potential. A shortage of sleep can also worsen symptoms of dry eye and a person may experience discomfort, light sensitivity, itching, redness, or even blurred vision sometimes.

We spend about one-third of our entire lifetime sleeping. This is not wasted time because from the moment we slip into sleep, a whole cascade of events takes place involving the brain, eyes, immune function, hormones, skin, respiratory system and digestive system. In fact, it plays a crucial role in how energetic and healthy the other two-thirds of our waking hours can be.


In a typical sleep cycle, there is a pattern of alternating REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement) sleep throughout the night in a cycle that repeats itself approximately every 90 minutes. NREM takes up about 75% of the total time for sleep and the other 25% is by REM sleep. You can recognise when a person goes into REM sleep when you see the eyes twitch, with quick movements back and forth under the shut eyelids. Both types of sleep are necessary for optimal health.

Eye Health - Dr S.S. Gill - opthalmologistNREM SLEEP

When a person first falls asleep, he or she goes into the NREM sleep initially. This sleep phase has four stages from 1-4. In stages 3 and 4, there will be a deep sleep and this is when there is most restoration of the body and to the eyes. During this phase, the blood pressure drops, breathing slows down, muscles become relaxed, repair of the body including the eyes occurs, hormones like growth hormone are released and our energy gets restored.


After about 90 minutes, a person goes into REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. Most but not all dreams occur in this phase. Our bodies become relaxed and the muscles are turned off. This is the time that there is provision of energy to the brain and body. REM sleep can last from five to 30 minutes. REM sleep rejuvenates a person.

After the REM sleep phase, the NREM sleep phase starts all over again. The 90 to 110 minute cycle of these two phases repeats about four to six times every night. Most adults would do well with 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night with an adequate number of NREM and REM phases. Rarely for some, they may only need as few as 5 hours or as many as 10 hours of sleep each day. Whatever it is, make sure you have enough sleep because it is the time the body and the eyes get rest, undergoing repair and detoxification. Even animals need sleep to rejuvenate!

For more information, call Gill Eye Specialist Centre at Hospital Fatimah (05-545 5582) or email: