A Good Night’s Sleep may Help to Prevent Glaucoma and Blindness

January is Glaucoma Awareness Month

Glaucoma (NEI)

January 2020 is Glaucoma Awareness Month to raise awareness of the risk of going blind from untreated glaucoma. Glaucoma is an eye disease that damages the optic nerve and can lead to vision loss. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), new research shows that getting a proper good night’s sleep may help to prevent glaucoma. The study was published February, 2019 in the Journal of Glaucoma.

Only Dilated Eye Exam can Detect Glaucoma before Symptoms Set in

Only a dilated eye exam can detect glaucoma before symptoms set in. For this reason many people do not know that they have glaucoma. In fact, the National Eye Institute (NEI) estimates that 50% of people who have glaucoma do not know they have it. There is no cure for glaucoma and damage caused by glaucoma to the eyes cannot be reversed. However, glaucoma can be treated to prevent further deterioration and damage to the eyes. The sooner glaucoma is diagnosed and treated, the less chance there is for vision loss.

The 2005-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey

Participants in the study were more than 6,700 glaucoma patients in the United States over age 40. These glaucoma patients also showed evidence of damage to the optic nerve and vision loss in some areas of their visual field. The participants answered questions on the 2005-2008 National Health and Nutrition Survey about their sleeping patterns.  Also, the participants were examined by frequency-doubling technology perimetry photography. This testing was to see the optic nerve and automated visual field for evidence of vision loss.

The Sleep Questions on the Survey

The participants reported the following on their sleep patterns:

  • The amount of time they slept
  • Difficulties falling asleep
  • Sleep disturbances that led to waking up during sleep.
  • Sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
  • Use of sleeping medicine
  • Problems with sleepiness during the day


Glaucoma patients who slept for 10 or more hours a night were three times more likely to have glaucoma-related optic nerve damage than those who slept 7 hours a night.

People who fell asleep within 9 minutes or less or those who required 30 minutes or more time to fall asleep, were two times more likely to have glaucoma than those who took 10-29 minutes to fall asleep.

The chances of having missing vision were three times higher among people who got 3 or less hours of sleep, or 10 or more hours of sleep per night, compared with those who got 7 hours a night.

People who claimed they had trouble remembering things because of feeling sleepy during the day were twice as likely to have visual field loss than those who said they were not sleepy during the day and did not notice memory problems.

People who reported experiencing difficulty working on a hobby because they were sleepy during the day were three times more likely to have vision loss than people who reported no problems working on hobbies and no daytime sleepiness.

Glaucoma may be Related to Sleep Health Issues

According to Dr. Michael Boland, one of the authors of the study and a specialist in glaucoma at the Wilmer Eye Institute at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, the results show that glaucoma may be related to poor sleep health.


There are several kinds of glaucoma, but the most common type is primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG). In 2010, about 2.7 million people in the United States had primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) caused by increased pressure in the eyes. The National Eye Institute expects that number to increase to 4.3 million by 2030 and 6.3 million by 2050. Many people have no idea that they have glaucoma until they have significant, irreversible vision loss. This is because this disease often has no symptoms until vision loss is extensive. Early detection and treatment of POAG may prevent or delay loss of vision. See our blog post from January 7, 2019 to learn more about glaucoma.

People at Highest Risk for Glaucoma

People at the highest risk for glaucoma are:

  • African Americans over the age of 40
  • Diabetics
  • People with a family history of glaucoma
  • Seniors over the age of 60

Short or Long-term Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Care

If you or your loved one are in need of short or long-term rehabilitation and skilled nursing care and if you suffer from glaucoma, be sure to choose a facility like the Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York that has a consultant ophthalmologist available to the Van Duyn medical staff.


If you are over age 60 and have never had a proper eye exam or are African-American over age 40, then make haste because if glaucoma is detected you still might be able to be treated to prevent going blind. Please do not wait until you have suffered vision loss to go and get your eyes checked. Eye damage caused by glaucoma cannot be undone

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