Researchers suggest lack of sleep is damaging to eyes

December 6, 2007

New Haven, CT-According to Yale researchers and national experts, late-night study habits are an added risk for eye damage. With finals right around the corner for most students this might be a problem.

New Haven, CT-According to Yale researchers and national experts, late-night study habits are an added risk for eye damage. With finals right around the corner for most students this might be a problem.

Daniel Salchow, a professor of ophthalmology at Yale School of Medicine, said that even for students with perfect vision, staring at a computer screen or textbook for hours on end could take a toll on eyes.

Salchow suggests to any late-night studier take breaks from continuous reading or computer work by looking around or out a window to exercise their eyes. Eye puffiness can be remedied by placing a warm compress on eyelids for several minutes.

While reading may strain eyes, it will not permanently damage them. Research shows that consistent reading correlates with only slightly more near-sightedness, said Bruce Shields, MD, professor of ophthalmology and visual science at the medical school.

"Contrary to popular myth, reading for hours by the light from a fireplace as a youth had no adverse effect on Abraham Lincoln's vision, and probably has none on Yale students either, by whatever light they are using," Dr. Shields said. "Reading doesn't really appear to hurt your eyes ... [so] damage to the eyes can't be used as an excuse not to hit the books."

Students with contact lenses should be weary because neglect of contact lens cleaning due to a busy schedule can lead to infections. "If you're awake for 18 to 20 hours a day, even if you're not sleeping with your contacts in, that type of schedule is much like if you were," said Vanessa Tarud, a clinician in ophthalmology at the Yale Eye Center.

For those with odd sleep cycles Tarud says to wear contacts made from silicon hydrogen. The material is a new technology that has a greater permeability to oxygen and may significantly reduce the chances of eye infection or discomfort with prolonged contact use, she said.