4 unexpected ways pulling an all-nighter is affecting your eyes

January 29, 2024

Whether you’ve pulled an all-nighter or you got less hours of sleep than normal, one thing is for sure: Your eyes will show it. Bloodshot, itchy, hollow-appearing eyes are typically the signs of not getting enough zzz’s, but experts say lack of sleep can also affect the actual health and wellbeing of your eyes. We spoke with Dr. Diane Hilal-Campo, a board-certified ophthalmologist and the founder of twenty/twenty beauty, to learn how lack of sleep can take a toll on both the look and health of your eyes. 

What do our eyes do while we sleep? 

Your entire body — including your eyes — goes into recovery mode while you sleep. “Overnight, your eyes clear dirt and debris out while amping up lubrication and increasing oxygen flow to the ocular surface to keep eyes clean, comfortable and healthy,” says Dr. Hilal-Campo, who recommends getting a minimum of five hours of sleep each night.

“A lot of ocular health issues are related to poor sleep quality, including sleep apnea, a common sleep disorder that’s associated with a variety of eye concerns like glaucoma.” Bona fide member of the not-enough-sleep club? Read on to find out all the ways exhaustion could be affecting your eyes.

Dryness, itchiness and redness

Ever notice how going to sleep late can lead to dry, itchy, red eyes come morning? According to Dr. Hilal-Campo, when your eyes are open for extended periods of time, the exposed tear film evaporates, which dries the eyes and causes blood vessels to dilate and become more visible.

“Additionally, your eyes will not have gotten enough lubrication, as sleeping helps tear production as well as reducing tear evaporation,” she says. “This can leave eyes dry, itchy and red.” 

Involuntary eye twitches

Myokymia, or involuntary eye twitches, can occur due to lack of sleep. While harmless and annoying at best, you’ll notice that these eye twitches occur along the lower eyelid and they can last for several hours to several days, Dr. Hilal Campo says. 

Risk of eye infections

Not getting enough sleep means your eyes have less time to “recover” and push out dirt and debris, including bacteria. “If this bacteria is not properly purged from the eye, it can put you at risk of an eye infection,” Dr. Hilal-Campo notes.

Adequate sleep is also important to avoid dry eyes, which can also put you at risk for eye infections. Closed lids helps to decrease tear evaporation and keep eyes moist, and these tears have immune mediators to help reduce risk of infection, Dr. Hilal Campo explains. 

Eye puffiness

Puffy eyes are a tell-tale sign you haven’t gotten enough sleep. This under eye puffiness is caused by fluid pooling under the eye—and, if you’re already dehydrated, this can exacerbate the appearance of these under eye bags, Dr. Hilal-Campo says.

“A great way to alleviate under eye puffiness is to gently massage the area with an outward motion using an under eye roller or facial globe that has been placed in the refrigerator,” she recommends. Looking for a product to help hide tired-looking eyes? Reach for a lifting and firming treatment specifically formulated for the eye area. 

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Murad, and are for informational purposes only, even if the advice of physicians and medical practitioners are included. This article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and should not be considered specific medical advice.  

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Michelle Rostamian is a Los Angeles-based beauty and wellness contributor for Murad's Well Connected with 10 years of experience in the industry. She currently writes for Allure, InStyle, People, The Zoe Report, W Magazine and more.