In the winter season, it's important to take care of your body so that your body takes care of your eyes. Last week, we discussed all the ways in which winter season is the hardest on your eyes. Taking care of you eyes is crucial so they don't feel dry, itchy red and scratchy all season long, like some of my patients complain about. If you winterize your self care, your eyes will be happy, and you can live your best life. So let's dive in.
Keep reading to learn how to get the best sleep and why sleep is so important this season. Then, next week, I'll dive into how to eat what you want and control your dry eye symptoms at the same time.
Stick to a Sleep Schedule
It's essential during the winter season to stick to a schedule. Bedtime is just as meaningful as the time that you wake up up in the morning. And, you need to keep both times on schedule. When you wake up in the morning, it's crucial to get blue light exposure. The sun emits blue light, which sets up your circadian rhythms. Blue light facilitates serotonin to be released and tells our body that it's time to get moving.
First thing in the morning, get up and get some sunlight and exercise. Your body knows how to act when the hormones are in the right balance. It's also good for your mental health. If you live in a climate where you don't have a lot of sunlight this season of the year, it's especially important to utilize an artificial light to simulate the sun's rays. Without the sun, you can get "the winter blues" and your sleep/wake cycle can be affected.
Setting up curfews for caffeine intake and electronic use will help your body know when it is time to wind down and rest. Sleep is vital to allowing your eyes to heal. Dry eye sufferers need to use all the techniques possible to get adequate sleep and heal.
Set a Digital Device Curfew
When you utilize electronics, they emit blue light. As we talked about in the last section, blue light stimulates the release of serotonin. Therefore, utilizing electronics after the sun goes down, stimulates your body and can effect how well you sleep at night. Turn off your electronics at least one hour before going to bed.
When talking about electronics, this refers to your cell phone, television, iPad, computer, laptop, and tablet. All of these need to be turned off an hour before bedtime because you're getting blue light stimulus through those screens. And that blue light, is what's telling your body to wake up, You want to avoid blue light at night so that you can wind down and your body knows that it's time to rest.
Set a Caffeine Curfew
Now, the second thing you wanna be aware of is caffeine. Caffeine has a very long half-life. You need to take its half life into consideration when you set your caffeine curfew. Six hours after caffeine is consumed, half of it is still in your body. It can take up to 10 hours to completely clear caffeine from your bloodstream.
Set up a Bedtime Routine
Having a routine to tell your body that it's time to wind down, it's perfect to use this all year round. But, a bedtime routine is most important in the winter time, because it gets dark before it's time to go to our bed. Your body doesn't have that same cues to set your hormones, to release melatonin and make it easy for you to drift off to sleep. In the winter, it may get dark outside at 4 or 5 pm. Your body will have to wait another 5 or 6 hours before bedtime. So, it is so important to set up a bedtime routine to tell your body that it is time to wind down.
Set up a bedtime routine and go to bed at the same time. Every night, you may want to have a ritual, like taking a warm bath and putting on your pajamas. Within an hour of bedtime drink a nice warm mug of tea, warm your body up, but cool down your surroundings. Set the temperature in the bedroom to 60 to 68 degrees.
If you have dry eyes, I'd recommend using a humidifier and some artificial tear ointment at bedtime, maybe even a sleep mask to make sure your lids are staying closed. This will keep your eyes feeling hydrated all night long.
Bedtime Eyecare Routine
I like to give my patients a nighttime eye care routine that I call six for the fix. Six simple steps to do very quickly before bedtime to set your eyes up to feel moist in the morning. Let's review the steps. If you'd like to watch me run through it on video, watch here.
The winter environment is hard on dry eyes. The air is dry both indoors and out. So, it is essential to take care of your eyes and allow them to heal while you sleep at night.
Set up a bedtime routine and stick to it every day. Setting curfews for your caffeine intake and turning off your digital devices will set your body up to rest when it is time.
Develop a bedtime routine so that your body feels that it is time to wind down. Being on a routine is great for the body to get rest and repair the damage done to the eyes during the day.
Support your eyes healing with 6 steps for eye care right before bed. These steps remove excess bacteria from around the eyes, provide nutrients, and give the eyes extra oils and moisture to heal. It is imperative that your eyes stay hydrated while you sleep so you can wake up with them feeling refreshed.
When you take care of yourself, your eyes will take care of you. Remember as Diane Hilal-Campo, MD says, "Healthy eyes are beautiful". Follow these tips to keep your eyes feeling great all winter long.