According to a new study, poor quality sleep could increase the risk of glaucoma

Snoring, insomnia and daytime sleepiness can also cause loss of site over time.
Brittney Grimes
Closeup image of a senior woman's eye.
Closeup image of a senior woman's eye.


Too much or too little sleep could be associated with developing glaucoma, irreversible sight loss, according to a new study published in the journal BMJ Open.

Researchers mentioned that the study sheds light on the need for sleep therapy, specifically for people at high risk of losing their site. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes in blindness, affecting millions. By the year 2040, it is estimated that 112 million people will be affected by this disease.

Glaucoma is an eye condition that causes light-sensitive cells in the optic nerves to become damaged. The condition can worsen if it’s not treated early, leading to irreversible blindness. The research team stated that high-risk individuals should be checked for glaucoma.

The study

The study was part of the UK Biobank research, which is biomedical database resource that contains health information from UK participants.

In the study, 409,053 participants were recruited between 2006 and 2010. The researchers followed up with the participants to find out who received a diagnosis of glaucoma. Participants were monitored until March 2021. A few individuals were not considered for the study due to being diagnosed with glaucoma before recruitment, having no information on sleep behavior, or reporting laser treatment for the disease.

The participants recruited for the study were between the ages of 40 to 69 years old during the 2006-2010 time period of the study, and they had given information on their sleeping behaviors and patterns.

Sleep patterns that consisted of seven to nine hours of sleep were considered the normal variable, while anything outside this range was considered too much or too little sleep. The severity of insomnia —trouble falling or staying asleep through the night— was classified as never/sometimes or usually on a questionnaire given to participants in the study.


Researchers retrieved information on participants through questionnaires taken prior to recruitment for the study. This included background information on each participant, such as age, sex, race, lifestyle, educational attainment and weight. The average age of all participants was 57 years old. During the monitoring period of nearly 11 years, researchers found 8,690 cases of glaucoma. Those who had the disease were older and more likely to be male, chronic smokers and had a higher rate of high blood pressure or diabetes than those who did not have the glaucoma diagnosis.

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Other risk factors

Sleep patterns weren’t the only factors stated in the study. Researchers also said that snoring, daytime sleepiness, and insomnia were all associated with a higher risk of glaucoma. The study assessed five sleep behaviors, which included daytime sleepiness, snoring and insomnia, along with sleep duration and chronotype, or what some consider the early bird or night owl sleep patterns.

Except for the sleeping pattern chronotype, the other four sleep behaviors were all associated with heightened risk of glaucoma.

Participants who snored and experienced daytime sleepiness were 10% more likely to have glaucoma, while those with insomnia were 13% more likely to have it.

The researchers want the study to show the importance of early screening and diagnosis in high-risk individuals so that glaucoma can be prevented through necessary measures. Also, researchers want to show the effect that proper sleep, and "sleep interventions", can have on individuals at high risk of glaucoma.

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