Ocular opposites

29 October 2021
Autumn 2021

Clinical editor Jane Veys considers the ocular benefits of a good night's sleep.

As the clocks go back and the nights draw in, the opposing states of daylight and darkness shift in time and length as winter approaches. Like many processes in nature, opposites are necessary and are to be welcomed. We need light and open eyes to see, but we need closed eyes and darkness to help us sleep, and to allow our bodies to recharge, metabolic systems to realign and our brains to consolidate the day’s experiences as memories. 

As optometrists we primarily focus on the function of the open eye and vision, but the contrary state of closed eyes should not be neglected. We educate our patients on the value of frequent transient eye closure when using computers (in other words, regular blinks!), but how often do we advise our patients on the value of a good night’s sleep? 

We have chosen the topic of sleep as our cover story for this edition to highlight the importance of sleep to our overall health, for both ourselves and our patients. The article provides a fascinating insight into our sensitive circadian rhythms, and how closely tied the sleep-wake cycle is to the diurnal light cycle. 

How often do we advise our patients on the value of a good night’s sleep?

While the role of the retinal ganglion cells – our third light receptor – has become well understood since their discovery by Professor Russell Foster more than 20 years ago, the impact of eye diseases such as diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma on photosensitive retinal ganglion cell function is still under investigation. I’m looking forward to reading and understanding more on this emerging field of research. 

Opening our eyes to new evidence, and confirming or challenging long-standing practices, has recently been made more accessible in the world of contact lenses with the publication of the Contact Lens Evidence-based Academic Reports (CLEAR). A conglomeration of experts from around the world have appraised the literature to produce a series of 10 comprehensive reports. Our article focuses on the report on evidence-based contact lens practice, and explores how practitioners will use the output from this excellent new resource to benefit their patients and practice. 

Any eye care or treatment will have pros and cons, benefits and risks. Balancing these opposites is the very purpose of risk communication, as explained in our article. Where good evidence exists, communicating risk effectively goes beyond sharing information and can promote behavioural change. This is a critical skill for clinical practice to help patients make the right, informed choice for themselves, and the article a recommended read to help hone our communication skills. 

In conversations with many optometrists recently, I have been struck by both their exceptional commitment to providing ongoing patient care during a dynamic healthcare scenario and their resilience. But many have also expressed how tired they are after such a challenging 18 months. 

So take care of yourselves, benefit from that extra hour, and wake up knowing the positive effect sleep has on us – muscles rested, memories consolidated, open-eyed and ready for happy, productive autumnal ocular care days ahead!

Jane Veys MSc MCOptom FIACLE

Jane has been involved in optometry for over 30 years and is an experienced educator, facilitator and scientific writer. She has published more than 50 articles, authored a leading contact lens textbook and created industry leading digital education series.

Image credit | Caroline Andrieu

Related further reading

We are pleased to announce that each nation's health system has confirmed that they support a move to the ‘Green’ phase on Tuesday 10 May 2022. From then, the College’s COVID-19 Amber phase guidance will no longer apply in all UK nations.

This outlines a COVID-19 Urgent Eyecare Service delivered from a network of optical practices, acting as urgent eye care hubs, to support the immediate and recovery phase of the coronavirus pandemic.

Read our response to GOC's call for evidence to review the Opticians Act (1989).