Taking Your Eyes To Bed

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Originally appeared in
Earth Star Magazine
August/September 2006
By Rosemary Gaddum Gordon, D.B.O., M.A.

In my office I often hear, “When I was beginning to notice my vision deteriorate, I was having trouble sleeping.”  Or, when a student’s vision has begun to improve, they mention, “I’m noticing that I don’t see as well when I don’t get enough sleep.”   

Sleep is essential for the body and the mind.  Many people have discussed various ways to help us prepare for sleep.  We are told to begin slowing down thirty minutes to an hour before our head touches the pillow.  We may stretch, drink a cup of relaxing tea, read something soothing and avoid the news and scary TV shows.  All these are good and, if we include our eyes in this routine, our vision will be sure to get the rest it needs.

It’s a matter of considering how we use our eyes before we go to bed.  Many people love to read in bed.  This is fine providing we don’t read ourselves to sleep.  Think about what is happening if we read until we can no longer keep our eyes open.  We are tired all over, but asking our eye muscles to stay coordinated and keep moving, and our mind to continue to take in more information.  If we manage to put the book away and turn off the light we may think we’re doing pretty well.  However, if our eyes are so tired the lids are closing, it’s like walking ‘til our legs buckle.  Even if they are not that exhausted, the eye muscles have been working all day and if we value our vision, we will want to help our eyes relax before we actually fall asleep.

As we’ve discussed before, when reading we want to look in the distance every ten minutes or so to allow the eye muscles to rest.  So when you close the book, look in the distance for a minute before you turn out the light, and feel your eye muscles stretching.  Once the lights are out, palm your eyes.  To palm, cover your closed eyes with the palms of your hands, without touching your eyes and think restful thoughts.  In this case it’s important to imagine scenes with distant views and sense your eye muscles stretching out to “look” at them.  Whether you are looking across the room or pretending you are at the beach, continue until you can feel your eye muscles becoming comfortable. 

When palming, supporting your elbows will allow your arms and shoulders to relax.  If you are lying on your back with your head on a pillow, you can either remove the pillow so you are flat and your elbows will be self-supporting, or you can put a big pillow under your upper arms.  If you are lying on your side, place a pillow between your elbows to support the arm that is not touching the bed.

Making sure your eyes are relaxed as you fall asleep will allow them to feel shiny and bright in the morning.  Ending the day with beautiful thoughts will also quiet your mind and assist you in sleeping peacefully. 

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