Sleep is essential for our general health and wellbeing. It enables the body to repair, fight infections and be fit and ready for another day.

However, a visual impairment can affect the body’s sleep schedule.

Disruption to the body's sleep schedule can lead to insomnia and tiredness during the day. Fortunately, there are techniques you can use to get to sleep faster – and have a better night’s sleep.

In the article below, we discuss a common reason people with vision loss can experience difficulty getting to sleep.

We also offer 12 tips that can help people get to sleep.

Vision Loss and sleep

Why people impacted by sight loss can find it hard to sleep well

The main cause of sleep problems for people with visual
impairment appears to stem from a disruption to the body’s
circadian rhythm.

Circadian rhythm is people's “internal body clock”. It regulates biological processes such as hormone production and sleep.

Each day, our circadian rhythm is reset in accordance with natural environmental cues, such as the rising and setting of the sun. Photoreceptors in the retina of our eyes receive these light cues and signal the approximate time of day to the brain. These processes repeat daily on a cycle that is close to a 24-hour cycle. Someone who is not impacted by vision loss can take this daily synchronization process for granted.

However, a person who is severely sight impaired has a reduced capacity to perceive light – and a reduced capacity to receive these light cues. Even those with milder vision loss can experience issues with their circadian rhythms. This means hormones can be released at the wrong time of day, resulting in inconsistent sleep patterns.

This can lead to fluctuating periods of healthy sleep, punctuated by periods of poor sleep at night, and a corresponding urge to sleep during the day.

Green towels on a single bed in the Gardener's Cottage bedroom

Bad sleep and its effect on mental health

Vision loss, sleep, and mental health are all closely related. Depression and anxiety are issues that can be associated with vision loss and in turn, can lead to sleep issues like insomnia, hypersomnia (oversleeping) or poor quality of sleep. Likewise, a lack of sleep can make depression and anxiety even worse, creating a vicious cycle.

Getting exposure to light

Vision loss can also lead individuals to spend less time outside, and receive less exposure to light. Often, when people start to lose their sight, they become more nervous about going out and isolated. This results in people spending more time indoors – which is especially true for older individuals. Not only does this limit exposure to sunlight, but it also means fewer stimulating activities that may help keep a person alert during the day, and ready to sleep at night.

The cycle can continue. A lack of sleep can negatively impact people's vision. Like other parts of our bodies, our eyes need sleep to recover and work properly. Insufficient sleep can lead to issues like eye twitches, dry eye or redness.

Taking action to improve your sleep

Due to all these reasons, it is so important to keep active as much as you can! Stepping outside for a small walk, or even just soaking up some sun (cloudy or not) can make such a difference.

Whilst vision loss can have an impact on your quality of sleep, there are changes you can make to counteract this. Below are our top tips that might improve your night’s rest.

two veterans and an activity worker sitting in the garden having a casual chat at the sight scotland veterans hawkhead centre in paisley

Twelve tips for better sleep:



A regular routine is first on the list. Going to bed around the same time every night and getting up at the same time every morning will help you programme your brain and internal body clock.


Wind-down time

A relaxing bedtime routine helps you to wind down and get your body ready for sleep. A bedtime routine could involve: a warm bath, reading a book, drinking herbal tea, or relaxation exercises such as yoga or stretching.


Screen time

Avoid using mobile phones, tablets or other electronic devices for an hour before bed as the light from screens can trick our brains into thinking it is daytime.


Food and drink

Avoid eating or drinking right before bed as it can disrupt sleep. Sticking to a nutritious diet will help general health and improve sleep quality.



Exposure to sunshine will help you feel more energised during the day and ready for sleep once it gets dark.



Exercise during the day can help relieve tension and physically tire your body, helping you sleep better at night. However, be sure to engage in exercise several hours before bed.



Create a relaxing bedroom that is a comfortable temperature and is dark and quiet. Seek out a comfortable mattress. Carpets, earplugs and thicker curtains might help reduce noise.


Limit naps

Short naps (30 minutes or fewer) can help with alertness during the day, but frequent or long naps will make it harder for you to sleep at night.


Stay calm:

It’s easy to get frustrated when you can’t sleep, making getting to sleep even harder. Try to stay calm and engage in a relaxing activity such as reading a book until you are ready to try again.


Amount of sleep:

Adults generally need seven to nine hours of sleep but everyone is different. Aim to get an amount of sleep every night that helps you feel rested in the morning.


Avoid smoking, caffeine and alcohol:

Nicotine is a stimulant, people who smoke can take longer to fall asleep, wake up more frequently and often have more disrupted sleep. Caffeine and alcohol can interfere with sleep, so limit your intake, especially close to bedtime.


Speak to your GP:

You can speak to your GP if changing your sleeping habits has not worked and your insomnia is affecting your daily life in a way that makes it hard for you to cope.

We hope you try a few of these tips, and they help you get a better night’s rest.

Please feel free to contact us if you have more questions – See our Support Line pages below.

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About us

For 230 years, we have been supporting people with sight loss and blindness. We are one of Scotland's oldest charities and we're dedicated to empowering people with visual impairments to lead fulfilling lives.