Eye health: Sleeping in make-up and other bad habits that could cause harm

Eye health. (Getty Images)
You could be causing damage to your eye health without realising. (Getty Images)

Society is regularly concerned by skin, hair, nails and teeth but our eyes often get neglected. And yet what we don't realise is that our eye health and vision can also be affected by our everyday behaviours.

To help you treat your eyes a little more kindly, we've asked an expert to outline the most common bad habits to be aware of that could be harming you.

1) Sleeping in make-up

Eye health: Woman sleeping in make-up. (Getty Images)
Are you guilty of sleeping in make-up? (Getty Images)

We all know sleeping in make-up isn't ideal for your skin's health but it can also lead to more serious complications, such as sight loss, if done too regularly.

"A woman who hadn’t properly removed her mascara for 25 years suffered subconjunctival concretions (dots on the underside of the eyelid filled with debris)," warns Sharon Copeland, optician at Feel Good Contacts. This led her to feel like there was constantly something in both of her eyes, due partly to the inflammation.

Expired make-up is also something you want to avoid. "You should also ensure your mascara isn’t older than six months, or you could be putting your eyes at risk of (pink eye), irritation or a stye," Copeland adds.

Read more: Hot weather fitness mistakes we're all making

2) Touching or rubbing your eyes

Woman itching eyes. (Getty Images)
Resist that itch. (Getty Images)

Your eyes are delicate, and even slight contact with them can spread germs or cause damage without you realising.

"If you have to touch your eyes, ensure you wash your hands first or you could be transferring dirt from your hands to your eyes. If you wear contact lenses then it's especially important that you apply and remove your contacts with clean hands," says Copeland.

She also advises that it's important not to rub your eyes to avoid scratches on the retina and irritation. "If your eyes are itchy you can try applying some eye drops to soothe them, but remember that overusing can be counterproductive."

Copeland adds, "Using eye drops too often will wash away your natural tears, which are more efficient at lubricating your eyes. Follow the instructions on your eye drops packaging or use them as directed by your optometrist."

Many are also getting itchy eyes from hay fever this summer, so might be wise to speak to your pharmacist about treatments like antihistamine.

Read more: Hay fever remedies that really work (from the sufferers who swear by them)

3) Too much screen time

Man straining eyes working. (Getty Images)
There are tricks to help reduce eye strain while working. (Getty Images)

How many hours do you stare at a screen for each day? And how many breaks do you take? Its seems time away from your screen isn't just good for preventing thing like burnout and maintaining good mental health, but for preserving your eyes too.

"Constantly staring at computer screens and digital devices isn’t good for your eye health. A digital detox almost seems impossible when we rely on screens for work, for entertainment and even for directions," Copeland suggests.

She recommends pausing regularly from work by "practising the 20/20/20 rule" which consists of every 20 minutes, looking 20 feet into the distance, for at least 20 seconds.

"You can also wear blue light glasses to help take some of the strain off of your eyes," Copeland adds.

Read more: Sandra Bullock and five other celebs who've been open about experiencing burnout

4) Smoking

Woman smoking. (Getty Images)
Smoking is linked to vision loss. (Getty Images)

People might associate smoking with poor lung health, or bad skin, but not many realise it can affect our eyes too.

"Smoking can lead to eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts, which can increase your risk of vision loss," points out Copeland.

"Quit smoking to protect your eyes, your GP can give you advice on how hot to quit if you’re having trouble doing it alone."

5) Not sleeping enough

Tired man. (Getty Images)
How many hours are you getting? (Getty Images)

Getting enough sleep seems to be one of the best things you can do for your overall health, and this includes your eyes.

Without enough hours of shut eye, Copeland warns we can experience dry eyes and irritation.

Read more: How long should I sleep for? Major study reveals health risks of bad sleeping habits

6) Not having regular sight tests

Eye test. (Getty Images)
As well as everyday care, you need to get professional check ups. (Getty Images)

While looking after your eyes day to day is important, Copeland also advises that you should be getting them tested every two years, or sooner if advised by your optometrist.

"A professional will be able to spot any potential eye infections before they start to progress. If you’ve noticed a change in your vision, you should book a sight test immediately," she says.

When was the last time you got your eyes checked?

7) Not wearing sunglasses

Woman wearing sunglasses. (Getty Images)
It doesn't need to be scorching for the sunglasses to come out. (Getty Images)

Don't let the clouds and grey skies fool you, you still need to protect your eyes on less bright summer days.

"Even on overcast days, we still need to wear sunglasses. UV rays still affect our eyes even when the sun isn’t shining," says Copeland.

Make sure you're always carrying a pair of UV protecting sunglasses around with you.

Read more: Mosquitoes in summer: Why do some people get bitten more?

8) Not eating a nutrient-rich diet

Salmon, olive oil, nuts and avocados with vegetables and herbs. (Getty Images)
Does your diet promote good eye health? (Getty Images)

A diet rich in leafy greens and omega-3 fatty acids help to keep your eyes healthy, as well as other benefits on your overall health.

"Eating foods that contain lutein will help improve your eye health and lower your risk of getting an eye disease," explains Copeland, adding more specifically that "foods containing lutein include kale, spinach, broccoli, pumpkin, carrots and pistachios" are best.

"Alternatively, you could try taking a lutein supplement, but getting the vitamin through your food is the most effective way," she says.

9) Stop overusing and reusing contact lenses

Woman putting in contact lenses. (Getty Images)
Don't wear contact lenses for longer than you're meant to. (Getty Images)

It seems sleeping in your contact lenses and wearing them for longer than the recommended time isn't just uncomfortable, but can be dangerous.

"Wearing contact lenses for too long will deprive your eyes of oxygen, drying them out and leading to irritation," says Copeland. "Daily lenses in particular are only designed to be worn for a day, after which the lens starts to break down, and you wouldn’t want that to happen while it’s in your eye!"

10) Not drinking enough water

Man drinking water. (Getty Images)
Being dehydrated can also have a knock on effect on your eye health. (Getty Images)

Many different parts of our health are intimately linked, and if we neglect one part, then it's likely we'll see an affect on other parts.

"Lack of water throughout the day won’t just negatively affect your eye health, it can also make you feel tired, dizzy and confused," explains Copeland. "Dehydration can make your eyes feel dry, if you also wear contact lenses then your eyes will feel even drier."

To help combat this, she recommends drinking at least eight glasses of water a day.

11) Not wearing safety glasses

Woman doing DIY. (Getty Images)
Grab those goggles when doing DIY around the house. (Getty Images)

Last but not least, Copeland points out that we should be more vigilant at protecting ourselves when doing activities that could cause herm.

"DIY can be a satisfying and cost-effective way to change things up, but make sure that you’re always wearing protective gear on your eyes," she says. "You should also wear goggles when you are drilling, painting, swimming, frying with oil, using chemicals, cutting the grass."

Considering changing any habits to help improve your eye health?

Watch: See which of your bad habits is actually hurting your eye health