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Sleep Disorders

Thick Eyelids and Puffy Eyes

02/26/2007

Question:

I have several problems that drive me crazy. It affects my appearance, my attitude and my body. My first question is about my eyes, not my vision.

I have very thick eyelids, when I close my eyes my there`s a lot of skin like my eyes are almost folded and there`s a crease. It`s really kind of hard to understand and to top off that problem I have a serious sleep deprivation problem so most times my eyes get puffy underneath, red and they fell kind of gritty but not like something`s in them.

I know that I can`t get rid of the thickness over my eyes unless I have plastic surgery which I seriously thinking about, but what can I do to get better sleep and to stop the puffiness under the eyes.

Your answer, time and assistance is truly appreciated in this matter.

Answer:

This is an interesting question as it’s been a long-standing common belief that lack of sleep (or sleep deprivation) leads to “bags under the eyes,” “puffy” eyes and dark circles under the eyes when in fact, there is almost no scientific evidence to support that this is the case. Actually, what little medical research has been done in this area (yet to be peer-reviewed and published), suggests that lack of sleep is not a cause of these changes in appearance. It is more likely that other factors or medical conditions may produce these physical changes. The following have either been theorized or proven to play a role in the development of “bags under the eyes,” “puffy” eyes and dark circles under the eyes: genetic predisposition (or an inherited trait), aging, alcohol and tobacco abuse, allergies, dermatitis and certain medical conditions such as hypothyroidism.

Be that as it may, you had asked specially about sleep deprivation and this is a very important medical problem that needs to be addressed. While we don't completely understand the reasons that we sleep and what the function of sleep is, growing research suggests that adequate sleep is important for the process of functioning and health.

We are really just now beginning to understand the wide ranging impact that lack of adequate sleep can have on our health and well-being. Recent research has shown, in pretty convincing fashion, that insufficient sleep can contribute to significant weight gain. This appears to be due to changes in hormones that control appetite and cravings for certain foods. Weight gain, by turn, can lead to other medical problems, such as diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, etc.

Another area of concern is the impact that lack of adequate sleep has on vigilance, ability to concentrate and daytime sleepiness. These all can be impaired by insufficient sleep and, as a result, can have wide ranging consequences, including increased rates of car accidents and work-related accidents. In addition, chronic partial sleep deprivation affects our mood, sense of well-being and interpersonal relationships, all in a negative way. Studies have found that individuals that are sleep deprived tend to perform poorly in test situations, have reduced concentration and tend to be more irritable and anxious.

As you can see, lack of adequate sleep can have serious consequences, affecting your learning, health and social function. How can you improve your sleep? I'm not sure I can answer that for you without further information. There may be specific factors in your history or physical examination that need to be addressed. Speaking to your doctor about this concern is a good place to start. After obtaining further information, they may want to consider referring you to a Sleep Specialist to determine if additional evaluation or specific treatment should be considered. Regardless, it’s always a good idea to make sure you are practicing the rules of good sleep hygiene (see the list on the website). For many individuals, following these simple guidelines can dramatically improve their sleep.

If you have other specific questions about sleep, lack of sleep, or other sleep disorders, please visit the American Academy of Sleep Medicine website. In addition to information, the website contains a list of Sleep Centers and Sleep Specialists across the country so that you may locate one near you. The website Sleep Education.com also contains plenty of consumer friendly information about sleep and sleep apnea. Good luck and here's to better sleep!

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Response by:

Dennis   Auckley, MD Dennis Auckley, MD
Associate Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University