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What’s the Connection Between Sleep Apnea, Concussion, and Your Vision?

Sleep Apnea 640A recent study indicates that 78% of people who have post-concussion syndrome also have sleep apnea.

What came first: the concussion or sleep apnea? Determining the answer can be difficult. People who don’t get enough sleep already exhibit some of the symptoms of post-concussion syndrome even if they have never had a concussion.

What we do know is that there is a connection between sleep apnea and concussion. Sleep apnea affects the recovery from a concussion, and at the same time, the condition may result from a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Where does vision come in?

Sleep Apnea and Concussions

For those having sustained a concussion, sleep is very important for a speedy and thorough recovery. A poor night’s sleep due to sleep apnea, can lead to impaired decision-making, cognitive loss, and symptoms of depression—all of which can interrupt the recovery process.

Obstructive sleep apnea, the most common form of sleep apnea, is caused by a physical collapse or blockage of the upper airway that interrupts breathing during sleep. This also reduces blood and oxygen flow to the brain, making it difficult for those with a concussion to recover.

A lesser known type of apnea is central sleep apnea. Unlike obstructive sleep apnea, this type is caused by a dysfunction in the brain that regulates breathing and sleep, which could also be affected by a TBI.

Sleep Apnea and Vision

As we all know, getting a good night’s sleep is essential to good health. There are a number of eye conditions that are exacerbated by poor sleep patterns and therefore may be associated with sleep apnea.

These include:

  • Floppy eyelid syndrome
  • Non-Arteritic Anterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy
  • Papilledema
  • Glaucoma
  • Swelling of the optic nerve
  • Retinal conditions

Having a comprehensive eye examination can prevent potential vision loss. This is all the more important if you've been diagnosed with sleep apnea.

Concussions and Vision

Concussions can have a significant impact on the functioning of the visual system. Post-trauma vision syndrome is a group of symptoms that cause eye coordination problems, dizziness, and blurred vision after a concussion.

The symptoms of post-trauma vision syndrome can include:

  • Headaches
  • Double vision
  • Dizziness
  • Focusing problems
  • Problems with walking and stride

Severe concussions can cause double vision and blindness, while mild concussions can affect vision and cause visual dysfunction.

How a Neuro-Optometrist Can Help

Neuro-optometrists can help people who have suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) in ways that other health care providers may not be able to.

Neuro-Optometrists deals with how the visual system impacts daily functioning. Neuro-Ophthalmology is different.  It deals with diseases of the optic nerve.

Neuro-Optometrists help people re-train the brain to accept visual information, make sense of that information, and then send information to the eyes and other areas of the body.  It creates a stronger link between the visual system and the Vestibular system in the inner ear.  The vestibular system controls balance and if we are speeding up or slowing down.   If there is a mis-match between the visual system and vestibular system, then the individual feels dizzy, vertigo, or as if they are spinning, even if they are lying in bed.  Neuro-Optometry helps all the various systems coordinate and work better together.

If you have had a concussion or suspect you may have sleep apnea, contact Family Eye Care to follow up on a diagnosis and treatment for any vision problems you may be having due to either condition.

Family Eye Care serves patients from Old Bridge, East Brunswick, Woodbridge, and Edison, all throughout New Jersey.

Frequently Asked Questions with Dr. Moshe Roth


Q: What’s the connection between sleep apnea, concussion, and your vision?

  • A: After sustaining a concussion, you may begin to experience sleep apnea. This not only affects the healing process but your vision as well.

Q: Is there a way to treat vision problems due to a concussion?

  • A: Yes. Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation therapy retrains the brain to regain those abilities.  It then relieves dizziness, headaches, double vision, and other TBI-related problems.

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