Last Updated on August 26, 2023 by Louise Carter
If you struggle to sleep at night, lying in bed with closed eyes may seem the next best thing.
This approach still allows the muscles to relax and offers some restorative benefits, but closing the eyes alone is never as impactful as sleep.
The purpose of sleep is to allow the body to relax and repair itself after a day of toil.
The cells and organs need this time to reset and regenerate themselves. This process unfolds over 4 stages of sleep, most notably slow-wave sleep (stage 3).
If you lay in bed with your eyes closed but fail to submit entirely to sleep, you’ll never move past stage 1 or 2 of sleep. This means no slow wave or REM sleep.
Consequently, any benefits from the rest will be extremely limited and short-term.
Closing the eyes for a short spell is an alternative to a mid-afternoon nap. If you have insomnia, seek a way to resolve this because lying in bed with closed eyes is insufficient.
Does Lying in Bed Count as Sleep?
Lying in bed with closed eyes is sometimes called quiet wakefulness.
This should reveal that lying in bed with your eyes closed isn’t the same as sleeping. It can be peaceful, restful, and restorative, but it’s no substitute for 7-8 hours of sleep.
If you lie down and close your eyes, you’ll likely feel any tension leave the body, and your thoughts will start to wind down. If that leads to sleep, you have nothing to worry about.
If not, you may as well be watching TV, reading a book, or doing another sedentary activity.
If you’re in bed at night and have been lying for 20 minutes but remain awake, consider getting up and indulging in some light activity to restart your sleep hygiene cycle.
If you’re comfortable, you can remain where you are, but it doesn’t count as sleep.
Does Closing Your Eyes Make You Less Tired?
If you’re exhausted and want to nap, but it’s not an option, or have been staring at a screen for hours, the idea of closing your eyes while sitting upright is appealing.
Closing your eyes isn’t the same as sleeping, no matter where we do it. Sometimes, it can be surprisingly refreshing if you want a few minutes of respite without dozing off.
It signals to the mind and body that taking a break is okay, even for a few minutes. It’s like restarting a computer rather than shutting it down. You’ll be back in action shortly, but a pause is welcome.
Closing our eyes while remaining awake can make us feel less tired.
The neurons in the brain are slightly less active, and this rest means you’ll feel more alert, able to concentrate, remember something you forgot, and think clearer.
Have you ever wrestled with a problem for hours and seemed to get nowhere, then found that going for a brisk walk cleared the mind and helped you find the solution that has evaded you?
Well, closing your eyes can have the same impact.
Resting Eyes vs. Sleep
The difference between resting your eyes and sleep is that closing the eyes doesn’t repair the body. It gives the mind a break and helps the muscles relax, but it doesn’t have the same impact as sleep.
When you complete a sleep cycle, cells and hormones are replaced. Repeat this process 4-5 times over 7-8 hours of sleep, and you’ll understand why you feel reinvigorated in the morning.
Resting your eyes doesn’t isn’t the same. You need to sleep deeper, ideally longer, to enjoy the benefits. You’re jumpstarting the engine in your mind and body, not replacing it with a newer model.
That doesn’t mean resting your eyes is pointless, as it’s a way to escape your immediate reality, if just temporarily. Alas, multiple rest periods can never replace a full night’s sleep.
How To Avoid Falling Asleep While Resting the Eyes
The problem with closing your eyes when exhausted is that you may fall asleep, so take steps to prevent it. Things you could do include the following:
- Set the alarm on your cell phone.
- Use an egg timer to rouse you after a few minutes.
- Hold something you’ll drop if you doze off, with the noise rousing you.
- Keep your hands occupied while you rest your eyes, like drumming the beat of a song.
- Ask somebody to nudge you if you’re not back after a set period.
This will stop you from falling into a deep sleep and losing time.
Why am I Groggy if I Didn’t Fall Asleep?
You may feel cheated if you rest your eyes and feel groggy and confused when you open them. You declared, “My eyes are closed, but I’m not asleep,” Now you face the worst of both worlds.
You received none of the therapeutic benefits of sleep but are struggling with the fogginess of waking from a deep sleep. In reality, you may have fallen into the first stage of sleep.
|You’ll drift into a world of sleep. If you’re left alone, you’ll progress to stage 2, but at this point, any noise or motion will jerk you awake.
|The heart slows, the body temperature falls, and the mind empties.
|Often referred to as slow-wave sleep, the conscious thought processes have now shut down, and the body is repairing itself. This is a deep sleep.
|REM sleep, or the dreaming phase. This only lasts 15 – 20 minutes at a time, but it feels longer and is the most disruptive phase to be roused from.
If you feel groggy after you open your eyes, you likely entered stage 1 of sleep. This often happens when people fall asleep while watching a movie or after hitting the snooze button on a morning alarm.
Shaking off the cobwebs from dozing off should be easy when you close your eyes. You shouldn’t feel as confused as you do after oversleeping for an hour or more.
Take these steps to snap back to reality:
- Take some deep breaths.
- Stretch as many of your muscles as you can regularly.
- Drink a glass of water to hydrate your brain, and consider eating a light snack.
- Stimulate your other senses, like smell and hearing.
Follow this advice, and you’ll quickly reap the rewards of closing your eyes and affording yourself this short break without the impact of coming around from a deep sleep.
If you can’t sleep at night, lying in bed with your eyes closed isn’t entirely without benefits.
You’ll still gain some advantages, like resting the body. You must complete at least 2 sleep cycles to feel genuinely refreshed, which only offers a short-term energy boost.