Can You Sleep With Contacts?

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Many of us contact lens wearers have done it before, after all, it is just too easy to lay down and relax after a long day and fall asleep. But is it okay to sleep with your contact lenses in or should you really be trying to make sure you take them off every time you go to sleep?

While there are some contact lenses on the market that are approved to be worn overnight, the vast majority of them are not. Using contacts overnight that is not designed to be done so can lead to serious problems up to permanent vision loss. Even if your contact lenses are approved for extended wear you should still be careful. Take a look below to see why its not really a good idea to sleep with contacts.

What sleeping with contacts does to your eyes

If you have fallen asleep before with contacts on that you aren’t supposed to fall asleep with, you understand the feeling of trying to get the stuck contact lenses off of your eyeballs when you wake up. I myself have been guilty of this more than a few times.Women Sleeping

During the day while you are awake your eyes get oxygen from the air, but while you are sleeping your cornea relies on the blood vessels in your eyelids to supply the oxygen. If you are wearing contact lenses, the contact lens acts as a barrier between your eyelid and your cornea. Which means your cornea is not getting the oxygen it needs while you are sleeping.

The lack of oxygen could cause your cornea to swell up and allow bacteria to get in and develop. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that this bacteria can increase your risk of an eye infection 6 to 8 times.

Risk of sleeping with contacts

Your cornea not getting enough oxygen could lead to some serious conditions, some of which are not reversible and could lead to permanent vision loss. The much-needed oxygen is cut off when you are sleeping with your contact lenses on, and this is what it could lead to.

  • Bacterial Keratitis – This is an inflammation that is caused by bacteria and it affects the cornea. Keratitis generally can be treated when attended to promptly but could lead to serious complications and potentially permanent vision loss.
  • Corneal Neovascularization – This is a condition that is directly caused by the lack of oxygen to your eye and is an in-growth and invasion of new blood vessels into the cornea. If the blood vessels go too far, this could lead to vision loss.
  • Corneal Microscysts – This is another condition that is often found due to the lack of oxygen to your eyes. These microscysts are often found in people using extended wear contact lenses.Contact Lens Acute Red Eye
  • Corneal Ulcer – This is basically an open sore on your eye and can be caused by a severe eye infection. While there are other conditions that could cause corneal ulcers, contact lens wearers are particularly vulnerable to corneal ulcers due to the contact lenses sitting on the cornea. This condition if severe could lead to permanent vision loss.
  • Contact Lens Acute Red Eye (CLARE) – This condition is caused by protein deposits or bacteria that has gotten trapped in your contacts and causes the cornea to be inflamed and red.
  • Conjunctivitis – This is a fairly common condition in which the conjunctiva is inflamed. You might also know this condition under the name “pink eye”.

If you happen to fall asleep with your contact lens in, it is good to be familiar with the symptoms of an eye infection and go see your doctor right away. Many of these conditions have very similar symptoms and your doctor would have to diagnose to see what is going on. Common symptoms of eye infections include eye redness, light sensitivity, excessive tearing, blurred vision, eye pain, or irritation. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms be sure to contact your eye doctor as soon as you can.

Case Reports from the CDC

The CDC published a study late last year about six different cases where serious corneal infections were associated with individuals sleeping with their contact lenses in.

These patients were evaluated and treated by practicing ophthalmologist in four different major academic medical centers. Take a look below.

  • Case 1 – In this case, a man that was 34 years of age with a 17-year history of wearing soft contact lenses was being evaluated for redness in his eyes and blurry vision. The patient reported that he slept in his contact lenses for 3-4 times a week and he occasionally went swimming with his contact lenses in. After a couple of different treatments over the course of 8 months the infection finally resolved.
  • Case 2 – For this one, a man that was 59 years of age went on a hunting trip for 2 days and slept in his contacts and developed eye pain on the third day. On the initial evaluation he was diagnosed with a corneal abrasion but while in the shower he wiped his eye with a towel and heard a popping sound and felt pain in his left eye and he was sent to an ophthalmology office where a corneal ulcer was diagnosed requiring an urgent corneal transplant. It wasn’t until a year later after cataract surgery that his vision improved.
  • Case 3 – In this situation, a woman that was 34 years of age was evaluated for 3 days of sharp eye pain in her eye. She routinely slept in her contact lenses and used them for longer than the recommended monthly replacement schedule. Evaluation showed an infiltrate which is an acute immune response to corneal damage. She required antibiotic eyedrops as a treatment for the infiltrate.
  • Case 4 – For this case, a man that was 57 years of age was in an emergency room with reduced vision and eye pain. He had reported that he slept in his contacts on a regular basis, did not replace them according to schedule, and did not disinfect them daily. He was evaluated and diagnosed with bacterial keratitis in both eyes. A cornal transplant was required to save the right eye and the left eye responded to treatment but left a scar.
  • Case 5 – In this case, an adolescent female 17 years of age slept in soft contact lenses and developed a right corneal ulcer as well as a infiltrates. She required multiple antibiotics to treat it and her vision had improved to 20/100 on her follow-up visit.
  • Case 6 – Last but not least, in this case, a man that was 18 years of age went to the emergency room reported eye pain, redness, light sensitivity and tearing in his left eye for the past 3 days. He had been wearing decorative soft contact lenses for about a year and routinely slept in his lenses. He was evaluated and diagnosed with an ulcer, edema, and an inflammatory reaction. He was treated with antibiotics and symptoms were better and vision improved, but it did leave a scar behind.

As you can see, sleeping with your contact lenses in is defintely NOT recommended. Even for the contacts that are designed to be worn for extended periods of time should be taken out at least once a week and disinfected. All of the patients in these cases required antibiotic drops for their conditions to improve. These antibiotic drops at times had to be administered hourly and had to be used for weeks or months. And let me tell you, those antibiotic drops are NOT cheap.

Conclusion

So if you accidentally fall asleep with your contact lenses in, just make sure that you are aware of the common symptoms that I had mentioned above. The quicker you realize that you might be getting an eye infection and get to your eye doctor’s office the better.

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17 thoughts on “Can You Sleep With Contacts?”

  1. abioye olalekan

    There is no doubt eye is one of the most important and sensitive part of the body. I really love the way you highted the cons/ disadvantage of sleeping with our lens. This is an eye opener and i can t but appreciate you for your indept analysis.

    I look forward to visiting your website for creative and informative blog post like this.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Hello Huy,

    I am a long time contact lens wearer – in fact for as long as 1974 so I was very interested in your article. I wear hard contacts and alway have. I can count on one hand the number of times I have fallen asleep with them in. Even though it has only been a few times, it is very uncomfortable and as you say, trying to remove them is really frustraing. I never know the right thing to do – remove them obviously right away, but for how long? A day? a few hours?

    I had no idea so many complications could arise from sleeping with them in. I am glad that I am somewhat careful and after reading your article I will be even more diligent. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Wow, this is really a helpful and insightful article. The eye is a very delicate part of the body and it serves a very crucial purpose, vision. If by mistake one slept off with contacts on, don’t hesitate to visit your eye doctor because am sure you don’t want to harm yourself with all the above mentioned diseases resulting from this single act. Good job here. Welldone. 

  4. Thank you very much for this grate and helpful information. Thanks for sharing your experience on here, you must have put in a lot of energy into this and I really appreciate that. I normally off my contact lens when am about to sleep but on some few occasions I do sleep off with them. I will take note of the symptoms you have mentioned above. I will share this post with my friend(Jenny)she will find it really helpful. 

  5. Your case studies are pretty convincing, even if I wasn’t already afraid of eye infections! I tried extended wear soft lenses for a few months, several years ago. I just hated them. My eyes always felt dry and irritated and never felt comfortable. My eye doctor recommended then that I change them more often than the original instructions, but that still didn’t help. I realize now that I was very lucky NOT to have developed an eye infection from them. Nowadays, I just wear glasses. 

    1. Huy Le ABOC, NCLEC

      I completely understand that as I have always had a strong prescription and contacts never gave me that perfect vision without feeling dry so these days I just stick with glasses too.

  6. Md moinul Islam

    Hi,

    I have read the whole review about this information.This is really a necessary information about this.Thanks for giving us this information.This information is very helpful for us.I likes your article very much.I Will share this article with my friends.I got to know what the contact lens sleeps and I can be cautious.Thanks for Sharing this informative information.   

  7. I am not fond of contact lenses at all. I am wearing my glasses since I was 2-3 years old.

    When contacts came out for the first time you only, back then, could get hard lenses and I never really got used to them.

    My eye doctor, then, tried to introduce me to the soft lenses soon these were available but I declined.

    Even though it was already a few years I still did remember my 2 weeks of agony, as I am calling it, with the hard lenses.

    Well, this is my take from it and I do know that they have their purpose and if people are happy with wearing lenses, why not.

    I am also a former nurse and I worked at an eye surgery unit in a hospital for a while. I saw a few cases too were people, due to sleeping with their contacts, had their eye health problems.

    When I see family or friends who do wear contacts they no me that I like to talk to them more than once about what can happen when they do not remove their lenses before going to sleep.

    I am behind your article 100% and I so appreciate that you have shared it.

  8. Emmanuel Buysse

    Great post and good info.

    I slept once in a while with my contacts, and I have a very bad result because of it. 

    I can’t wear anymore lenses, ever again, there is a bacteria in my eye, that I will have forever, lets call it an infection, but chronical, so that is a very bad side effect of sleeping with lenses. 

    I suggest you never do it, as you mentioned, you can hurt your eyes very, very bad with it. 

    Thanks a lot for sharing it, and I hope it can prevent people for doing it. 

  9. Wow, I was completely unaware up until now that sleeping with contact lenses still in our eyes can actually lead to irreversible vision loss in the long term, scary stuff! Having read some of the real-life stories that you featured it has definitely put me off ever falling asleep with in again. 

  10. My wife uses contact lenses and usually removes them before sleeping. A few days back we came home after a party and she was so tired and forgot to remove the lenses and slept. Next day her eyes swelled and became red. So I think anyone who uses lenses should be very careful and remove them as they can harm your eyes badly.

  11. Good afternoon Huy,

    Whenever I come across a post talking about eyes I have to read it as my eyes are super sensitive. In 1981 I got an acute Conjunctivitis as I was driving with the windows open, summer with 40C and often standing in the stinking traffic. At that time I would not wear sunglasses while driving. From that time onwards my eyes are really delicate. I only have to cough and they get red. The eye doctor says all is ok and I cannot do much only eat healthy things. I do not need contacts yet and probably will not be able to wear them as it might irritate too much. Thank you for this information it will be helpful to a lot of people.

    Regards, Taetske

  12. Your article makes sense and it’s also informative. I have come to know the risks attached to wearing contact lens .The risks quite numerous and should be avoided by contact lens wearers. Apart from the inflammations and the invading of bacteria into the eye., I think sleeping on contact lens could be very bad because it could Break and bring damage to the eye while sleeping.

  13. You have done a great job. Thank you so much for this piece of information. My aunt has formed the habit of sleeping with her contact lenses. Recently, I she will wake up with swollen eye on the left side. She has visited the hospital a couple of times, she will be treated and after some times, the eye will resurface again. I am beginning to suspect that it is because she always sleep with her contact lense. 

    I will instruct her to start removing her lenses before going to bed. 

  14. I have heard that sleeping with your contact lenses in your eyes is a bad idea but I was not aware of just how bad this practice can be. The many cases that you have presented have certainly opened my eyes (no pun intended) to the real health issues that can manifest themselves.

    Most certainly I will share this post with some of my friends who sleep all the time without removing the contact lenses they wear. I am sure that they will appreciate this good advice you provide in this article! It can seem to be too much trouble to take the time to remove them.

    The repercussions can be a lot more time-consuming (and painful) if you do happen to come down with one of these infections or problems you list. I also noticed a lot of other posts that I need to have a look at. Since I was a kid, I have had eye problems of one sort or another. I am sure that there is more to be found that will offer me more good advice. Thanks! 

  15. I have to honest, I’ve fallen asleep with my contacts quite a few times. Luckily without any consequences that I’m aware of. But all in all, I really value you listing out all the possible health concerns associated with such actions. It helps to stay motivated to not fall asleep with contacts on, no matter how tempting it may be in the moment.

    Thank you for all the insights, I really appreciate it!

    Have a Wonderful Day!

    Rasa

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