The Dangers of Sleeping With Your Contact Lenses In

Sleeping with contact lenses can endanger eye health and vision. Studies have confirmed that approximately one-third of contact lens wearers have slept in their contacts before bed. It is important to remember that contact lenses are classified as medical devices and should only be used according to your eye doctor’s directions. It is always best to take your contacts out before bed. The Michigan Eye Institute provides a variety of glasses and contact lens consultations and services to improve vision and better lives.

What Happens When You Sleep With Your Contacts In?

Wearing contact lenses while you sleep increases the risk of eye infection, particularly microbial keratitis. This can cause vision loss and permanent scarring. Studies show that wearing contacts overnight increases the risk by over five times, regardless of the type of lens used. Sleeping in contacts can increase the risk of infection by six to eight times.

Symptoms of keratitis include:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Itching or irritation in the area around the eyes
  • Wet eyes or a noticeable discharge in the eyes
  • Discomfort in the eyes or the area around them
  • Light sensitivity
  • Hazy vision

What Happens if You Accidentally Sleep With Contacts in Once?

Accidentally falling asleep while wearing contact lenses isn’t a concern, even if it’s for a short time. If you sleep with lenses in, don’t panic. Examine them in the mirror, and if stuck, don’t remove them. If they move easily, remove them and let your practitioner check them before wearing them again.

Why Is It Bad to Sleep With Your Contacts In?

Sleeping with contacts in your eyes can lead to a number of issues. You may wake up with irritated and inflamed eyes. One common side effect of sleeping with your contact lenses on is dry, painful, or red eyes. In addition, you will be subjecting your eyes to any debris that may be lodged beneath them over the night, which could result in more harm.

Exposure to Microbes & Germs

Leaving contacts in your eyes while you sleep puts you at substantial risk of getting eye infections such as microbial keratis, which is the inflammation and infection of the cornea. Although bacteria are the usual cause of this particular infection, other possible causes include fungi, viruses, and parasites. If left untreated, it can lead to extremely dangerous side effects, such as persistent eye scarring that can lead to blindness and visual loss.

Regardless of the type of contact lens worn, one study found that wearing contacts overnight raised the relative risk of microbial keratitis by more than five times. Sleeping with contacts can increase your chance of contracting an infection by six to eight times, according to the CDC.

Blocks Oxygen to Your Cornea

You should be concerned about more than just microbial keratitis when you sleep with your contacts in. Additionally, you run the risk of developing corneal ulcers, conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, and corneal hypoxia, which is a disorder that develops when the cornea doesn’t get enough oxygen. 

Steps to Take after Sleeping With Your Contact Lenses In

If you happen to sleep with your contacts overnight, here are the steps you should take. 

  1. Allow your eyes to breathe and rehydrate. After sleeping in contact lenses, it’s crucial to let your eyes breathe and rehydrate. This can be achieved by blinking, applying rewetting drops, and letting your eyes breathe.
  2. Rest your eyes. After removing contact lenses, avoid wearing them for 24 hours to recover from redness, dryness, and irritation.
  3. Consult your eye care professional. If persistent eye pain, redness, or irritation persists, it’s best to consult your ECP immediately.
  4. Prevent falling asleep in contact lenses. Establish a routine, set reminders, use daily disposable lenses, and keep a backup pair of glasses.

What to Do Immediately After Waking Up With Contact Lenses

Handle the issue carefully to prevent eye irritation or damage if you find yourself waking up with contact lenses that aren’t meant for overnight wear. Here are some things you should do right now:

  1. Evaluate Comfort of the Eyes
    Before removing contact lenses, ensure your eyes are comfortable and check for signs of extreme dryness, irritation, or skin scratchiness. Be cautious if your eyes are extremely dry or painful.
  2. Moisturize the Eyes
    Moisturize your eyes with sterile, lubricating eye drops for easier lens removal. Blink multiple times to evenly spread the wetness.
  3. Safe Contact Lens Removal Techniques
    After your eyes have been properly lubricated:

    • After giving your hands a good wash with soap and water, pat them dry with a lint-free towel.
    • With your middle finger, carefully pull down the bottom lid of your eye while looking up.
    • With your thumb and index finger, lightly pinch the contact lens.
    • Draw the lens away from the eye gradually. Apply additional lubricating drops and give it a few more minutes before attempting to remove the lens if it is difficult to do so.
  1. Immediate Eye Care After Lens Removal
    After lens removal, maintain eye care with cooling drops, warm compresses, and avoid touching eyes. Sleep with contact lenses to minimize discomfort. If symptoms persist, consult an eye care professional.

Can You Take a Nap With Contact Lenses In?

Sleeping with your contacts in is not recommended by eye specialists. Yes, taking a nap for less than an hour can still raise your risk of developing an infection and discomfort in your eyes. Additionally, no one likes to wake up with “sticky” or dry eyes!

Keep in mind that sleeping in your contacts increases your risk of developing a serious infection that could result in blindness or visual loss, whether you wear them for a few minutes, an hour, or the entire night. 

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