The first rule of contact lenses is: don’t fall asleep with them in. You’ve heard it from your optician, your bestie, your dad, yet again - you still do it every now and then. Whether you’re having a little nap while watching TV, or you’ve had a big night out and just totally forgotten to take them out (alcohol can do that to us), we’re here to explain why the risk just isn’t worth it.
What to do if you fall asleep with your contacts in
So, you accidentally fell asleep with your contact lenses in. You’ve just woken up and are starting to panic - now, that’s the one thing you shouldn’t do! Keep your cool - we’re here to help you through it:
- Firstly, don’t try to take out your contact lenses right away, even if they feel really uncomfortable. They’re probably very dry and stuck to your eye, so they will be difficult to take them out the way you normally would.
- Instead, gently massage your eyes, so they can naturally produce moisture to hydrate the contacts naturally.
- Drink lots of water to help rehydrate, as it will also add more moisture to your eyes.
- If the lenses are still dry, apply eye drops to help hydrate them more.
- Once your eyes start feeling normal again, you can try to take your lenses out.
- Take a day off your contacts. Or even better, two days off: your eyes need all the rest they can get!
- Does it still feel uncomfortable, even after a couple of days? Give your optician a call - they’ll take a look at your eyes and tell you what to do.
The risk of sleeping with contact lenses in
The reason why your contacts get dry and stick to your eye overnight is simple: lenses limit the amount of oxygen and moisture that pass through to your eyes. That shouldn’t cause any problems when you stick to the rules and take a break from them every evening - it’s when you don’t that it gets tricky.
As a one-off after a big night out, sleeping with your lenses in should only cause minor discomfort, redness or itching. However, making a habit of it could cause much more harmful effects, like ulcers and keratitis, the inflammation of the cornea.
But oxygen is not the only reason why sleeping in contacts can be harmful: it’s also about the lack of hydration. When we sleep, we don’t blink. Blinking helps us generate tears and hydrate our eyes naturally (ever had a staring competition?). So, there actually are two forms of dehydration going on in your eyes when you sleep with your contacts in - which won’t just cause discomfort but could also lead to serious, long-lasting issues.
Sleeping in contact lenses effects
Due to the lack of oxygen and hydration, falling asleep with contact lenses in can cause:
- Eye dryness
- Contact lenses being stuck to your eyes, making it difficult to remove them
- Red and itchy eyes
- Corneal ulcers
If sleeping with lenses in becomes a habit, you might experience some more serious conditions:
- Keratitis, swelling up of the cornea
- Conjunctivitis due to the constant inflammation
- Bacteria and viral infections such as conjunctivitis
- Temporary blurry vision
Extended wear lenses: contact lenses to sleep in
If you really do want to sleep with contact lenses in, do it the safe way: extended wear lenses. Available in monthly or biweekly wearing patterns, this type of lenses are made of materials with higher oxygen permeability such as silicone hydrogel and can be worn for several uninterrupted days, day and night. Problem: solved!
From new parents that have to wake up in the middle of the night to feed the baby and don’t have the time to put their lenses in, or those with packed schedules with not a lot of time to spend on eye care: check with your optician if extended wear lenses would be a good fit for you.