It sure is tempting to fall into bed after a night on the town or a long hard day at the office with your contact lenses in. So can you sleep in contacts or is this something you should avoid no matter what? Actually, some extended wear contact lenses are FDA approved to sleep in, but removing them before you go to bed is still your best bet. Read on to find out why sleeping or napping with contacts in a bad idea, no matter how tired you feel!
What Happens if You Sleep in Contacts?
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sleeping with contacts in increases the risk of developing a serious eye infection six to eight times! You’re likely wondering why and the answer is simple. When you’re awake, your eyes are typically open (maybe even during that ridiculously long weekly meeting at work). When your eyes are closed with contacts in, nourishing oxygen has a hard time reaching your corneas. This can cause oxidative stress and lead to inflammation, dry eye, red eye, abrasions, infections, eye ulcers, and permanent damage to your sight.
Are you guilty of this behavior? If so, you’re certainly not alone! In August 2018, the CDC published a report showing sleeping or napping in contact lenses is a risky and common behavior in people of all ages:
- Adolescents ages 12-17: 29.8%
- Young adults ages 18-24: 33.3%
- Adults ages 25 and older: 32.9%
The CDC also shared six different stories of individuals who suffered the consequences of sleeping with contact lenses in. We’re pretty sure after reading this, you’ll never be tempted to fall asleep wearing your contacts, ever again!
During a two-day hunting trip, a 59-year-old man left his soft contact lenses in overnight. While taking a shower after he returned home, he wiped his eyes with a towel and heard a loud popping sound and felt pain shooting through his left eye. The culprit — an infection he got from sleeping in his soft contact lenses during that hunting trip! It caused a severe ulcer in his left cornea and it ruptured, tearing a hole in his eye. Although he underwent emergency surgery to replace the cornea, cataract surgery a year later was needed to restore a useful degree of vision in that eye.
If you accidentally catch some Zzs with your lenses in, be aware of signs of an infection. If you experience redness, irritation, sensitivity to light, excessive tearing, blurred vision, or general eye pain, call your eye doctor as soon as possible.