Sleeping With Contact Lenses: Is It Safe?

Published on
June 29, 2021

Can I Sleep With My Contact Lenses?

This may sound like a trick question. Many contact lens wearers will probably answer the question by acknowledging that it can be dangerous to sleep with lenses unless they are designed for overnight usage. But is this accurate?

Sleeping With "Overnight" Lenses: Is It Wise?

Many extended wear contacts are marketed as safe for overnight wear. The truth is that most experts advise against sleeping with ANY type of lens. Many even advise against taking short naps with them.

Studies have shown that even with gas-permeable, silicone, hydrogel lenses designed to improve oxygen flow to the eye, the risk of eye infections from overnight wear is 5-8 times higher. With such a risk, it is evident why many optometrists feel this way.

Signs of Infection

Common symptoms of infection include:

  • pain, irritation, itchiness, and discomfort
  • redness, swelling, discharge, crustiness, and tearing
  • difficulty with blurred/hazy vision
  • difficulty or sensitivity with light or glare
  • A sense that something is trapped under the eyelid

If symptoms persist or worsen, speak with an optometrist right away. Part of the risk of infection is that it can lead to more severe eye complications such as ulceration. It is critical that infections are diagnosed and treated early.

Treating Eye Infection

Eye infections may be treated with the following measures:

  • medicated bacterial eye drops for bacterial infection
  • antifungal treatments
  • Careful debriding of the eye
  • steroid or corticosteroid treatment

Maintaining Good Habits

Always maintain good habits and hygienic standards for wearing and managing contacts. If you have questions, speak with an optometrist to find out more about appropriate practices. Optimal practices include:

  • properly sterilizing contacts and lens cases with an appropriate lens solution. Never use tap water to clean lenses.
  • never sleeping with any type of contact lens, all of which pose a risk factor for eye infections. All contacts reduce oxygen flow to the eye.

Caring For Our Eyes

Healthy eyes require optimal moisturization and flow of oxygen to the eye. Wearing contacts overnight impedes oxygen flow to the eyes, which makes them susceptible to bacterial and corneal infections. Left untreated, they may result in ulceration and in extreme cases, cause permanent vision loss.

That is why most eye care professionals strongly advise against sleeping with contacts, including those that are deemed safe for overnight usage. The perceived benefit of not having to remove them, is not worth the risk of infection and complications that can damage vision.

Speak to your eye doctor about the risks of sleeping with extended wear lenses. If you have slept with them for a short or extended period of time, or are having difficulty removing them after wearing them overnight, speak with an optometrist right away to find out how to proceed. Never forcefully attempt to remove contacts that are stuck.
Always report signs of eye infections right away to begin early treatment and prevent further eye complications.

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