The Dangers of Sleeping in Contact Lenses

Published on
March 1, 2023

Are you guilty of sleeping in your contact lenses? Perhaps it was just one time and nothing went wrong, so you think it's safe to do so again. However, sleeping in your contact lenses can lead to serious complications and should be avoided at all costs. In this blog, we will discuss the dangers of sleeping in contact lenses, when it is okay to sleep in them, and which lenses are approved by the FDA for overnight wear.

The Risks of Sleeping in Contact Lenses

Sleeping in contact lenses can cause a number of complications. The most serious of these complications is an eye infection. Studies have shown that the chance of developing an infectious keratitis, or corneal infection, is four to five times greater for someone who sleeps in their lenses compared to someone who only wears contact lenses during the day. Some of the worst types of infections can occur from sleeping in contact lenses, such as a rare infection called Pseudomonas, which can eat through your cornea within 24 hours.

Other complications include dryness and irritation, along with general keratitis, which is swelling or edema of the cornea caused by a lack of oxygen getting to the cornea. This can result in blurred vision and other inflammatory complications.

Why We Don't Recommend Sleeping in Contact Lenses

Eye doctors will advise against sleeping in contact lenses because of the risks and complications involved. The cornea swells about 4% during normal sleep, without wearing contact lenses. When you wear contact lenses during sleep, you decrease the amount of oxygen that reaches the cornea, leading to further swelling. This is because your eyelids close, preventing oxygen from getting to the cornea. Additionally, the moist environment and increased heat from the closed eyelid creates the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.

When It's Okay to Sleep in Contact Lenses

Overnight contact lenses, also known as extended wear contact lenses, may be prescribed by our eye doctor for specific medical reasons. One of these reasons is to treat corneal abrasions or scratches. In such cases, we may recommend the use of a bandage contact lens that is left in the eye overnight. The purpose of the bandage lens is to protect the cornea from further irritation or damage caused by blinking or rubbing the eye. The lens acts as a barrier, allowing the cornea to heal naturally and reducing the risk of infection.

Another reason why overnight contact lenses may be prescribed is after certain eye surgeries, such as PRK or LASIK. These procedures can cause dryness and irritation in the eyes, making it uncomfortable for patients to wear traditional contact lenses during the healing process. Extended wear contact lenses may be prescribed to help with the discomfort and to promote the healing process by providing a moist environment and reducing friction on the cornea.

Another option for overnight contact lens wear are Ortho-K or CRT lenses, which are worn while sleeping and gently reshape the cornea at night leaving the patient with great vision the following day without the need to wear glasses or contact lenses. 

It's important to note that while overnight contact lenses can be helpful in specific cases, they are not appropriate for everyone. It's essential to follow our eye doctor's recommendations and not to sleep in contact lenses that are not specifically approved for overnight wear. Failing to do so can increase the risk of complications, including infections and corneal ulcers. Always consult with our eye doctor before using any type of contact lenses, especially for overnight use.

Which Lenses are Approved for Overnight Wear?

There are a few contact lenses that are specifically approved by the FDA for overnight wear, also known as extended wear contact lenses. Extended wear contact lenses are designed to be worn continuously for a set period of time, usually for several days or up to a week without being removed. These lenses are made from special materials that allow more oxygen to pass through the lens and get to the cornea. This is important because the cornea of your eye relies on oxygen from the air to function properly.

Contact lens materials and designs are continuously changing and deciding on the right lens to use and the amount of time that it is safe to use as extended wear should always be discussed with our eye doctor. 

Here are some examples of lenses that may be appropriate for overnight use after speaking with our eye doctor: 

  • Acuvue Oasys-Up to 6 nights as recommended by our eye doctor 
  • Air Optix Night and Day Aqua-FDA-approved for daily wear and up to 30 nights of continuous wear
  • Biofinity Monthly Wear Lenses-Up to 6 nights as recommended by our doctor
  • AIR OPTIX for Astigmatism-Up to 24 hours 
  • PureVision2 Multi-Focal For Presbyopia-Up to 30 days as recommended by our eye doctor 

When the cornea doesn't receive enough oxygen, it can become swollen and inflamed, leading to complications like infections or corneal ulcers. Extended wear contact lenses, which have higher oxygen transmissibility, can help reduce the risk of these complications.

However, even though some contact lenses are approved for overnight wear, it's still important to follow the recommended wear time and other instructions provided by our eye doctor. This includes regularly cleaning and disinfecting your lenses, replacing them as recommended, and avoiding wearing them longer than prescribed.

Additionally, even with extended wear lenses, it's still recommended to take them out at night when possible to give your eyes a break and let them breathe. If you're experiencing discomfort, redness, or other issues, it's important to remove your lenses and contact our eye doctor right away by calling (360) 491-2121.

Protect Your Eyes: Stop Sleeping in Contact Lenses and Consult Our Eye Doctor in Olympia for a Contact Lens Exam

If you are guilty of sleeping in your contact lenses, it's time to break the habit. Contact us at (360) 491-2121 to discuss the best options for you. Remember that the risks and complications involved in sleeping in contact lenses are serious and can lead to permanent damage. Protect your eyes and your vision by avoiding sleeping in your contact lenses. Patients looking for a contact lens exam visit our clinic from all over Washington, and we are proud to be a leading contact lens practice for patients from Olympia, Lakewood, Tacoma, and Lacey.


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