Can I Sleep in Contacts? Sleeping With Contacts Risks

Medically reviewed by
 Dr. Jing Zhang, Neuroscientist

Dr. Jing Zhang, Neuroscientist

Jing Zhang is a prominent figure in the realm of sleep research, specializing in the intricate connection between sleep and memory. With an extensive research tenure exceeding 7 years, she…

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By Geoff McKinnen Certified Sleep Coach

Last Updated On January 16th, 2024
Can I Sleep in Contacts? Sleeping With Contacts Risks

Key Takeaways

  • Risks of Sleeping with Contacts: Sleeping with contact lenses can significantly increase the risk of eye infections, dryness, discomfort, and long-term consequences like vision loss. This is due to the potential for bacteria accumulation and reduced oxygen flow to the cornea, which can lead to serious complications like corneal ulcers.
  • Accidental Sleep with Contacts: If someone accidentally falls asleep with their contact lenses in, it’s essential to remove them immediately upon waking up. Using lubricating eye drops can help soothe any dryness or irritation. It’s also crucial to disinfect the lenses thoroughly following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Preventive Measures for Contact Lens Safety: Following recommended wear time, proper cleaning procedures, and the use of rewetting drops can minimize potential risks. Storing contact lenses correctly and regular replacement are also essential for maintaining good eye health.

Many people who wear prescribed contact lenses wonder whether it is safe to sleep with them in. While it may be convenient to leave your contacts in overnight, doing so can pose risks to your eye health.

Sleeping with contacts in can increase your risk of an eye infection, cause dryness, discomfort, and irritation, and lead to long-term consequences such as vision loss. It’s important to understand the possible risks and take steps to protect your eyes when wearing contact lens prescriptions.

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In this article, we will explore the potential dangers of sleeping with contacts, what to do if you accidentally fall asleep with them in, guidelines for napping with contacts, and best practices for safe contact lens wear while sleeping.

How Common Is Sleeping in Contacts?

Research indicates Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source that a large proportion of contact lens wearers, including appromixately 85 percent of teenagers, 81 percent of young adults, and 88 percent of older individuals, engage in practices that increase the likelihood of developing eye infections. And of course, the most prevalent risk factor was the habit of sleeping or napping while wearing contact lenses.

Dr. Jing Zhang adds that a survey study Verified Source ScienceDirect One of the largest hubs for research studies and has published over 12 million different trusted resources. View source shows 75% people reported occasional napping and 28% reported sleeping overnight for at least one night in the last month with their daily disposable contact lens on.

These statistics demonstrate that, while risky, sleeping in contacts is still a prevalent practice. Educating lens wearers on the dangers of Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source incorrectly using contacts is critical to encouraging proper wear and care.

Risks of Sleeping with Contacts

Many people wear contact lenses to correct their blurred vision, and some may be tempted to leave them in while they sleep. However, sleeping with contacts in can increase the risk of eye infections and other complications.

Wearing contacts while you sleep can create a breeding ground for bacteria and other harmful microorganisms to accumulate on the lenses or in your eyes. Additionally, contact lenses reduce the amount of oxygen that reaches the cornea. Without enough oxygen, the eyes can become swollen or inflamed, leading to discomfort and even pain.

Common bacterial infections and eye complications include:

  • Microbial keratitis: Microbial keratitis Verified Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) The United States’ health protection agency that defends against dangers to health and safety. View source is a serious corneal infection. Pseudomonas aeruginosa or other bacteria present on the lens Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source can infect the cornea, causing inflammation, pain, light sensitivity, discharge, and blurred vision. If not treated quickly with aggressive antibiotics, bacterial keratitis can lead to permanent vision loss.
  • Corneal ulcers: Corneal ulcers Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source develop when the eyes are deprived of oxygen while closed during sleep. Lenses further restrict air flow, causing injury to corneal cells. This damage allows infection to set in, resulting in painful corneal ulcers.

Other risks include conjunctivitis, corneal abrasions and hypoxia. Any of these complications can develop from just one night of sleep in lenses.

It’s important to remember that contact lenses are medical devices according to the FDA, Verified Source U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) Part of America’s Department of Health and Human Services and dedicated to providing accurate health information. View source and proper care and use are essential to maintaining good eye health. Not following good contact lens hygiene can also increase the risk of complications. Failure to replace lenses as recommended can lead to a buildup of protein and other substances on the lenses, which can cause irritation, itching, and even infection.

Sleeping with contacts in is not recommended and can increase the risk of various complications. If you wear contacts, discuss with your eye doctor the best course of action for your specific needs.

Potential for Permanent Damage

Though rare, severe complications can occur from repeated or prolonged sleep in lenses. Bacterial infections may scar the cornea or require surgery, including corneal transplant.

Some cases even result in permanent vision impairment or complete vision loss. Along with other potential life complications, blindness is one of the leading risk factors for non-24-hour sleep-wake disorder.

Anyone experiencing sudden eye pain, change in vision or light sensitivity after sleeping in lenses should seek emergency medical care to prevent blindness.

Simply put, sleeping in lenses is never worth risking your sight, along with other behaviors such as sleeping with eyes open.

Accidentally Sleeping with Contacts In

It is not uncommon for people to accidentally fall asleep with their contact lenses still in, so no need to unduly stress if it happens to you. However, leaving them in for an extended period can cause discomfort and increase the risk of an eye infection. If this happens, here are the necessary steps to take to prevent potential complications.

Remove Your Contacts Immediately

If you wake up and notice that your contacts are still in, remove them immediately. While it may be tempting to close your eyes and go back to sleep, it can lead to significant discomfort and potential risks.

Use Eye Drops

Using lubricating eye drops can help soothe dryness and irritation caused by sleeping with contacts. If you wake up with dry eyes, place a few drops in each eye and blink a few times to distribute the solution evenly.

Disinfect Your Contacts

After removing your contacts, disinfect them using a recommended contact solution and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Clean them thoroughly to prevent any bacteria or debris from settling on the surface.

Consult an Eye Care Professional

If you experience any discomfort, redness, excessive tearing, sensitivity to light, or a feeling of something in your eye after sleeping with contacts, see an eye doctor immediately. They can evaluate your eyes and recommend the best course of action to ensure your eyes remain healthy and comfortable.

Napping with Contacts

Many contact lens wearers may wonder if it’s safe to take a nap while wearing their lenses. While napping with contacts in is generally not as risky as sleeping with them overnight, it still poses potential dangers and should be avoided whenever possible.

The longer a person wears contact lenses, the more their eyes may become fatigued and dry. Napping with contacts can exacerbate these symptoms and lead to discomfort and irritation.

Not to mention how the pressure on the eyes during a nap can cause the lenses to move out of place or become damaged, leading to potential eye injuries.

If possible, remove contact lenses before taking a nap and store them in a contact lens case. This will allow the eyes to rest and reduce the risk of complications.

However, there are some situations where a nap with contacts may be unavoidable. In these cases, it’s essential to take proper precautions to minimize the risks.

Before napping, contact lens wearers should use lubricating eye drops to ensure their lenses stay moist and comfortable. It’s also crucial to avoid rubbing the eyes, as this can cause the lenses to move out of position or become damaged.

You may also want to set an alarm to wake you up, as you do not want to keep contact lenses in your eyes for more than 16 hours a day.

After napping, according to Dr. Jing Zhang, pay close attention to how your eyes feel. If you experience any discomfort or if you notice any vision changes, make sure to consult an eye care professional.

FAQs

Can I sleep with contacts in?

No, experts strongly recommend against sleeping with contact lenses in. Wearing contacts while sleeping increases the risk of eye infections and other complications. It is important to remove and properly clean your contact lenses before going to bed.

Is it safe to take a nap while wearing contacts?

Although napping with contact lenses may seem convenient, it is best to remove them before taking a nap. Napping with contacts, even for a short period, can increase the risk of eye infections and discomfort. From our research, we recommend following the same care routine for contacts and napping as you would for overnight sleep.

What should I do if I accidentally fall asleep with my contacts in?

If you accidentally fall asleep with your contacts in, carefully remove them as soon as you wake up. Avoid rubbing your eyes excessively, as this can potentially cause further irritation.

After removing the contacts, irrigate your eyes with artificial tears to alleviate any discomfort or dryness. Consult your eye care professional if you experience any symptoms of infection, redness or irritation. They can assess any potential damage to the eyes.

What are the effects of sleeping with contacts?

Sleeping with contact lenses can cause dryness, discomfort, and irritation. It can also lead to a higher risk of complications, such as corneal abrasions and oxygen deprivation to the eyes. Following proper wear and care instructions when using contacts is crucial in minimizing these effects.

Can you sleep with a contact stuck in your eye?

No, sleeping with a contact lens stuck in your eye can cause the eye to become dry and lead to further irritation, potential damage to the cornea, and an increased risk of corneal ulcers and other eye infections. All of which can compromise your eye health and vision, and even result in severe impairment.

If you are experiencing discomfort or have difficulty removing the lens, it’s essential to seek immediate medical attention from an eye care professional.

How long can you leave a contact in your eye?

Experts strongly recommend against leaving a contact lens in your eye for an extended period. The standard advice is to wear contact lenses for a maximum of 10-12 hours per day, with the highest recommended daily usage for any contact lens being 14-16 hours. Exceeding the recommended wearing time can lead to eye irritation, dryness, and an increased risk of eye infections.

Contacts are designed to be worn for a specific duration, typically ranging from daily disposables to monthly or extended-wear lenses. However, even with extended-wear contact lenses, you should be careful to not leave them in too long. Always follow your eye doctor’s directions regarding the safe duration of contact lens wear.

Conclusion

It is not considered safe to sleep with contact lenses in, regardless of what type of contacts you use. Regularly doing so can increase the risk of eye infections and other complications. Contact wearers should prioritize their eye health by avoiding poor contact lens hygiene and care, along with taking the steps to maintain good vision with good sleep

This includes: 

  • Removing and storing contact lenses in a contact case or as directed 
  • Cleaning them regularly, including disinfection with a contact lens solution
  • Avoiding wearing contact for too-long periods of time 

Make sure you remove your contact lenses as part of your pre-bedtime prep, such as before your nightly skin care routine.

If you accidentally fall asleep with their contacts in, remove them immediately upon waking up and monitor your eyes for any signs of discomfort or infection. Eye doctors can provide personalized advice and guidance. Remember, it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your eyes.


About the author

Geoff McKinnen is a writer focusing mainly on the healthcare industry and has written articles on everything from foods to help you lose weight to the connection between Alzheimer’s and sleep. Geoff’s passionate about helping readers improve their well-being to lead happier lives. Outside of work, Geoff enjoys cycling and hiking and believes that by leading a healthy lifestyle, he can help others do the same.

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