We all know how easy it is to fall asleep in our contact lenses. One minute you’re reading a book or watching TV, and the next you’re fast asleep. Or maybe you’re exhausted from a long day, and figure that just this once, it’s okay not to remove, clean and store your lenses.
If this happens to you, you’re far from alone.
According to the CDC, about one-third of contact lens wearers occasionally sleep with their lenses. In some cases, a person can wake up with their lenses on and just blink any discomfort away. But nodding off with your contacts can make you 6-8 times more likely to experience a contact lens-related eye infection.
Below, we’ll explore the dangers involved in getting some shut-eye while wearing your contacts, and what to do in case you fall asleep before removing them.
Why Does Sleeping in Contacts Increase Your Risk of Infection?
Your corneas need oxygen to stay healthy, but don’t have a built-in oxygen supply. During the day, your open eyes allow the cornea to receive oxygen directly from the air via your tear film.
Although your eyes remain closed while you sleep, your corneas still receive the oxygen and nutrients they need from various parts of the eye, like the aqueous humor and tears. The flow of oxygen and nutrients allows your cornea to remain crystal clear, maintain its healthy shape, and function properly.
When you sleep with contact lenses overnight or even during a short nap, the contact acts as a barrier between your tears and your cornea, significantly reducing the cornea’s nighttime oxygen supply. The technical term for this is corneal hypoxia.
A lack of oxygen may potentially cause conjunctivitis (inflammation of the conjunctiva), keratitis (inflammation of the cornea), or corneal neovascularization (the influx of new blood vessels into the cornea).
In severe but rare cases, dozing off in your contact lenses — especially repeatedly — can cause vision loss due to corneal scarring, necessitating the frequent use of medicated eye drops, or even surgery.
If You’ve Accidentally Fallen Asleep Before Removing Contacts…
Remove your contacts as soon as you wake up and don’t insert them for at least one day — give your corneas some air!
Sleeping in contacts can make the lens harder to remove from your eye, so be sure not to tug at the lens. Applying a few drops of artificial tears before removal will loosen them up.
Sleeping in your contact lenses on a regular basis could impact your eye health to the point that you may not be able to wear the lenses for many days or even weeks.
Call your eye doctor promptly if you notice any symptoms like blurred vision, redness, eye discharge, or very watery eyes after a night of wearing your lenses, or at any other time.
We understand that contact lens wear can be tricky. At Silicon Valley Eye Physicians, we provide contact lens consultations and many other eye care services for the whole family.
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At Silicon Valley Eye Physicians, we put your family's needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 408-739-6200 or book an appointment online to see one of our Sunnyvale eye doctors.
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