At least 61 percent of Americans require some sort of corrective visual aid. Eyeglasses are the most common, but contact lenses are also popular. If you have contacts, you likely know to remove them at the end of the day or before you sleep. The same advice goes for when you want to take a nap.
Should You Sleep with Your Contacts In?
The main issue with leaving your contacts in place during sleep time or nap time is that they constrict the amount of oxygen reaching your cornea. When the cornea receives a limited oxygen supply, it can lead to complications like corneal infections.
The question most people then ask is, “How long is it safe to leave contact lenses in place?” For example, if you are on a bus to work and take a nap for 10 to 15 minutes, should you remove the contacts? The answer: it depends.
Some contacts, like silicone hydrogel lenses, allow oxygen to pass through to the cornea when compared to ordinary hydrogen lenses. However, as a rule of thumb, if you know you’re about to sleep for more than 10 minutes, you should take the lenses off.
There are also times when you only intend to take a nap but end up sleeping longer. To avoid any complications, remove your contact lenses altogether.
Unfortunately, the CDC reports that a third of contact lens wearers often forget to remove them before going to bed.
Risks of Sleeping with Contact Lenses In
Contacts require proper care to lower the risk of complications. Sleeping, or even napping without removing your contacts, can expose you to various complications. These include:
- Bacterial keratitis
- Dry, red and gritty feeling eyes
- General eye infections
Inflammation of the cornea can lead to bacterial keratitis which could cause you to lose part of all of your vision, especially without timely medical intervention. Rubbing your eyes with your fingers or sleeping with contacts can increase the exposure risk of the causative bacteria.
Dry, Red and Gritty Eyes
If you have ever slept with your contacts in, you likely woke up to your eyes feeling sore. The eyes can also appear red and feel dry with a crusty build-up around the lashes. Your eyes are sensitive. Not taking proper care of them, especially when you are sleeping, can have these complications prolong.
General Eye Infections
Sleeping without removing your lenses can lead to an array of eye illnesses like conjunctivitis. Removing your contacts and cleaning them the right way eliminates dirt and foreign debris that often carries infections. Conditions like conjunctivitis can negatively impact your eye health if not treated in good time.
Conjunctivitis: What Is Pink Eye? (April 18, 2022). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Corneal Conditions. (August 3, 2019). National Eye Institute.
Trends in Eye Care Use and Eyeglasses Affordability. (January 24, 2019). Journal of the American Medical Association.
Corneal Infections Associated with Sleeping in Contact Lenses (August 17, 2018) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Last Updated July 6, 2022
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