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Sleeping With Contacts

Jennifer Kimberley

Contact lenses are, in some ways, more convenient and aesthetically pleasing than glasses, but they do pose some risks and inconveniences of their own. One of the biggest complaints of contact wearers is having to take them out at night and then waking up with poor vision in the morning. It is easy to fall asleep, forgetting to remove your contacts, especially if you like to sit up and watch late-night television and need them to see. This leaves many contact wearers wondering about the risk. The dangers of wearing contacts while you sleep include lack of oxygen to your eyes, inflammation, and infection.

Lack of oxygen

      Like the rest of the body, your eyes need oxygen to stay healthy and function properly. If you wear contacts in your sleep often enough, your body will sense that your eyes are oxygen starved. It will start creating new blood vessels in your eyes to try and compensate. These new blood vessels do not go away. They do permanent damage to your vision and can prevent you from wearing contacts in the future. With proper eye care they will shrink, but they will always be present.

      Extended wear contacts
      Some types of contact lenses are designed for extended wear. They are semi-permeable and allow oxygen to reach your eyes. The newest extended wear contacts claim to be safe for up to 30 days of constant wear. Extended wear contacts are certainly much safer than daily wear contacts for wearing overnight, but they do not eliminate all of the risks.

      Inflammation and infection
      Even wearing the most advanced extended wear lenses increases the risk of inflammation and infection if you do not take them out while you sleep. A study by the University of Manchester found that inflammation, infections, and chronic eye problems were more common in people who wore their lenses while they slept than those who did not.

      In people who chose to sleep in their lenses, the type of lens had a significant impact on the risk. The risk was the lowest for those who wore silicone hydrogel lenses, but still higher than in people who did not sleep in their lenses at all.

      Eliminating the danger
      The best course of action if you wear contact lenses is to take them out while you sleep, even if your lenses are designed for extended wear. Many people, however, find that this is simply not a realistic goal and continue to risk damage to their eyes. LASIK and other refractive surgery can free you from corrective lenses, eliminating the dangers of falling asleep in your contacts and the inconvenience of taking them out at night forever.

      To learn more about vision and alternatives to wearing contact lenses contact your ophthalmologist today.

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