Can You Sleep in Contacts?

One of the most common questions eye-care professionals get asked is, “Can you sleep in contacts?”

While the convenience of drifting off to sleep without removing your lenses may be tempting, it’s crucial to understand the potential risks and consequences associated with this practice.

Sleeping in contacts increases your eyes’ exposure to lenses, which can lead to serious eye problems, even if you’re just taking a brief nap. But why does this happen, and what should you do if you accidentally sleep with your contacts? This comprehensive guide will provide you with all the answers.

Risks of Sleeping in Contacts: Can You Sleep in Contacts?

Contacts cover the cornea of your eyes, which, when worn during waking hours, doesn’t typically cause issues. However, when you close your eyes to sleep, your contacts can restrict the amount of oxygen reaching your eyes, as both the eyelids and lenses act as barriers1. This deprivation can lead to hypoxia, an unhealthy state for your cornea, making it more vulnerable to infections.

Extended periods of hypoxia can lead to corneal neovascularization, where blood vessels grow into the cornea, causing vision disturbances. In extreme cases, keratitis can occur, a painful, potentially sight-threatening eye infection.

I Accidentally Fell Asleep with My Contacts In!

What to do if I accidentally slept with my contacts in? 

If you accidentally doze off with your contacts in, don’t panic. This happens to many contact lens wearers at some point. Remove your lenses as soon as you wake up, and allow your eyes to rest by wearing glasses for the day. If you experience redness, irritation, or any unusual symptoms, consult an eye-care professional immediately.

How to Treat Your Eyes After Sleeping in Contact Lenses

After accidentally sleeping in your contacts, gently treating your eyes is crucial. Here are a few steps to follow:

  1. Remove your contacts: Take out your lenses first thing when you wake up. Your eyes may be a bit dry, so using a few drops of sterile saline or artificial tears can help lubricate your eyes before removing the lenses.
  2. Rest your eyes: Try to avoid contact lens use for the rest of the day. It will give your eyes a chance to recover.
  3. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water and use lubricating eye drops to keep your eyes moist.
  4. Look out for signs of trouble: If you experience persistent redness, pain, sensitivity to light, or blurry vision, seek professional help immediately. These could be signs of a more serious problem2.

When Is It Safe To Sleep With Contacts?

While it’s generally advised not to sleep in contact, certain types of lenses are FDA-approved for overnight wear. These are called extended-wear contacts and are typically made from silicone hydrogel, a material that allows more oxygen to reach the cornea.

However, even with extended wear contacts, there’s still a risk of infection. Therefore, occasional overnight use is safer than continuous, and a regular lens-free period is recommended each week for your eyes to rest.

In conclusion, while sleeping in contact can be tempting, especially after a long day, the potential risks outweigh the convenience. Removing your contacts before sleeping is always best, even if you plan to nap.

Remember, your eyes need to breathe, too, and giving them rest from lenses is essential to maintaining your eye health. If you ever have doubts or concerns about your contacts or eye health, always consult with an eye-care professional.

Can You Sleep in Monthly Contacts?

Monthly contacts are designed to be used for an extended period, but this does not necessarily mean they are safe for overnight use. While they are made from materials that can endure longer wear, sleeping in them can still deprive your eyes of oxygen, leading to potential complications.

Some monthly contacts are approved for overnight wear, but this is the exception rather than the rule. Always consult with your eye-care professional to understand what’s best for your specific lenses and eyes.

Can I Take a 20 Minute Nap with Contacts In?

A brief nap with contacts on is less risky than a full night’s sleep, but it’s not completely devoid of risk. When you sleep, even for 20 minutes, your eyes get less oxygen. While the risk of infection or serious eye problems from a short nap is low, you might wake up with dry or uncomfortable eyes. If napping is part of your routine, removing your contacts beforehand is a good idea to avoid potential discomfort.

Can You Sleep with Contacts for 1 Hour?

Similar to taking a 20-minute nap with contacts in, sleeping with contacts for one hour might not lead to serious problems, but it’s not recommended. Your eyes could still end up dry and irritated. Consistently sleeping with contacts for brief periods could, over time, increase your risk of complications. 

Suppose you’re constantly finding yourself in situations where you’re sleeping in your contacts. In that case, it might be worth discussing with your eye-care professional to find a more suitable option for your lifestyle.

What Happens If You Sleep with Contacts for 30 Minutes?

A 30-minute nap with contacts in might leave you with dry, slightly irritated eyes. The longer you sleep, the less oxygen your corneas receive, potentially leading to discomfort upon waking. Even a short nap can cause your contacts to dry out, stick to your eyes, and potentially cause scratches on your cornea when you open your eyes or try to remove them. Always lubricate your eyes before removing your contacts after an unintended nap to avoid this risk.

In summary, while short naps or brief periods of sleep with contacts might not result in immediate severe problems, they can still cause discomfort and pose risks. The best practice for the health of your eyes is always to remove your contacts before sleeping, no matter how brief the sleep is. If this is not possible, it’s important to keep your eyes lubricated and consult your eye-care professional for options more suited to your needs.

Best Practices for Contact Lens Hygiene

Practicing proper hygiene when handling contact lenses is essential to prevent eye infections and ensure the longevity of the lenses. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that nearly one million people in the United States visit the eye doctor yearly due to contact lens-related issues. Many of these problems arise from poor lens hygiene practices. 

Here’s how to keep your contact lenses clean and your eyes healthy:

  • Hand Hygiene Matters
    • Your hands come in contact with numerous germs and bacteria throughout the day. Therefore, washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water and drying them with a clean towel is the first and most crucial step before touching your lenses.
  • Cleaning and Storing Contact Lenses
    • Always clean your contact lenses as soon as you remove them. Use only fresh contact lens solution — never water or saliva, as they contain bacteria that can lead to infections. Gently rub your contact lenses with the solution, even if you’re using a ‘no-rub’ formula, as this has been proven to clean more effectively.
    • Store lenses in a clean lens case filled with fresh solution. Replace your contact lens case at least every three months or sooner if it becomes damaged or dirty.
  • Don’t Sleep in Your Contacts
    • As tempting as it might be to crawl into bed without removing your contacts, don’t do it! Your eyes need a break from lenses, and sleeping in them increases the risk of infections.
  • Know When to Replace Your Lenses
    • It’s easy to lose track of when you first opened your contact lenses, but using lenses beyond their recommended time frame can be harmful. If you’re using monthly contacts, for example, make sure to replace them every month and not a day longer. To help you remember, set a reminder on your phone or mark the date on your calendar.
  • Regular Eye Check-ups
    • Regular appointments with your eye-care professional are crucial. They can detect any potential problems early and provide advice tailored to your eye health needs. Don’t skip these appointments, even if your vision seems fine.

Best Practices in a Nutshell

Contact lens hygiene doesn’t have to be complicated. It revolves around simple habits: clean hands, clean lenses, clean cases, and regular check-ups. Following these guidelines can go a long way in keeping your eyes healthy and your vision clear. Remember, your eyes are priceless, and taking care of them should always be a priority.

Exploring Alternatives to Contact Lenses: From Glasses to LASIK

Glasses: A Classic Alternative

Glasses have been a tried-and-true solution for vision correction for centuries. Today, they are more comfortable and stylish than ever, offering various options to fit your lifestyle and fashion preferences. With advancements in lens technology, glasses can correct most vision problems, including myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism, and presbyopia. They also offer protection against environmental factors, like wind and dust, that can irritate the eyes.

Transition Lenses

Transition lenses, also known as photochromic lenses, darken under UV light, effectively transforming your regular glasses into sunglasses. It can be convenient for those who spend time both indoors and outdoors, saving you from switching between prescription glasses and sunglasses.

Orthokeratology (Ortho-K)

Ortho-K involves using specially designed, gas-permeable contact lenses that you wear overnight to reshape your cornea gently. It can correct myopia (nearsightedness), so you can see clearly during the day without any glasses or contact lenses. However, the effect is temporary, so you must continue wearing the lenses every night to maintain clear vision.

Implantable Contact Lenses (ICL)

ICLs are a more permanent solution compared to daily wear contact lenses. These tiny lenses are implanted into the eyes during a surgical procedure and can correct a wide range of refractive errors. ICLs remain in place without any maintenance, unlike regular contact lenses. However, they can be removed or replaced by an eye surgeon if needed.

Laser-Assisted In-Situ Keratomileusis (LASIK)

LASIK is a popular surgical procedure for long-term vision correction. It involves reshaping the cornea using a laser to correct refractive errors. Most people who undergo LASIK end up with 20/20 vision and no longer need glasses or contacts. However, not everyone is a candidate for LASIK, and as with any surgery, it carries some risks.

Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK)

PRK is another type of refractive surgery, but unlike LASIK, it doesn’t involve creating a corneal flap. This makes it a suitable option for people with thinner corneas. Recovery from PRK is usually longer and more uncomfortable than from LASIK, but the final outcomes regarding vision correction are similar.

The Future: Smart Glasses

Tech companies are developing smart glasses, which can adjust the focus automatically depending on what the wearer is looking at. While still in the early stages, these glasses could be a game-changer, especially for those with presbyopia, who need to switch between glasses for near and far vision.

In conclusion, if contact lenses are not your preference, there are many alternatives you can consider. Always discuss your options with an eye-care professional to choose the best solution for your lifestyle, budget, and, most importantly, your vision health.