Can You Sleep With Contacts?

Imagine this: it’s been a long day, and all you want to do is crawl into bed and drift off to sleep. But wait, you’re still wearing your contact lenses!

So, can you sleep with contacts? It’s a question that many contact lens wearers have pondered.

In this article, we’ll uncover the truth behind sleeping with contacts. We’ll explore the risks and potential consequences of dozing off while wearing your lenses, as well as the recommendations from eye care professionals.

So, let’s peel back the layers of this optical mystery and discover the facts about sleeping with contacts.

Understanding the Risks of Sleeping with Contacts

Sleeping with contact lenses can certainly seem convenient, especially after a long day when the last thing you want to do is fuss with lens care. However, it’s important to understand the risks this practice poses to your eye health. While certain types of lenses are approved for overnight wear, most are not, and wearing them while you sleep can increase your risk of eye infections and corneal ulcers, primarily due to the lack of oxygen reaching your eyes.

The lenses can also dry out and stick to the eye’s surface, causing discomfort and potentially even scratching the cornea. If not properly addressed, these risks can lead to long-term damage and vision impairment. So, while it might be tempting to doze off without removing your contacts, doing so consistently can have serious consequences for the health of your eyes. Removing, cleaning, and storing your lenses properly each night is always best to keep your eyes healthy and your vision sharp.

In Which Contact Lenses Can You Sleep?

There are certain types specifically designed and approved for overnight wear, known as extended-wear lenses. These lenses are made from materials that allow more oxygen to reach the cornea, reducing the risk of complications associated with reduced oxygen flow:

  1. Silicone Hydrogel Lenses: These are the most common type of extended-wear lenses. Silicone hydrogel lenses allow up to five times more oxygen to reach the cornea than traditional lenses, making them safer for overnight wear.
  2. Gas Permeable Lenses: These are rigid lenses that allow a significant amount of oxygen to reach the cornea. They may be recommended for certain eye conditions and, in some cases, can be worn continuously for up to a week.
  3. Hybrid Contact Lenses: These lenses combine a rigid center with a soft peripheral ring. While less commonly used, they may also be an option for overnight wear in some cases.

Remember, even with these types of lenses, it’s important to follow your eye doctor’s instructions for use and care. Not everyone’s eyes can tolerate extended-wear lenses, and even with these lenses, the risk of complications is still higher when worn overnight.

Can You Nap With Contacts In?

It’s important to understand that even brief periods of closed-eye contact wear can increase the risk of complications. Here’s why:

  1. Reduced Oxygen Supply: When your eyes are closed, the amount of oxygen that can reach your cornea decreases. It is even more pronounced when you’re wearing contact lenses. Over time, reduced oxygen can lead to a condition called corneal hypoxia, which can cause discomfort, redness, and serious eye infections.
  2. Increased Dryness: Contact lenses absorb moisture from your eyes to stay hydrated. When you nap with contacts in, your lenses can dry out and stick to the surface of your eyes, leading to discomfort or even damage upon waking.
  3. Potential for Bacterial Infection: Closed eyes plus contact lenses can create a warm, moist environment ideal for bacteria growth. It can increase your risk of developing a bacterial eye infection.

If you find yourself needing to nap with contacts in, opt for an approved extended-wear lens and keep naps brief. Always remove, clean, and disinfect your lenses if they feel dry or uncomfortable after waking. 

Better yet, talk to your optometrist about possible solutions that may be more suitable for your lifestyle.

Can You Shower With Contacts In?

Showering with contacts in is generally not recommended, and here’s why:

  1. Risk of Infection: The water in pools, hot tubs, showers, and lakes can contain a host of bacteria and microorganisms. One to note is Acanthamoeba, a nasty parasite found in tap water that can cause a severe, painful, and sight-threatening infection called Acanthamoeba keratitis. When you shower with contacts in, you risk trapping these harmful organisms between your contact lenses and your eyes, increasing the risk of infection.
  2. Lens Displacement: The force of water from the shower can dislodge your contacts, causing them to move or even fall out. It is especially true if you’re not careful when washing your face or hair.
  3. Lens Contamination: Soap, shampoo, and conditioner can irritate your eyes and contaminate your lenses, leading to discomfort and potential harm.
  4. Lens Warping: Contacts may change shape when exposed to water, making them uncomfortable to wear and even scratching your cornea, leading to more serious issues.

If you absolutely must shower with your contacts in, try to keep your eyes closed as much as possible, and definitely avoid getting soap or shampoo in your eyes. Always disinfect your lenses after showering, and consider using daily disposable lenses if showering with contacts is unavoidable for you. However, the best course of action is to remove your contacts before showering to avoid these potential risks.

Sleeping in Contacts for Years

Sleeping in your contacts, even occasionally, can pose significant risks to your eye health. However, persistently sleeping in your contact lenses for years may exponentially increase these risks, and the results can be quite alarming. It is because when you sleep with contact lenses in, you’re depriving your corneas of oxygen. Over time, this can lead to a condition called hypoxia, which can, in turn, cause corneal neovascularization, where blood vessels grow into the cornea, leading to vision changes or loss.

Moreover, the risk of eye infections, including serious ones like microbial keratitis, increases significantly due to the conducive environment created for bacterial growth when lenses are left in overnight. A study published in the journal ‘Ophthalmology’ found that the relative risk of developing a corneal infection is 6.5 times higher in those who sleep in their lenses occasionally and 10.5 times higher in those who do so habitually.

Lastly, sleeping in contact lenses for years can also lead to corneal ulcers and potentially blinding complications like corneal scarring. In severe cases, it may necessitate a corneal transplant. Therefore, it’s of utmost importance to remove your contacts every night unless they are specifically designed for extended or overnight wear, and your eye doctor has given you the green light.

How to Treat Eyes After Sleeping With Contacts

If you’ve accidentally fallen asleep with your contacts in, you should take some essential steps to minimize discomfort and prevent potential harm to your eyes.

First, don’t panic. Remove your contacts as soon as you wake up, but be gentle. If the lenses feel stuck, blink a few times or apply some sterile saline or contact lens rewetting drops to moisten them before attempting removal. Avoid tugging or pulling on the lens, which could damage your cornea.

Once you’ve safely removed your contacts, rinse your eyes with saline solution or artificial tears to alleviate dryness and irritation. A cold compress can help reduce swelling and discomfort if your eyes feel inflamed.

Avoid wearing contacts for the rest of the day to let your eyes rest and recover. Wear your glasses instead. If you notice any persistent redness, pain, light sensitivity, or blurry vision, seek immediate medical attention from an optometrist or ophthalmologist. These symptoms could indicate a serious problem, such as corneal abrasion or infection.

Remember, prevention is key. Make it a habit to remove your contacts before sleep, even if you’re just planning a quick nap.

Tips for Safe Use of Contact Lenses: Day and Night

The cornerstone of safe contact lens use is cleanliness. Always wash and dry your hands thoroughly before handling your lenses. Store them in fresh solution every night and never reuse or top up old solution.

During the day, avoid touching or rubbing your eyes to prevent introducing germs. Stay hydrated and use lubricating eye drops if your eyes feel dry. If you work on a computer, remember the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds to reduce eye strain.

Always remove your lenses before bed at night unless you have extended-wear lenses specifically designed for overnight use. Even then, aim to give your eyes a break without lenses at least one night a week.

And always pay attention to the importance of regular check-ups with your optometrist. They can spot potential issues early and provide personalized advice to keep your eyes healthy.

Proper Lens Care: Cleaning and Replacement Routines

When it comes to cleaning, always wash your hands thoroughly before handling your lenses. Apply a generous amount of contact lens solution to your lens and gently rub it in a back-and-forth motion with your fingers. This motion helps remove surface deposits and potential irritants. After rubbing, rinse your lenses thoroughly with a fresh solution to wash away the loosened debris.

Now, onto lens replacement. Follow the replacement schedule provided by your eye care professional religiously. For example, if you’re using daily disposable lenses, they should be discarded after each use. Monthly lenses should be thrown away 30 days after opening, regardless of how often you’ve worn them. It can be tempting to try and stretch out the life of your lenses, but remember, over-wearing can lead to complications like infections or corneal ulcers.

Lastly, don’t forget about the lens case. It should be replaced every three months and cleaned regularly by rinsing with fresh solution and left to air dry. Never use water or top up old solution as both practices can lead to microbial contamination.

Alternatives to Overnight Contact Lens Wear

Firstly, extended-wear contact lenses are designed to be worn continuously, even while you sleep, for a certain period (usually a week). They’re made from materials that allow more oxygen to reach your cornea. However, even these come with a risk of eye infections, so frequent lens care and regular check-ups are essential.

Daily disposable contact lenses are another fantastic option. You wear a fresh pair each day, which eliminates the need for cleaning and reduces the risk of infection. While you still can’t sleep in them, the convenience and safety factors might outweigh the slight increase in cost.

Glasses, of course, are a time-tested alternative. They don’t touch your eyes directly, reducing the risk of infection significantly. Consider wearing glasses at least a few times a week to give your eyes a break.

Lastly, LASIK surgery could be an option for those seeking a more permanent solution. This laser eye surgery changes the shape of your cornea to correct your vision, potentially eliminating the need for glasses or contacts. As with any surgery, it’s important to discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor.

Remember, the best choice will depend on your lifestyle, budget, and eye health. Always consult with an eye care professional to make the most informed decision.

Recognizing Signs of Eye Trouble: When to Seek Medical Help

Recognizing signs of eye trouble early can make all the difference in maintaining good eye health. If you experience persistent eye redness, pain, or sensitivity to light, it’s time to seek medical help.

Blurred or hazy vision or the sudden appearance of floaters or flashes of light are other warning signs that should prompt a visit to your eye doctor. These could signal a retinal detachment, which requires immediate medical attention.

Another red flag is sudden vision loss in one or both eyes. It could be a sign of a serious condition such as a stroke. If you develop an eye infection with symptoms like discharge, crusting, or excessive tearing, remove your contacts immediately and consult your eye doctor.

It’s essential to remember that even if you don’t experience these symptoms, regular eye check-ups are non-negotiable. So, keep those appointments and keep your eyes on the prize – great eye health!

Consult Your Optometrist: Making Informed Decisions About Contact Use

Optometrists are healthcare professionals specializing in eye and vision care. They’re trained to understand how different types of contacts affect your eyes and can guide you in making informed decisions about your contact use.

Your optometrist will consider your lifestyle, eye health, and vision correction needs before making a recommendation. Do you work long hours in front of a computer? Do you have dry or sensitive eyes? Do you often forget to remove your contacts before sleeping? All these factors matter.

For instance, if you’re prone to falling asleep with your contacts in, your optometrist might suggest extended-wear lenses designed to be safer for overnight wear. Daily disposable lenses could be a great solution if you struggle with lens cleaning. For those with dry eyes, your optometrist might recommend lenses with a higher water content or suggest using eye drops.

Your optometrist will also teach you proper lens care habits, such as cleaning and storing your contacts correctly, to help prevent infections. Regular check-ups ensure that your contacts fit perfectly and your eyes remain healthy.

Having open, honest discussions with your optometrist is the key to making sure your contact lenses are helping, not harming, your eyes. So don’t hesitate to ask questions or voice your concerns during your visit. Your eye health is worth it!