Contact lenses sit directly on your eye to correct your vision and they can give you more natural vision than glasses. These lenses move with your eye, eliminating obstructions from frames. You do not need to worry about them fogging or getting wet. However, you need to take proper care of your contacts to avoid eye problems. You must follow your eye specialist’s wear and care instructions, which may include removing your contacts before going to bed.
Keep on reading to find out what happens if you fall asleep while wearing your contacts.
What Happens When You Sleep With Contacts In?
What If You Accidentally Sleep With Your Contacts In?
It is not usually a concern if you accidentally fall asleep with your contacts for just a night. When you make a habit of it or wear your contacts overnight on purpose, that’s when it becomes a problem. This bad habit can increase your chances of experiencing a serious health risk.
See your eye doctor as soon as possible if your eyelids appear inflamed and your eyes have become extremely sensitive to light. Along with difficulty seeing, these are typical signs of an eye infection. If you have an infection, your eye specialist may prohibit you from wearing contacts to allow your eyes to heal. In some cases, you may be given a prescription.
Your Cornea May Not Get Enough Oxygen
Like all parts and organs of your body, your eyes need oxygen to stay healthy. Contact lenses are usually made from a thin plastic material, which is not really breathable. The cornea is the thin, clear covering of the eyes and it does not have blood circulating to it. This part of your eye requires oxygen to remain in good shape.
While wearing your contacts, the amount of air your eyes get decreases. The amount of oxygen that reaches your cornea may also decrease since your eyes are closed. Sleeping while wearing your contact lenses can significantly reduce the overall amount of oxygen that enters your eyes.
Your Risk of Eye Infection Increases the Longer You Sleep
A lot of people sleep with their contacts because they experienced no issues with it in the past. Keep in mind that every time you sleep while wearing your contacts is a risk. Your eye will expand and swell whenever your eyes are closed, no matter how long it is. While napping for 15 to 30 minutes will unlikely cause damage, it is still a risk. Sleeping for hours with your contacts increases your risk of developing an eye infection.
Without good access to oxygen, your cornea will begin to enlarge and swell up. This condition is called keratitis, meaning the physiology of the eye is being altered and damaged. The immune system that protects your body differs from the one that protects your eye. As you sleep, bacteria can penetrate the gaps in your contacts and reach your cornea. Once they break through the protective layer, your risk for a bacterial eye infection increases.
Moreover, if you do not regularly clean your contacts and you have a habit of sleeping in them, you are more likely to experience eye infections. Some of the most common symptoms of an eye infection or keratitis include red eyes, irritation, and itchiness. The symptoms should ease up and disappear once you regularly remove your contacts.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), around one million people see their eye doctors each year due to keratitis symptoms. However, even people who do not wear contacts in their sleep can still experience keratitis but the probability is lower. If you’re suffering from symptoms of keratitis, make sure to consult your eye doctor immediately for proper diagnosis and treatment. Even if you are consistent with cleaning and disinfecting your contacts, germ build-up can still occur. Make sure to replace your contacts and case as recommended by your eye specialist to avoid infections.
Healthy Contact Lens Wear Habits
Always Clean and Disinfect Your Contact Lenses
Make sure to wash your hands before handling your contact lenses. After removing your contacts, rub the lenses between two to 20 seconds, depending on your contact lens solution. Doing so will remove deposits from the lenses as well as microorganisms and will reduce the likelihood of complications. Rinsing and rubbing your lenses after wear will make contact lens wear safer.
Do not place your contacts in your mouth to wet them because saliva is not a sterile solution and it contains bacteria. It is also not a good idea to store or rinse your contacts in sterile or tap water. Eye specialists do not recommend using a homemade saline solution because it is not a disinfectant.
You should use new solution each time you clean and disinfect your contact lenses. Also, do not transfer the contact lens solution to a different bottle because it will no longer be sterile. Keep the bottle closed tightly when not in use and do not let the tip touch any surface.
Clean and Replace Your Contact Lens Case
Replace your contact lens case every one to three months or as required by your eye doctor. Regularly replacing the case can help you avoid serious bacterial eye infections. You usually get a new case every time you purchase a new bottle of contact lens solution. Always rinse your case with fresh solution and let it dry in the morning before using it. Do not top off the existing solution in your case because it can increase the likelihood of contact lens wear-related problems.
Do Not Use Eye Drops for Removing Eye Redness With Your Contacts
Never use eye drops that are not approved for contact lens wear because it will harm not only your contacts but also your eyes. Avoid eye drops that claim to remove redness from your eyes because they usually have chemicals that may affect your long-term eye health. Moreover, preservative-free eye drops should be safe to use with your contact lenses. On the other hand, eye drops with preservatives can have negative effects on your eye and should not be used as much as possible. Your optometrist can recommend the ideal eye drops and contact lenses for you.
Visit Your Eye Doctor Regularly and Follow Their Directions
Regular eye exams can help you keep track of your eye health. It will help ensure you have the right prescription for your contact lenses or eyeglasses. Routine eye doctor visits can help you make sure that your lenses fit properly.
Follow the directions from your eye doctor or contact lens manufacturer when it comes to cleaning and storing your lenses. Review the instructions to see how you should re-disinfect your contacts if you have not worn the lenses for a long time. Never wear contact lenses that have been stored for more than 30 days without disinfecting them.
Keep in Mind that Water and Contact Lenses Are Not a Good Mix
Water contains microorganisms that can cause serious eye infection and vision loss. Acanthamoeba, a microscopic, free-living amoeba commonly causes water-borne eye infections. It affects the transparent outer covering of the cornea. These microorganisms are common in bodies of water, such as lakes and oceans. It is why you should not wear contact lenses while swimming or near water, even in pools and hot tubs.