The Dangers of Sleeping in Your Contact Lenses

by Aug 1, 2023

Sleeping in contact lenses can pose significant risks for eye infections and injuries, making it one of the leading causes of complications associated with wearing contacts. When we sleep, our tear film, which helps keep our eyes lubricated and cleansed, is not replenished as it would through blinking during waking hours.

This lack of natural blinking can cause the tear film to become stagnant. Additionally, when our eyes are closed during sleep, they are deprived of the oxygen present in the surrounding air. Instead, the cornea, the clear front surface of the eye, must rely solely on the limited supply of oxygen from blood vessels inside the eyelids.

These factors, combined with the presence of contact lenses, create an unfavorable environment for the eyes, increasing the risk of corneal swelling and potential damage. Moreover, the combination of reduced oxygen and the presence of contacts can create an ideal setting for bacterial infections. By simply removing and properly storing your contact lenses before going to bed, you can effectively protect your eyes and minimize the risk of damage.


The Importance of Oxygen for the Cornea

The cornea is a vital part of the eye, responsible for focusing incoming light onto the retina. Like all tissues in our bodies, the cornea requires a steady supply of oxygen to function properly. When we are awake and our eyes are open, oxygen from the air can reach the cornea. However, during sleep, our eyes are closed, limiting our access to atmospheric oxygen. Instead, oxygen must be obtained from the blood vessels inside the eyelids. This reduced oxygen supply during sleep can lead to corneal swelling, compromising its health and clarity.


The Impact of Contact Lens Usage during Sleep

Adding contact lenses into the equation exacerbates the issue. Contacts act as a barrier, preventing normal oxygen flow to the cornea. Oxygen can only pass through the contact lens material to reach the cornea, which limits its supply even further. Ultimately, this lack of oxygen can cause the cornea to become edematous, or swollen, leading to discomfort, blurred vision, and an increased risk of corneal damage.


Higher Risk of Infection When Sleeping in Contact Lenses

Aside from oxygen deprivation, sleeping in contact lenses also creates a favorable environment for bacterial infections. The extended wear of contact lenses during sleep prevents the necessary cleaning and disinfection that should occur regularly. Bacteria and other microorganisms can accumulate on the contact lens surface, increasing the risk of infections such as bacterial keratitis. These infections can cause redness, pain, sensitivity to light, and even potential vision loss if left untreated.


Protecting Your Eyes: Best Practices for Contact Lens Wear

To safeguard your eye health and minimize the potential dangers associated with sleeping with contact lenses, follow these best practices:

Remove Before Sleep: Make it a habit to remove your contact lenses before going to bed. This simple step allows your eyes to breathe, providing vital oxygen to the cornea and reducing the risk of corneal swelling.

Remove Immediately if Lenses are Slept In: If you accidentally forget to remove the lenses, do not continue to wear the contacts. Instead, remove the lenses and clean them thoroughly.



Our eye doctors at Perception Eyecare + Eyewear in Richardson, TX excel in the prescription of contact lenses, glasses and various eye diseases. Call our optometrists at 972-250-0700 or schedule an appointment online if you would like to learn more about the dangers of sleeping with contact lenses. Our optometrists provide the highest quality optometry services and eye exams in Richardson, TX and the surrounding vicinities of Garland, University Park, Sachse, and Highland Park.

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