Eye Health Central

Can I nap with my contact lenses in?

Can I nap with my Contact Lenses in?

Can I have a nap with my contacts in?

Sleeping Contact Lenses

Never wear contacts to bed. Even if you're only taking a catnap, remove your contacts beforehand. Wearing contacts while you sleep is one of the worst things you can do for your eyes.

Since the cornea relies on oxygen from the outside air, putting on contact lenses reduces the amount of air that can flow into the cornea. You can see why this is a major problem when you sleep. With your eyes closed for an extended period of time, plus the added constriction of the contacts, your corneas get desperate for oxygen. This causes them to pull oxygen from nearby blood vessels.

Over time, people who wear contacts to bed often develop neovascularization. This refers to an unhealthy increase in blood vessels in the eye that leads to serious visual symptoms. The more vessels there are in your eye, the more trouble your cornea has processing light naturally.

Also, wearing contacts to bed increases the likelihood that you'll catch an eye infection. The cornea swells when you leave contacts in at night, which makes it far easier for bacteria to crawl between the contact lens and into the cornea. Doctors estimate that people increase their risk of contracting a bacterial infection sevenfold just by wearing contacts to bed.

The most serious disease you can catch at nighttime is keratitis. Researchers note that you're at a 10 times greater risk for developing microbial keratitis while sleeping with contacts. People who get this terrible disease first experience intense eye pain during the night. This then leads to symptoms such as blurred vision and eye sensitivity. The keratitis bacterium can cause corneal ulcers and lead to total blindness if not diagnosed early enough.

Yet another infection that's more common for people who wear contacts to bed is conjunctivitis (better known as "pink eye"). Although pink eye is less dangerous than keratitis, it's still a hassle to deal with. This viral infection causes your eyes to ooze out a thick discharge. Your eyes also become inflamed and very itchy. Another possibility is that you develop giant papillary conjunctivitis, which causes unsightly bumps to appear on your inner eyelid. Contact lens wearers are at a greater risk for developing these diseases, especially if they wear contacts while sleeping.

People who are lax about taking care of their contacts must avoid sleeping with them on. It shouldn't be hard to see why it's a bad idea to wear unclean contacts to bed. Whatever bacterial strains were present in your contacts while going through the day will increase exponentially at night. Also, all the lipid and protein deposits on unhygienic contacts will increase during the nighttime.

While it's true that wearing contacts during a short nap is less of a risk than an full sleep cycle, that doesn't mean there's no risk at all. You're still giving harmful bacteria a welcome invitation even during a 15-minute nap. If you have the time to spare, just take out your contact lenses and douse them in solution before napping.

For those who accidentally wear contacts while napping, at least put a ton of eye drops in your eyes upon awakening. While this isn't a particularly great strategy, it's better than doing nothing.

For those who struggle to take out their contacts every night, ask your eye doctor about approved contacts that can be worn while you sleep. The technology on nightly contacts is still being perfected, so there are still risks associated wearing these lenses to bed. However, these contacts will allow a greater amount of oxygen to come into the cornea while you sleep.

Also, if you don't already wear daily disposable lenses, consider switching over to them. Daily disposable lenses are the best when it comes to reducing the risk of infection. All you have to do is throw the lenses out every night before going to bed. Then, when you wake up, you can put in a brand new pair of contacts. This greatly reduces the risk of infection, eye irritation, and lipid buildup. These are some of our best selling contact lenses.

Author: John Dreyer Optometrist Bsc(Hons), MCOPTOM, DipCLP
Created: 19 Oct 2017, Last modified: 7 Apr 2020