Eye health advice: Sleeping in contact lenses

Eye health advice: Sleeping in contact lenses

Over the past few decades, a huge amount of research has led to the development of contact lenses that can be worn almost continuously for a whole month with virtually no risk of complication. But one question that frequently arises is that of whether it is safe to sleep with them in.

There is a lot of evidence to suggest that wearing lenses to bed will pose little or no danger to the majority of people. But there are certain risks, minimal as they are, that lens wearers need to be aware of to ensure that their eye health is protected at all times. Vast improvements in the design of contact lenses now give people more choice than ever, with daily disposables, weekly wear and 30-day extended wear options now widely available around the world.

Interestingly, historians believe the idea for contact lenses was originally conceived by Leonardo da Vinci as early as 1508. Since the early 1970s, they have been considered a safe and practical alternative to spectacles. In fact, most experts agree that modern lenses and materials are safer than ever and can be worn by most people, throughout the day and even during sleep, with no real cause for concern.

But wearers are still usually advised to take occasional breaks and clean their lenses. Optometrists often recommend sleeping without contact lenses at least once a week. While the risks involved with overnight wear are minimal and complications are nowadays extremely rare, it is still important that people are aware of how important it is to wear their contact lenses as directed. The few problems that can arise from wearing lenses in bed are brought on by bacteria forming between the lens and the eye.

Luckily, when contact lenses are removed and cleaned, this bacteria is neutralised, which is why experts advise taking the occasional night off, whether it is every other day or just once or twice a week. It is no secret that extended wear contact lenses cost more to buy than standard monthly disposable lenses. As a result, it is possible that some people will try to get as much use out of them as possible – in some cases exceeding the length of time they were designed to be worn.

This can have negative consequences, because as time passes without cleaning, proteins accumulate on the lens, reducing the clarity of vision. The build-up of bacteria and proteins can also prevent oxygen from permeating the lens, potentially causing tissue damage. When contact lenses are used properly in accordance with their 24-hour, seven-day or monthly recommended lifespan, they present only very minimal risk of eye infection to the wearer.

But where people fail to follow the instructions and advice from their optometrist carefully, the dangers increase significantly. In a worst-case scenario, vision will deteriorate, eyes may become painful and the wearer"s ability to use contact lenses in future will fade.

To avoid these complications and continue wearing lenses without fuss, the best advice is to buy the right eyecare solution to suit your individual lifestyle and follow expert guidance carefully. By taking occasional breaks and keeping them clean, the vast majority of people are able to wear their contact lenses day and night with no negative side-effects at all.

by Emily Tait

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