Can I take a nap with contacts on? How about for 10 minutes, or 15, 30, or 60 minutes?

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Introduction

Don’t do it! Read on, but unless you are wearing extended wear contact lenses, the short answer is ‘don’t’.

Everyone faces different challenges when getting through each day, but some days are occasionally a tad more exhausting than others. Whether you are a new parent, finishing up work for a deadline, studying for an important exam, or going through health issues that keep you lethargic all day long- there is one thing we can all agree on, and that is a nap. Studies have shown that naps can boost productivity by improving alertness, enhanced performance, and a better mood.

For contact lens wearers, the question ‘can I take a nap with contacts on?’ is very commonly asked. Unfortunately, the answer to that is not necessarily straightforward, as you need to consider the type of contact lenses you are wearing and the wearing schedule that has been prescribed. This article will outline which contact lenses are better suited for those who nap and what happens if you accidentally napped with contact lenses.

A report in Optometry and Vision Science reveals that only 2% of contact wearers follow the guidelines for safe use. This proves users are not vigilant enough and may be exposing themselves to harmful risks by not practicing the correct methods of handling, caring for, and using their contact lenses. A study of 281 people in 2011 found that a whopping 85% of surveyed eye patients thought they were compliant with the proper contact lens care practices when in reality, only 0.4% were fully compliant– that meant only one individual followed the correct procedures. The most common transgression: sleeping in contact lenses.

Can I nap while wearing contact lenses?

The general rule is no; you should not nap or sleep with contact lenses. This applies to all contact lens brands and types, unless specified. Falling asleep with your contact lenses could lead to a risk of infection and irritation. While modern soft contact lenses have incredible technology to ensure enough oxygen passes through the lenses in daily wear, having your eyes closed as you sleep reduces available oxygen and prevents tears from washing your eye under the contact lenses. This can potentially cause problems to your eyes through hypoxia of the eyes, unless you use specific lenses designed for extended wear, as directed by your eye care professional.

After wearing your lenses all day long, Napping or falling asleep means your lenses have collected pollutants, bacteria, and dirt that could increase your risk of complications. These risks may include developing Contact Lens Induced Acute Red Eye (CLARE) or a painful corneal ulcer, even with extended wear of contact lenses. While rare and often a treatable condition, it may have long-term effects on your vision from scarring. Sleeping in contact lenses increases your chance of getting an eye infection six to eight times. Sleeping or napping in contact lenses can also cause them to get stuck underneath your eyelid, which may require removal by a doctor.

What if I only napped for 10 minutes, or 30 minutes, or 60 minutes? Does the duration matter?

Yes, the duration does make a difference, but it is not the only factor to consider. In general, the more time spent sleeping in contact lenses, the greater the risk that you will develop symptoms of infection or inflammation and suffer from the more severe consequences. For example, if you frequently fall asleep during your work transit or take naps between 10 minutes to 40 minutes long, you are not exposing yourself to any long-term health-related risks. You might, however, still experience blurred vision and dry eyes for a short period as a result. If you’re asleep for a more extended period of one or more hours, then your contact lenses can dry up in your eyes. This can lead to discomfort or even a scratching sensation in your eyes when you open them. 

The type of contact lenses you wear matters, too. Silicone hydrogel lenses allow more oxygen to the cornea, so your eyes won’t get sore. On the other hand, hydrogel lenses might cause some redness, irritation, and burning when you wake up– which could even risk damaging your cornea. With shorter naps, these issues are less likely to occur. 

The state your eyes are in before falling asleep also matters. If you have been using your contacts only for a few hours before going to bed, then there is a lower risk of your eyes getting irritated than if you have been wearing them all day. This is because contact lenses tend to accumulate dirt and dust, such as when worn for extended periods such as throughout the day. However, if you fall asleep with your contacts in, in the evening, and they stay in your eyes all night, this could prove to be more problematic. 

What if I have accidentally napped in contact lenses?

If you accidentally take a nap or fall asleep with your lenses on, your contact lenses may feel a bit more dry and difficult to remove than usual. As a result, you may feel some discomfort when trying to open your eyes. If you notice any redness, pain, or reduced vision or can’t take your lenses out, be sure to seek advice from your eye care professional. Otherwise, here are the best steps you can take to mitigate the risks:

  1. Wait for a few minutes before trying to remove your lenses.
  2. Use contact lens rewetting drops to hydrate the lenses and rehydrate your eyes to avoid the risk of corneal abrasion.
  3. Leave your lenses out for at least a few hours, checking that your eyes feel and look normal.
  4. Give your eyes a day-long break from contact lenses so that they have a chance to absorb oxygen again and remain moist.

Are there lenses you can sleep in?

Extended wear contact lenses are FDA-approved lenses that allow you to wear them for an extended period without removal, such as while you sleep. This is particularly useful for people who lead busy lifestyles and don’t want to clean and disinfect their lenses every day. Extended wear lenses are usually available as bi-weekly or monthly lenses and are made from silicone hydrogel. Silicone hydrogel is a much more breathable material with a higher level of oxygen and moisture in the eye. You must consult your eye care professional about whether or not extended wear lenses are suitable for you. You should only wear them under the supervision and direction of a qualified optician. 

Conclusion

Always practice safe habits according to the guidelines provided and check with your eye care professional whenever you doubt. For example, if you are guilty of sleeping or taking naps in your contact lenses and have gotten the green light from your optometrist, you can browse our range of extended wear contact lenses online.