You get home after a long day at work, and you’re exhausted. You forget to remove your contact lenses and just jump straight to bed. If you’ve done this at least once, then you’re not alone.
According to a CDC survey, sleeping in contact lenses is common. In a survey of 1,000 contact lens wearers, 50% of respondents revealed that they have slept overnight in their contact lenses. 87% of respondents also admitted that they’ve napped in their contact lenses.
What happens if you sleep in your contact lenses?
Sleeping in contact lenses that are FDA-approved for overnight or extended wear is generally safe. However, the CDC says that sleeping with any kind of contact lenses can make you six to eight times more vulnerable to eye infections. As such, you should only sleep in your contact lenses if your eye care professional (ECP) approves it and provides you with the proper guidance.
Now, sleeping in contact lenses that aren’t FDA-approved for overnight or extended wear is another matter. The best case scenario is you’ll have to deal with dry, irritated eyes, while the worst case scenario is you contract a serious eye infection.
Eye infections you can get from sleeping in your contact lenses include:
- Bacterial keratitis
Bacterial keratitis is a corneal infection that can be caused by either Staphylococcus aureus or Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which are two types of bacteria found in the environment.
You can treat mild cases of bacterial keratitis with antibiotic eye drops. Meanwhile, more severe cases often require oral medication. Left untreated, bacterial keratitis can lead to permanent vision loss or blindness.
- Fungal keratitis
You are more likely to contract fungal keratitis if you live in a tropical region that has mild temperatures. Sleeping in your contact lenses further increases your risk of getting fungal keratitis. To treat fungal keratitis, your ECP will prescribe you antifungal eye drops and antifungal oral medication. Like bacterial keratitis, untreated fungal keratitis can result in permanent blindness.
What do I do if I accidentally sleep in my contact lenses?
If you wake up and realize that you accidentally slept in your contact lenses not FDA-approved for overnight wear, here’s what you need to do.
1. Let your eyes breathe and rehydrate
The first thing you need to do is remove your contact lenses. However, removing your contact lenses after you sleep in them is not as simple as it seems. There’s a high chance that your contact lenses have dried out and are now stuck to your corneas. You’re going to need to let your eyes breathe and rehydrate before you can remove your contact lenses.
Try blinking a few times to spread tears into your eyes and moisturize them. Next, apply rewetting drops to your eyes to help loosen the contact lenses from your corneas. The lubrication from your tears combined with the rewetting drops should make it easier to remove your contact lenses.
2. Rest your eyes
Once you remove your contact lenses, avoid wearing contact lenses again for a full 24 hours. Wear glasses instead. Not wearing contact lenses allows your eyes to recover from the redness, dryness, and irritation from sleeping in your contact lenses the previous night.
3. Consult your ECP
Pay attention to how your eyes feel. If you have eye pain, redness, or irritation that doesn’t go away after a few days, you may have an eye infection. In this case, it’s best to immediately consult your ECP.
Tips to prevent falling asleep in your contact lenses in the future
1. Develop a routine: Try to establish a routine for removing your contacts before going to bed. Make it a habit to remove them at the same time every night.
2. Set reminders: Use alarms or reminders on your phone to prompt you to remove your contact lenses if you tend to forget.
3. Use daily disposable lenses: If you’re prone to falling asleep in your contacts, consider using daily disposable lenses. These are designed to be worn once and discarded, eliminating the need for cleaning and reducing the risk of complications from extended wear.
4. Keep a backup pair of glasses: Having a pair of glasses handy can be a helpful backup in case you forget to remove your contacts or experience discomfort.
Remember that neglecting proper contact lens care and hygiene, including falling asleep in them, can increase the risk of eye infections and other complications. Always follow your eye doctor’s recommendations for contact lens use and care to maintain your eye health.
If you find yourself sleeping in non-overnight contact lenses more than once, it may be time to consult your ECP and switch to extended-wear contact lenses. You can find a wide variety of extended wear contact lenses on Lens.com.