Can You Sleep With Contacts In?

4 min read

Sleeping in contacts is a very bad idea. In fact, patients can get an eye infection from sleeping in contacts. Some of these infections are very dangerous and can even result in a loss of vision permanently.

What Happens If You Sleep In Contacts?

When a patient wears their contact lenses during sleep, bacteria are given a chance to accumulate and cause problems. The contact lens also prevents oxygen from reaching the eye. Although there are newer lenses now that have greater permeability for oxygen, most ophthalmologists would advise that you do not sleep in contacts. Here are some of the things that can happen if you do:

Corneal Ulcer From Sleeping In Contacts

One of the most devastating complications of choosing to sleep in contacts is developing a corneal ulcer. This is an aggressive and potentially sight-threatening eye infection. Corneal ulcers are usually very painful and will likely cause the eye to look very red. You may see a whitish mark on the front part of your cornea, but also they can be very hard to see without a microscope. If you have been sleeping in contacts, and start having a lot of pain, you should see an ophthalmologist immediately. An ophthalmologist is an eye doctor who has gone to medical school and has then completed a four year surgical residency in ophthalmology. They will be able to look with a microscope and evaluate if you have an ulcer. Corneal ulcer treatment includes antibiotic eye drops that patients usually have to put in every hour, and sometimes even every 30 minutes for several days. The choice of antibiotic and the frequency of treatment depends on how bad the eye infection is. Most patients will not be able to wear contact lenses for several months. Some patients may never be able to wear contact lenses again.

Other Problems From Wearing Contacts Overnight

There are several other issues that patients can have from wearing contact lenses while sleeping. One of these is corneal neovascularization. This means that new blood vessels can develop over the front part of the eye. Another issue is a called marginal keratitis. Marginal keratitis can cause red eye, blurry vision, and patients will also need to discontinue contact lens wear while they are getting treated for this.

Can You Put Contacts In Water Overnight?

Placing contacts in water overnight or during the day is also another very bad idea. Although water may seem "clean" there is an increased chance of developing certain types of infections when mixing water and contact lenses. For this same reason, ophthalmologists will tell you to not shower, swim or use a hot tub with your contact lenses in. If you are looking for a substitute for contact solution overnight, unfortunately, there is no good substitute. The beauty of wearing daily contact lenses is that you can just throw the contact lens pair out at the end of the day.

What About Overnight Contact Lenses?

There are some contact lenses that are approved for use overnight. While they may be technically okay, most eye doctors will not advise patients to sleep in their contact lenses. Though many patients who sleep in contacts will not develop corneal infections, there will be some who do, and for some of these patients the outcome could be not being able to wear contact lenses at all. The best type of contact lens to use is one that is a daily contact lens. This means that patients can put in a fresh pair of contact lenses each day. This minimizes the risk of infection and also makes it convenient for patients who find it annoying to place their contacts into solution each night. The downside to daily contact lenses is that they tend to be on the more expensive side.

Can You Sleep With Contacts In: Take Home Points

Do not sleep with contact lenses in. It puts you at a much higher risk for infection. Also, do not use water to store your contact lenses or swim in your contact lenses. Daily contact lenses can offer a benefit to patients who may have trouble remembering to store their contacts properly at night.

Sources:

Alafaleq M, Knoeri J, Boutboul S, Borderie V. Contact lens induced bacterial keratitis in LCD II: Management and multimodal imaging: a case report and review of literature. Eur J Ophthalmol. 2021 Sep;31(5):2313-2318. doi: 10.1177/1120672120968724. Epub 2020 Oct 30. PMID: 33124478.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33124478/

Cabrera-Aguas M, Khoo P, Watson SL. Infectious keratitis: A review. Clin Exp Ophthalmol. 2022 Jul;50(5):543-562. doi: 10.1111/ceo.14113. Epub 2022 Jun 3. PMID: 35610943.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35610943/

Arshad M, Carnt N, Tan J, Ekkeshis I, Stapleton F. Water Exposure and the Risk of Contact Lens-Related Disease. Cornea. 2019 Jun;38(6):791-797. doi: 10.1097/ICO.0000000000001898. PMID: 30789440.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30789440/

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