Can You Sleep With Contacts In?

A woman laying in bed with her contacts in, her hands covering her eyes.

Almost one-third of contact-wearers admit to falling asleep with their contacts in. Although they are convenient and comfortable to wear during the day, contacts can feel like a nuisance before bed. When you’re already cozied up in the sheets, it can be tempting to neglect your eye care for some quick sleep. Can you sleep with contacts in? What could happen if you forget to take them out?

Don’t turn a blind eye to the risks of sleeping in contacts! Read on to learn more.

Can You Sleep with Contacts In?

No, sleeping in your contact lenses is never a good idea. The biggest reason to avoid sleeping in contacts is the risk of infection. Sleeping in your contacts makes you six to eight times more likely to develop an eye infection.

Even if you only plan to take a short nap, you need to remove your contacts first. Napping in your contacts can still increase your chance of infection.

There are many types of contact lenses available on the market today. Some are marketed as contacts you can sleep in, like extended-wear and overnight lenses. Even these can present a danger to your eyes.

The healthiest choice is to never sleep in contacts. It only takes a few moments to remove your contacts before bed, and you could be saving yourself a lifetime of irritation and vision loss.

Dangers of Sleeping in Contacts

What happens if you sleep with contacts in? Some people worry that their contact lenses could roll behind their eyes and become lost in the eye sockets.

This is actually a myth, as it’s impossible for the lens to pass between the back of the eyelids and the conjunctiva. However, there are still serious health risks involved in sleeping with contacts, namely, infection.

Corneal Infection

To protect itself against contaminants, your cornea needs two essential things: hydration and oxygen. While you’re awake, blinking and tears provide your eyes with both. Wearing contacts already decreases the amount of oxygen and moisture your eyes have access to.

Sleeping in your contacts restricts oxygen and hydration even further, weakening your eye cells and inviting infection. Signs of an eye infection include:

  • Eye discharge
  • Eye pain or swelling
  • Itching or burning eyes
  • Eye redness
  • Watery eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Blurry vision

Prolonged infection can lead to corneal damage requiring surgery and even vision loss. There are three common types of eye infections you can gain from sleeping with contacts in.

Bacterial Keratitis

Bacterial keratitis can occur when the eye is infected with bacteria commonly found in the human body. Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa are the most likely bacteria to infect the eyes. Using extended-wear contact lenses can increase your chance of developing bacterial keratitis, as well as sleeping in your lenses.

Eye doctors can usually treat bacterial keratitis with eye drops or steroid drops. In rare cases, the infection could permanently scar your cornea.

Fungal Keratitis

Fungal keratitis is corneal inflammation caused by a fungal infection. Fungal keratitis is rarer than bacterial keratitis, but can frequently affect people who live in warm, tropical climates. Unlike bacterial keratitis, fungal keratitis usually begins with an eye injury involving sticks, thorns, or branches.

Wearing and sleeping in contacts increases your risk of developing this infection, especially if you’ve experienced eye trauma. If fungal keratitis isn’t treated quickly, you can lose vision in your eye. Fungal keratitis is the most common cause of blindness in India.

Acanthamoeba Keratitis

The acanthamoeba is an organism that exists in many bodies of water and soil, including tap water, hot tubs, lakes, and rivers. Bacterial contamination often accompanies this type of eye infection. Poor contact hygiene is the reading cause of acanthamoeba keratitis.

Usually, the amoeba enters the eye while a person is swimming or showering. Infection may develop if you have a small scrape or tear in the cornea, a common result of wearing contact lenses. Swimming, rinsing your contacts in tap water, and sleeping in your contacts can increase your risk for this infection.

Doctors can treat this infection with an extensive regimen of eye drops, but if the amoeba persists, surgery may be necessary. As with other eye infections, the risk of vision loss is serious.

What to Do if You Fell Asleep in Contacts

It happens to the best of us; one minute you’re flipping through the pages of a novel, and the next you’re drooling into a pillow. Forgetting to take your contact lenses out isn’t the end of the world, but you should take some precautions to rehydrate and oxygenate your eyes.

As soon as you wake up, remove your contact lenses. If your eyes are too dry and the contacts are difficult to remove, use eye drops and try again in a few minutes.

After you’ve removed the lenses, wear eyeglasses for at least a day to let your eyes breathe. Make sure your eyes stay moist for the next few days and watch out for signs of infection, like discharge or itchiness.

Important Care Tips for Contacts-Wearers

Wearing eye contacts is a personal choice that allows for a lot of daily comfort, freedom, and self-expression. Of course, there are some essential rules you should follow to care for your eyes and keep your contacts safe. In addition to removing contacts before bed, form these healthy habits:

  • Avoid swimming, showering, or hot-tubbing in contacts
  • Always wash your hands before handling your contacts
  • Always rinse and store with contact solution, not saline or tap water
  • Replace the solution in your lens case every day
  • Don’t reuse disposable contact lenses
  • Put contacts in before applying makeup

Practice Safe Shut-Eye

So, can you sleep with contacts in? You technically can, but you shouldn’t. It may seem inconvenient, but a few minutes of eye care before bed is worth it to prevent months of pain and regret.

In addition to building healthy eyecare routines, remember to schedule regular eye exams! The Eye Pros are happy to assist with all your exam and eyewear needs at multiple locations across Utah and Idaho.

Click here to schedule an appointment and see more of life!