Contact lenses are a popular choice for many people who do not want to wear glasses all of the time. A common question is whether it is okay to sleep in the contacts. As with many things – it depends! There are contacts which are designed to be worn while sleeping and those that are not designed to be slept in!
When sleeping, the eyes no longer receive oxygen from the air since the eyelids are closed. When awake, the eyes will receive most of their oxygen from the air directly.
However, if the eyelids are closed, the front of the eye must get oxygen from the blood vessels on the underside of the eyelid.
The blood vessels do not supply as much oxygen to the eye as the air does when the eyelids are open.
The change in how the front of the eye gets oxygen is a major reason for dryness and swelling of the front of the eye during sleep.
Since the contact lens is blocking the oxygen supply to the eye, all oxygen must pass through the contact lens or around the contact lens to enter the front of the eye.
If the contact lens is not designed to be worn while sleeping, this can result in not enough oxygen reaching the front of the eye at night.
If contact lenses are worn while sleeping and are not designed to be slept in, several problems can occur.
Mainly, the eyes will be deprived of oxygen and may be red, irritated, and extremely dry in the morning after sleeping in the contact lenses.
If the lenses are worn repeatedly, blood vessels may begin to grow onto the front of the eye to try to supply the eye with oxygen during sleep.
More severe problems including an eye infection can occur if the contact lenses are worn at night regularly and are not cared for properly.
There are contact lenses which are designed for overnight wear and sleeping in the contact lenses.
These contact lenses can be soft contact lenses or hard contact lenses.
The soft contact lenses are designed to be worn continuously for multiple days, usually for up to a week.
Even contact lenses which are approved for wearing overnight or while sleeping, there are risks associated with wearing contact lenses while sleeping.
At night, the contact lens can shift or move and then can scratch the front of the eye and cause intense pain and redness.
Other risks include infections and inflammation which may be very severe and require immediate treatment.
If there are any symptoms or problems, you should contact your eye doctor.