Electric blanket

Can you keep lenses in while sleeping?

22 Dec, 2023
Jürgen Swinnen

It has probably happened at some given time: you wake up and find that your lenses were still in. Is it wise to sleep with lenses? Well let us briefly say in advance that whether you wear daily lenses, weekly lenses or monthly lenses, they are not meant to be worn 24/7. In this article, we explain all the details concerning sleeping with lenses.

Sleeping with lenses: do or don’t?

Let’s start with the answer:

It’s best not to sleep with your lenses in.

Sleeping with your lenses in is not the idea. You should take these off before bedtime. Sleeping with contact lenses can even be dangerous for your eyes. No matter what kind of lenses you wear, it is harmful to keep them in at night. There is one exception: The Extended Wear lenses. You will read more about this category of lenses later in the article.

sleeping with lenses is that a nogo

Disadvantages when you fall asleep with your lenses in!

The disadvantages of sleeping with lenses are really many times bigger than the advantages. During the day or when awake, your eyes blink 15 to 20 times per minute. Blinking allows oxygen to get between the lens and the cornea via the tear fluid. This keeps our eyes moist and clean.

If you sleep 6 to 8 hours with lenses in, your cornea receives less oxygen. Makes sense because you have your eyes closed and so you don’t blink. This damages your eyes.

Because you do not blink when you are asleep, it is a natural reaction of your eyes to enlarge the blood vessels to still supply them with oxygen. Your lenses can then get sucked onto your cornea while you sleep. This can lead to irritation, dry eyes and even infections.

Is sleeping with lenses dangerous?

Let’s be brief. Yes! There is no good reason to think of why sleeping with regular, daily-use contact lenses can be good for you. The benefit is minuscule, while the consequences can have a huge impact.

The biggest risks are:

  • Keratitis: This is an inflammation of the cornea, which can cause painful, red and watery eyes. In severe cases, keratitis can even lead to blindness.
  • Infections: If your lenses are not clean properly, bacteria can build up and cause (corneal) infections. This can lead to pain and swelling of your eyes.
  • Deterioration of eye defect: If you sleep with lenses in, your eye defect may worsen. This is because your lenses align your eye and your eye adapts less to its surroundings.

What to do if you fall asleep with lenses in?

We do not recommend sleeping with lenses in if you do not use day and night specimens. But what do you do if you have, accidentally once, kept your lenses in while sleeping?

  1. Don’t take off your lenses right away. You can damage your cornea.
  2. Gently massage your eyes, this way they produce tear fluid.
  3. Slowly start dripping with lens solution, saline solution or eye drops to rehydrate your lenses and your eyes.
  4. Do your eyes feel less dry? Then gently and quietly try to take off your lens.
  5. It is best to leave your lenses out for an extended period of time and use glasses for a few days.
disadvantages of sleeping with lenses

Close up shot of a woman dripping eye drops into a red and irritated eye.

Sleeping with lenses in: try Extended Wear lenses

There is an exception, called extended wear lenses. Unlike daily wear lenses, you can keep these on, even at night. However, before purchasing these Extended Wear lenses, it is best to make an appointment with your contact lens specialist or your eye doctor, especially if you know you have sensitive eyes.

Because not everyone can tolerate these very soft lenses. Most are suitable for wearing day and night for up to 7 days nonstop. There are even sets in the market that can be worn for up to 30 days.

Interesting if you have an unpredictable job, such as veterinary, doctor, firefighter, police or military. Or when you are often and unexpectedly taken out of bed. People with particularly poor vision also often feel more comfortable, especially when waking up unexpectedly during the night.

Why go to sleep with lenses in?

In theory, there are a few advantages to sleeping with lenses in. That way you don’t have to worry about putting in your lenses in the morning. It comes also handy if you want to read or watch some more in bed. Still, they really should be taken off as soon as you go to sleep.

In fact, sleeping with regular contact lenses is quite dangerous for your eyes. Your eyes dry out and they may feel red, sore and thick. So be sure to read the cons, and also see what you can do if the unexpected happens!

And don’t forget! Contact lenses also need maintenance.


why sleep with lenses

Which lenses can I sleep with?

Only Extended Wear lenses are suitable for sleeping with. There is also such a thing as night lenses. These are hard lenses that have no prescription. You then also take these off during the day.

Lens TypeSuitable for sleeping
Day lensesNo
14-day lensesNo
Monthly lensesNo
Custom lensesNo
Extended Wear lensesYes
Night LensesYes

Conclusion

You can’t go to sleep with lenses in. Sleeping with lenses is harmful to your eyes and is strongly discouraged. If you do go to sleep with lenses in, don’t take them out right when you wake up. First, make sure your eyes are sufficiently moist.

If you benefit greatly from sleeping with lenses in, for example, because you don’t feel safe otherwise, or you have a job that could get you booted out of bed, you can inquire about Extended Wear lenses with your eye doctor.

Can you sleep with lenses in: Most Frequently Asked Questions

It is not bad to take a short nap with lenses in. After about half an hour, the tear fluid will dry up to the point that irritation may occur.

Sleeping with lenses is harmful to the eyes and is strongly discouraged. When you have had your lenses in overnight, you should immediately drip your eyes before removing the lenses.

With most lenses, you can have a maximum wear time of 12 hours. At night, the lenses have to come off anyway.