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Can you sleep with your eyes open?

19 Jan, 2024
Johnno van den Brink

Normally, people sleep with their eyes closed. However, there are rare cases where people do sleep with their eyes open – this is often linked to a sleep disorder.

Is it normal to sleep with your eyes open?

No, it is not normal to sleep with your eyes open. If a person’s eyelids do not close completely during sleep, it is often due to a sleep disorder or medical condition. Sleepwalking can also cause eyes to open, as can other sleep-related movement disorders.

Whilst it is possible to sleep with your eyes open, it is very rare and often associated with abnormal sleep patterns, and possibly caused by a medical condition.

Therefore, if you sleep with your eyes open it is recommended to contact a doctor or sleep specialist. You will be examined and then offered advice that will help you to sleep with your eyes closed. This will ultimately be beneficial for your sleep and overall health.

Why do you close your eyes when you sleep?

Your eyes normally close, when you are wanting to sleep, by a natural reflex. This contributes to healthy and restful sleep, due to the following reasons:

  • Protection: Closing the eyelids protects the eyes whilst you are sleep from external elements such as dust, dirt, and bright lights. This helps maintain good eye health.
  • Hydration: While sleeping, the frequency of blinking decreases, which normally helps spread tear fluid across the surface of the eye. Closing the eyes keeps them moist, preventing dehydration.
  • Relaxation: Closing the eyes contributes to the overall relaxation of the body. Reducing visual stimuli helps calm the nervous system, making the transition to sleep easier.
  • Dark environment: A dark environment stimulates the release of the sleep hormone melatonin. Closing the eyes helps create a dark environment, which regulates biorhythms and improves sleep quality.

In short, closing the eyes during sleep is a natural and protective response that supports eye well-being and will give you a great quality of sleep .

How are your eyes when you sleep?

Your sleep consists of several stages. During each period of sleep, your eyes change in position and movement. Below is an overview of each sleep stage.

The stageYour eyes
REM sleepYour eyes move quickly in various directions. You dream during your REM sleep and thhe visual activity in these dreams are often the enablers of your rapid eye movements.
Non-REM sleepYour eyes do not move as fast during non-REM sleep. Also, the patterns are quieter and your eyes remain fairly still during this stage.
Eye positionWhen you are in a restful sleep phase, your eyes are usually still. They are facing forward in a relaxed position.

Although these eye movements and positions are normal among humans, there are some differences. In fact, not everyone experiences the same eye movements and positions during their sleep. So individual variations do exist.

can you sleep with your eyes open?

Why do some people sleep with their eyes open?

While it is normal to sleep with your eyes closed, there are some people who have their eyes open during their sleep. This is often due to a condition called lagophthalmos. This refers to the inability to close the eyelids completely during sleep. Lagophthalmos has several potential causes:

  • Neurological causes: Damage to the facial nerve, or facial nerve.
  • Trauma: Injuries to the nerves and/or muscles in your eyes or face may prevent you from closing your eyelids completely.
  • Eyelid muscle weakness: A lack of muscle weakness in your eyelids can come from neurological problems, congenital defects and other conditions -such as Myasthenia gravis (fluctuating muscle weakness).
  • Surgeries: Eye surgeries can also result in problems closing your eyelids. Lagophthalmos can then occur temporarily but also permanently.

Frequently asked questions about: Can you sleep with your eyes open

When we sleep, we close our eyes. This is because our muscles slacken, making our body unable to keep our eyelids open. The eyelids therefore close completely, making it impossible to sleep with your eyes open, if you don’t have an health condition.

Some studies show that 1 in 20 people can sleep with their eyes fully open. This means this condition is very rare. However, around 20% of people can sleep with their eyes partly open. This condition is called nocturnal lagophthalmos..

During REM sleep, your eyes move a lot. REM stands for rapid eye movement, or rapid eye movements. Your brain is active then, which means your eyes are too.


You can sleep with your eyes open, but this is not normal. In fact, it is often due to a medical condition, especially sleep disorders. Most people sleeping with their eyes closed – it is a natural reflex that will give good quality sleep and overall health.