Can You Sleep With Contact Lenses In?

Is it critical to remove your contact lenses before falling into dreamland? While the practice is not dangerous, doctors advise us to sleep if possible with our eyes au natural. Closing your eyes for just one minute, and waking up hours later is easy to do.  It is the wakeup call itself, when your eyes blink open that causes some contact lens wearers to suffer dry eye, or irritation.  The reason this happens is the lens covers the eye cornea, and prevents necessary oxygen from circulating inside your eye. This deprivation becomes even worse with a closed eyelid.  According to the British Journal of Ophthalmology, persons who sleep with their contact lenses in overnight are at a greater risk to contract keratitis. Keratitis is the medical term for inflammation of the cornea.  So, if you too are a night owl, or an afternoon cat nap fan, you might want to ask your doctor about writing a prescription for an extended wear contact lens. The study suggested  that wearing silicone hydrogel lenses, a modern type of lens designed to be worn for extended periods, of time can decrease the risk of contracting a keratitis infection by as much as 5 times.7676645672_1a5a13ec48_z

Extended Wear Contacts- Silicone Hydrogel Lenses

Back in the 1990’s, many contact lens patients who were sleeping overnight in their contacts were experiencing eye infections. The older contact lens materials did not allow oxygen through its surface. In response to so many eye issues related to this, researchers developed silicone hydrogel lenses, believing that the creation of a lens that allowed more oxygen flow to the cornea would decrease eye hypoxia-related problems, and make wearing contact lenses safer for users.

Today, these modern soft contacts are created from a type of plastic that is hard when dry, but becomes soft and gel-like when allowed to absorb water. This makes wearing silicone hydrogel lenses more comfortable. In addition to comfort, some physicians prescribe these to patients that have a need for a sharper image or a thicker lens mass. Such individuals that have an eyewear prescription for  astigmatism, bifocals, or keratoconus, (a degenerative vision disorder) are finding silicone hydrogel lenses to be a great fit.


The FDA has approved some types of silicone hydrogel lenses for up to 30 days of continuous wear. Air Optix Night & Day (CIBA Vision) has been approved by the FDA for up to 7 days of extended wear. The new PureVision contacts by Bausch + Lomb has actually been approved up to 30 days of continuous wear. With FDA approval for these long time periods, It’s important to remember that these numbers are describing the maximum amount of time keeping these lenses in your eye is allowed. Many contact lens wearers are unable to tolerate wearing EW lenses for such a long length of time. There are some people that simply cannot wear any type of contact lens in their eye overnight.

Facts to Consider

There are many reasons to be cautious with wearing a contact lens for a longer period of time. Smoking, swimming and outside allergens can cause 5166192290_451f6c1b70_zrisk factors of contracting bacteria or other microorganisms under your contact lens. These micro irritants can adhere to a contact lens and become trapped underneath. Since bacteria thrive in moist and warm environments of any kind, finding a home underneath your soft contact lens is certainly not out of the question. This is the main reason that nearly all the soft contact lenses on the market today are discarded at two weeks or monthly intervals. Building up proteins or lipid lens deposits are prevented by a frequent replacement policy.

Contact lens technology continues to make significant advances in extended wear contact lenses. The new materials are allowing safer prescription options for continuous wear. Although the improvements have been remarkable, wearing contact lenses while sleeping still causes a risk of a variety of infections.  It is for this reason, most eye practitioners still prefer and recommend daily wear lenses for their patients.



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