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  • Writer's pictureMaria Cholakova

Risks of Sleeping with Daily Contact Lenses Overnight

Do you know what to do if you forget to remove your contacts before going to bed? You wake up in the morning, sleeping with daily contact lenses overnight is making your eyes red and dry, and your contacts sticky and hard to remove. Should you panic, seek medical attention or just scratch your eye until you eventually take them out? (Please don’t do the last bit!)

There are certain inconveniences and eye health risks of leaving daily contact lenses overnight. In this blog post, we will talk about how to handle the situation safely and effectively with fewer risks for your eyes.

Table of Content:

Sleeping with Contacts: The Risks of Daily Contact Lenses Eye Infection

Leaving daily contact lenses overnight is absolutely not recommended, as it poses a huge potential risk for eye infection. Let’s look at some of the biggest risks of sleeping with daily contact lenses:

  • Insufficient oxygen supply

  • Dryness and discomfort

  • Low tear exchange

  • Bacterial and microbial growth

  • Corneal ulcers

  • Conjunctivitis

Daylt contact lens on a glass table

1. Insufficient oxygen supply

When it comes to your eye structure, it is essential for the cornea to be supplied with enough oxygen. Since contacts cover the cornea, whenever you sleep with disposable contact lenses, this limits the amount of oxygen that reaches the surface of your eyes. Consequentially, oxygen deficiency contributes to discomfort, dryness, and potential corneal disorders.

2. Dryness and discomfort

You are not supposed to wear disposable contacts for an extended period of time.

Most ophthalmologists recommend a maximum of 10 to 12 hours of contact lens wear per day. It's best to remove your contact lens when you are not needing them.

Sleeping with daily contact lenses equals wearing them a lot longer than an eye doctor would recommend. That often results in dryness and severe discomfort leading to eye strain, blurry vision, dry eye syndrome, and irritation.

Atanas Bogoev, MD advises his patients to have a day without contact lenses once per week, where the patients only wear their glasses to further prevent corneal hypoxia and contact lens-associated complications.

3. Low tear exchange

When you sleep with disposable contact lenses, they hinder the natural tear flow over the eyes’ surface. Tears' natural function is to wash away debris, bacteria, and other foreign contaminants liable to cause infection. A decrease in tear exchange increases bacteria and debris accumulation on the lenses, creating a higher inflammation risk.

4. Bacterial and microbial growth

Contact lenses create a moist environment on the surface of the eye, making it an ideal environment for bacteria and other microorganisms. Sleeping with daily contact lenses increases the chances of microbe growth on the lens, vastly increasing the risk of eye infections like bacterial, viral or fungal keratitis.

Photo of a woman's face with red eyes - reddening of the white part of her eye

5. Corneal ulcers

Daily contact lenses left in overnight could potentially induce eye infections, thereby increasing the risk of corneal ulcers. Corneal ulcers are open sores on the cornea that require prompt treatment. Otherwise, the condition may lead to vision loss and other serious complications. Some of the eye infections associated with contact lenses are progressing very fast and require prompt diagnosis and treatment. It is advised to get an exam by your eye doctor if you have any eye infection associated with contact lens wear.

6. Giant papillary conjunctivitis (GPC)

GPC is an inflammation of the inner surface of the eyelid and the conjunctiva. A trigger could be irritation from disposable contact lenses, especially when you wear them for long periods or overnight. Symptoms of giant papillary conjunctivitis include itching, redness, and discomfort.

Taking the daily contacts out after waking up

Accidents happen. What's done is done. If you fell asleep with contacts on, take them off right when you wake up to minimize the risks of eye infections!

Note that you may find daily contact lenses hard to remove if you leave them in overnight. That is one of the discomforts and inconveniences you have to face as a result of sleeping with daily contact lenses.

The contacts may feel stiff, sticky, and hard to pinch. Contrary to popular belief, that is not because you have got the daily contact lenses stuck in your eye. Neither because the lenses already dissolved. Those are just eye health myths.

The thing about sleeping with disposable contacts is it irritates your eyes and leads to severe dry eye. Similarly, contacts also get drier. Hence the scratchy and burning sensation when you finally wake up.

Due to the extensive eye dryness, after sleeping with daily contact lenses it is normal to experience difficulties when you try to take them out. What usually helps remove disposable lenses is artificial tears.

Artificial tears will relieve the pain and discomfort, as well as moisten the eye and the lenses. The eye drops tend to soften the daily contacts and consequently ease the process of taking them out.

Chances are, one drop would not do much in a situation of sleeping with disposable contact lenses. You may need to add two or three drops in each eye to feel some relief and make the daily contact lenses a lot easier to remove.

A woman removing her contact lenses

Do you fear there is a daily contact lens lost in your eye?

Wearing contact lenses offers convenience and clear vision to millions of people. Nevertheless, it is not uncommon for contact lens wearers to occasionally worry about the possibility of a contact lens getting lost in their eye. Particularly when it comes to forgetting to remove daily disposable lenses before going to sleep.

As mentioned, leaving daily contact lenses overnight leads to difficulties with removing them the following day. When someone fails to take the disposable contacts out in the morning, that person often thinks they are lost. If that happens to you, keep calm, contact lenses CAN NOT get lost behind your eyes.

Daily contact lenses sleeping may lead to the disposables displacing or crawling up under your eyelids. But it is NOT anatomically possible for the dislocated lens to get behind the eyeball. And sometimes, due to high eye irritation, the wearer takes the contacts out without even noticing.

In any case, if you have extensive trouble getting the lenses out or that process causes you extreme pain, go to an ophthalmologist for extensive examination and manual extraction.

How long can you safely wear daily contacts?

As the name suggests, daily contact lenses last only a single day and then you need to discard them! They are NOT suitable for extended or overnight wear, especially not sleeping.

In fact, the material and design of daily contact lenses differ from monthly or weekly lenses. Daily contacts are typically thinner and prone to tearing because they are NOT meant for more than one use, nor to withstand frequent handling and cleaning.

The recommended duration to wear disposable contacts is around 10 to 12 hours per day. Refer to the manufacturer's instructions for more information and ask your eye doctor if certain lenses would be appropriate for you. An ophthalmologist would always consider your medical history and current prescription.

To minimize the infection risks and avoid wearing lenses overnight, follow proper hygiene and care instructions on the label and the directions from your doctor. Always dispose of and replace them as necessary, and avoid sleeping with daily contact lenses on. Regularly use artificial tears while wearing and after taking them off.

For more eye care tips by ophthalmologists, check out the Ophthalmology24 blog for patients.

All medical facts in this article are checked by Atanas Bogoev M.D.

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