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Is It Really That Bad to Sleep or Shower In Contact Lenses?

Is it safe to wear contact lenses while showering or sleeping?

No. It’s absolutely not safe to wear contacts while immersed in water or when sleeping (unless you have contacts specifically intended for overnight wear). 

Sleeping in your contact lenses can dry out your eyes and potentially harm your vision as a result of infection. Contact lenses should also be kept away from water as it’s a natural breeding ground for bacteria and microorganisms, which can get trapped under the contact lens, putting you at risk of a waterborne eye infection. 

Why Does Sleeping in Contacts Increase the Risk of Infection?

To stay healthy, your corneas require hydration and oxygen. Blinking keeps your eyes wet, and the tears you produce allow oxygen to enter your eyes. 

Sleeping in standard contacts limits the amount of oxygen and hydration that reach your eyes. As a result, your corneas are more dry and susceptible to corneal abrasion, and they have a harder time fighting bacteria, causing your eyes to be more prone to infection. 

If, after sleeping in contact lenses, you experience blurred vision, discharge from your eyes, redness or watering, you may have an eye infection. Left untreated, infection can lead to corneal damage, and—in extreme cases—loss of vision.

What are the Risks of Showering While Wearing Contacts?

Contact lens wearers are more likely to develop keratitis, an inflammation of the cornea, if their lenses come into contact with water. Left untreated, keratitis can cause vision loss. 

In microbial keratitis, microorganisms invade the cornea and cause an infection of the eye. The microorganisms that cause these infections can be found in a variety of water sources, including rivers, lakes and streams, showers, tap, a pool or jacuzzi. Normally, the antimicrobial properties of tears protect your eyes, but that process is hindered by contact lenses.

Furthermore, contact lenses can stick to your eye when exposed to water, potentially leading to corneal abrasions. These scratches may enable microorganisms found in non-sterile water to penetrate the cornea and cause an infection.

Eye Care Tips for Contact Lens Wearers

  • In order to avoid eye infections, it’s important to follow the tips below. However, do not consider these tips as medical advice. Always speak to your eye doctor for individual advice on wearing and caring for your contact lenses.
  • Avoid water while wearing contacts. Keep your contacts away from water. Make sure to remove your contacts before showering, bathing, or swimming. Don’t rinse or store your contacts in water, and if it does occur, make sure to throw away or disinfect them thoroughly.
  • Don’t sleep in your contacts. Avoid wearing your contacts when sleeping, unless you have special overnight lenses or your eye doctor has told you that it’s safe to do so.
  • Use clean hands. Always wash your hands and dry them thoroughly before touching your contacts.
  • Follow product instructions. Always follow the directions when cleaning or disinfecting your contacts.
  • Store contacts properly. Make sure your contacts are exclusively stored in fresh contact lens solution. Never reuse old solution.
  • Wear contacts for the proper length of time. Avoid wearing your contacts for longer than the recommended time period.

So, remove those lenses before going to bed and showering. If you experience symptoms like eye pain, discharge, or sensitivity to light, immediately remove your lenses and consult Vivid Eyecare in Brampton without delay.

Q&A

Who can wear contact lenses?

Almost everyone can wear contact lenses, no matter their age, prescription or lifestyle.

What if I accidentally fall asleep with my contacts?

If you fall asleep with your contacts on, you may wake up with them attached to your eye’s surface. If they don’t come out easily, blink and apply lens drops until the surface of your eye is moist. That should make it easier to remove the lenses.

Did You Know That 20% of People Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

Brampton eye doctor treating eye open during sleep

Ever heard the saying “to sleep with one eye open”? It’s generally used as a metaphor when advising one to stay vigilant. But sleeping with eyes open is a common eye and sleep disorder known as nocturnal lagophthalmos. In fact, the National Sleep Foundation estimates that about 1 in 5 people sleep with their eyes open.

This condition is problematic because it can interfere with sleep and impact eye health. People may not get as much sleep, or sleep as soundly as they’d like, due to the pain and discomfort caused by the eyes drying out during the night.

Nocturnal lagophthalmos generally indicates an underlying medical condition, such as a thyroid problem or an autoimmune disorder. If upon waking you experience irritated, dry, tired, red, or painful eyes, or if you suspect you might be sleeping with your eyes open, speak with Dr. Rupinder Judge at Vivid Eyecare today.

What Happens When You Sleep With Your Eyes Open?

People who have nocturnal lagophthalmos may not even know they have it. It is difficult to evaluate whether your eyes are closed when you’re actually asleep. However, some important indicators may point to the condition, including:

  • Eyes that feel scratchy, irritated and dry
  • Blurred vision
  • Red eyes
  • Eye pain
  • Tired eyes

For those with nocturnal lagophthalmos, the eye loses the protection of a closed lid and becomes dehydrated, causing the tear layer to evaporate and the eyes to become dry. Nocturnal lagophthalmos also reduces the eye’s ability to discharge contaminants such as dust and debris that fall into the eye during the night. These contaminants can potentially lead to:

  • Eye infections
  • Corneal damage, such as corneal abrasion, sores and ulcers
  • Eye dryness and irritation
  • Poor quality sleep
  • Loss of vision

Why Do We Close Our Eyes to Sleep?

There are several reasons why it’s important to close our eyes while we sleep. Closed eyelids block light, which stimulates the brain to wakefulness.

Closing our eyes also protects and lubricates the eyes while we sleep. If your eyelids don’t close, your eyes become more susceptible to dryness, infections, and debris that can scratch and damage the cornea.

Why do Certain People Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

There are a number of reasons people might sleep with their eyes open. The most common reasons for nocturnal lagophthalmos include:

Problems With Facial Nerves and Muscles

Issues with facial nerves and muscles surrounding the eyelid can cause the lid to remain open during sleep. Weakness in facial nerves can be attributed to several factors.

  • Injury or trauma
  • Stroke
  • Tumor
  • Bell’s palsy, a condition that causes temporary paralysis or weakness of facial muscles.
  • Autoimmune disorders and infections, such as Lyme disease, chickenpox, Guillain-Barre syndrome, mumps, and several others.
  • Moebius syndrome, a rare condition that causes problems with cranial nerves.

Damaged Eyelids

Eyelids can become damaged as a result of surgery, injury or illness, making it difficult to fully close the eyes during sleep. Furthermore, a condition known as floppy eyelid syndrome can also interfere with eye closure, and is often associated with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is commonly linked to eye diseases like glaucoma and optic neuropathy.

Thyroid-Related Eye Problems

A common symptom of Grave’s disease, a form of hypothyroidism, is protruding eyes. The bulging eyes, known as Graves’ ophthalmopathy, can prevent the eyes from closing.

Genetics

There also tends to be a genetic component to nocturnal lagophthalmos, as it often runs in families. Whatever the cause, the symptoms of nocturnal lagophthalmos are uncomfortable and the consequences can lead to ocular complications.

Can Nocturnal Lagophthalmos Be Treated ?

This condition can be treated in several ways, depending on the underlying cause and severity of symptoms. Treatments include:

  • Administering artificial tears throughout the day, providing a film of moisture around the eyes that protects them at night.
  • Wearing an eye mask or goggles to protect the eyes from external debris and visual stimulation. These items are uniquely designed to generate moisture for the eyes while you sleep.
  • Using a humidifier, which provides a moisture-rich environment to prevent your eyes from drying out.
  • Wearing eyelid weights to help keep the eyelids closed.
  • In acute cases, surgery may be recommended.

Make sure to consult your Brampton eye doctor before undertaking any of these treatments.

Because nocturnal lagophthalmos sometimes signals an underlying condition, it is especially important to contact Dr. Rupinder Judge at Vivid Eyecare in Brampton for a proper diagnosis and to receive prompt treatment. If nocturnal lagophthalmos is left untreated for an extended period, patients risk seriously damaging their eyes and vision.


At Vivid Eyecare, we put your family’s needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 905-454-3937 to find out our eye exam appointment availability. or to request an appointment with one of our Brampton eye doctors.