Q: Is it OK to sleep in my contact lenses? What if they are a “Night & Day” brand?
A: Even though there are particular designs of lenses that are approved for “extended wear” (the industry term for overnight wear), it is very important to have your eyes examined to ensure that they would be safe for wearing lenses overnight.
The cornea (the clear, outermost layer covering the colored part of the eye) has no blood vessels so it gets all of its oxygen from the outside environment. Even though contact lenses let some oxygen pass through to your cornea, they filter out a significant amount so wearing lenses for a long period doesn’t let your cornea “breathe”. This can lead to significant degrees of inflammation, irritation, redness, and discomfort.
Additionally, nighttime lens removal, cleaning and soaking in a disinfecting solution (NOT JUST SALINE) is an essential step to maintain adequate eye health for contact lens wearers. This overnight soak removes deposits and neutralizes bacteria and viruses that build up on the lens throughout the day. So, when you wear lenses overnight, they are often contaminated with bacteria that increase the risk of infection. This can lead to a potentially serious disorder called a corneal ulcer, which can lead to blindness.
Because of these serious consequences, we recommend that you only wear your lenses overnight under the guidance of an eye doctor. However, we realize that not all overnight wear of contacts is planned. If you think there is a chance that you might be sleeping in your lenses, stick a lens case in your pocket or purse. If you do forget to take out your lenses, be sure to consult your eye doctor if you experience any redness, discharge, pain, light sensitivity, or reduced vision. Even if you don’t have any of these symptoms, it might be a good idea to wear glasses the next day to give your eyes a chance to “breathe.”
The staff of Ohio State Student Health Optometry Services is always happy to see you about your eye safety concerns. We’re here to protect your sight and keep your eyes healthy!
Adam Brandeberry (OSU College of Medicine and Public Health)
Gregory J. Nixon O.D., F.A.A.O. (Associate Professor of Clinical Optometry, OSU College of Optometry and Student Health Services)