Leaving contact lenses in overnight may not seem like a big deal, but understanding the problems which this bad habit may cause will make the effort of removing them and cleaning them seem well worthwhile! Almost two thirds of wearers said they would prefer to keep contact lenses in overnight if they could, so it is a common and convenient preference. Of course sleeping in contact lenses overnight is a different matter than dozing off in a chair for a nap, which is not a problem. The tissue/cornea of your eye really needs oxygen, otherwise it will begin to swell up and cause your vision to become blurred. If your eye tissue continues to be deprived of the oxygen it needs, because of the contact lenses which acts like barriers, then in extreme cases some small blood vessels may develop into the cornea in order to supply the tissue with the required oxygen. It's basically not healthy for your eyes. Left unchecked these blood vessels may grow long enough to block the vision permanently. Keeping contact lenses in is like keeping the eye underwater without any oxygen for days at a time. You can imagine that would not be at all healthy or good for the eyes, and keeping contact lenses in longer than they are designed for will have the same detrimental effect.
Sleeping with contact lenses
Secondly, sleeping with the contact lenses in does not give the eyes a break and therefore the eyes are more likely to suffer an infection, inflammation and abrasions. When you are awake your eyes continually produce tears to wash away germs, but during sleep this does not happen and bacteria and debris can collect and cause problems. If your eyes become red, teary, swollen and painful or are more sensitive than usual, you need to see an eye doctor immediately. In some cases, you may not feel discomfort after over-wearing and sleeping in your contact lenses. Oxygen deprivation can cause a reduction in corneal sensitivity which can be very dangerous because you are not aware of any discomfort associated with an infection or abrasion until the problem is very serious and sight threatening.
The Simple Answer
Extended wear contact lenses have now been developed for those who want or need to sleep in contact lenses. They are made of a special silicone hydrogel and allows more oxygen to pass through the lens to the cornea. This avoids many of the problems associated with wearing ordinary contact lenses overnight. Extended Wear lenses are intended for multiple day use and may be worn continuously for the prescribed wearing period before being discarded. These lenses are designed to last from 7 days up to 30 days, depending upon the intended use period, which will be clearly stated. Currently 'Air Optix Night and Day' are the only contact lenses approved for 30-day wear. It offers the highest oxygen permeability compared to other lenses. For those who want to wear contact lenses overnight, these are the best choice as they are designed with that in mind. If the instructions are followed, there is little risk of infection. The 30 day contact lenses certainly take the hassle out of wearing contact lenses, and wearers almost forget that they actually need them. Some doctors will still recommend taking the lens out one night a week to allow the eye to take a break. Although initially eye infections were common, these longer-lasting lenses have now largely overcome the initial problems. However, 30 days continuous wear is not suitable for some people. Those who have a history of problems with wearing contact lenses or whose eyes need a break from time to time are not advised to consider long time spans for wearing these extended wear lenses. Speak to your eye doctor if you are interested in extended wear contact lenses.
Warning about sleeping with contacts - By Chad a visitor on this site:
"Let me be your warning to sleeping with contacts. I've been sleeping with them for years until, last week when I had an irritation that I thought was nothing. It turned out that I have a serious Pseudnomonas bacterial infection that has caused a large corneal ulcer which may never heal. I've been on 2 different antibiotics eye drops every 30 minutes during the day and every 2 hours during the night for the past 7 days.
Not to mention an expensive eye cream called Tobradex which is around $200 for a small tube applied 4 times a day, one of the eye drops Moxeza will cost around $150 for a tiny 3ml bottle. I've yet to regain my sight back and my quality of life is terrible with the nausea that comes with not seeing out of one eye and unable to work at this time because of the pain from light. You can't just throw an eye patch on because the eye needs to breath. There's a possibility I may need a corneal transplant. Never sleep in them even if they tell you it's ok, never use old solution that's in your case because bacteria love living there, always scrub your hands before and after touching your lenses and change that case every 3 months. So keep sleeping in those contacts and believing that you will never have any problems, your operating table is waiting."
* Chad's warning relates to contacts that were not intended for overnight use. Be careful and always consult with your eye doctor!
Have you slept with your contact lenses? What did you experience? Share your experiences in the comments below.
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