SCEI's Director of Optometric Services, Dr. Ora Esfahani, answers questions regarding the consequences of sleeping in your contact lenses.
1. Can you nap in your contact lenses?
Napping for a prolonged time period is not recommended while wearing contact lenses, unless you've been prescribed a brand that is approved for overnight wear. A short (20-minute or so) nap should be okay with your contacts, but the best practice is taking them out and storing them in contact lens solution prior to starting your slumber.
2. Is there any difference if you sleep for a short or long nap?
Your contact lenses can dry up in your eye if you're asleep for a long time (1 hour or more), which can cause discomfort or even scratch your eye when you open them (not fun!). Depending on the material of your contact lens, you won't be getting enough oxygen to the cornea (the front surface of your eye) while sleeping, which can cause irritation and possibly infection. Shorter naps are less likely to cause these issues, but it can still happen!
3. Is there any difference if you sleep with daily or monthly contacts?
It all depends on the brand you're wearing. Dailies are not meant to be slept in. Usually, brands approved for sleeping (either for 7 days or a month at a time) are meant for monthly or bi-weekly disposal.
4. How can sleeping in contacts hurt your eyes?
Contact lenses that are not approved for sleeping will deteriorate and cause discomfort or blurry vision once slept in. You can also develop an eye infection, a corneal ulcer, or a corneal abrasion (scratch on the front surface of your eye). The contact lens can also get stuck underneath your eyelid, which can be uncomfortable and may require removal by a doctor.
5. What should you do if you sleep in your contact lenses?
Take them out when you wake up and wear your glasses! You can apply a drop of a preservative-free artificial tear to each eye to re-lubricate the lens prior to removing them. Best to take a break from contacts afterwards to give your eyes a chance to breathe.