You Really Shouldn’t Be Sleeping In Your Contacts, Here’s Why

OK, be honest: Do you ever sleep in your contact lenses?

Seriously do not sleep in your contact lenses, people. You’re just asking for trouble.

Not a direct quote, btw, but that’s the gist. The American Academy of Ophthalmology is really adamant about it. In an understanding way, but also in a way that was like: Yo, really, STOP THAT, it’s bad, and not just pretend-bad, but actually bad. And here’s why:

Sleeping in your contacts is a problem because the contact lens is made up of plastic and it impairs the oxygen flow to your cornea. The cornea is the outer clear covering of the eye, and it’s about as thick as a credit card. It has no blood flow, so it relies on the oxygen in the air. When you have a contact lens covering your eyeball for an extended period of time, that impedes the oxygen flow. (And when you have your contact lens + your closed eyelid all night… that impedes oxygen even more). And then it can alter the physiology of the eye.

NOT SO GOOD. And that’s not all. Because when you do that, you’re then exposing a sensitive eyeball to a (let’s be honest) super dirty contact lens. No matter how careful you are, contact lenses get dirty, and get coated with protein and germs. In situations where you disrupt the physiology of the surface cells of the eye, you increase the binding ability of the germs already on the lens to bind to the cornea. And once they bind to the cornea, they can invade the cornea. And once they invade, that’s when the keratitis starts.

FYI, keratitis is inflammation of the cornea. And it sucks, a lot lot.

Nearly 1 million people in the United States end up at the doctor with keratitis every year, according to the CDC.

And the vast majority of those cases were due to improper use and care of contact lenses — including sleeping in them.

About 58,000 people end up in the emergency room with keratitis each year.

And a study from Australia found that people who occasionally sleep in their contact lenses actually have 6.5 times higher risk of keratitis than people who don’t.

That was for people who sleep in their contacts on average LESS than once a week, btw. Not like an every-other-day thing.

It is recommend that you take your contacts out every night. Yes, even if you have those contacts that you supposedly can wear for extended periods of time.

This is something that is confusing to people because there are some lenses that are so-called approved for extended wear, but again it is not recommend for people to be sleeping in lenses.

When do you know if you’ve got an eyeball problem, btw?

Contact lens problems all start out the same way — to the uninitiated wearer, it’ll start out with something not feeling right. It’s not going to feel right, it’ll hurt, your eyes will be red, and you’ll be light-sensitive.

If you’re feeling those symptoms you should take out your lenses. You take the contact lens out and to keep it out of your eye, generally within a short time the discomfort should improve. If it doesn’t, and you feel like things are worsening, obviously see your eye care professional.

Oh, and a quick note about an eyeball amoeba.

There is a parasite called acanthamoeba found in all water sources, including your drinking water. And it’s perfectly fine to drink and swim in and bathe in and all that, but when it gets on your contact lenses and/or into your eyeball, bad things can happen.

It’s a devastating, painful infection. Many patients, once it gets established, need aggressive and even surgical care, and can end up with major problems. Yes, possibly like that girl who kept her contacts in for six months. (Pictured here is someone with an acanthamoeba in their eye, from the CDC.)

THAT BEING SAID, also worth mentioning that amoebas in the eyeball is a really rare thing.

And also another good thing: It’s mostly entirely preventable with good contact lens care habits — among other things, don’t wash them with water, don’t use them in pools and hot tubs, make sure to wash your contact lens case with multi-purpose solution and not water, and, oh yeah, don’t sleep in your contacts.

OK great! Well now that we have that covered, do you think you’ll still be sleeping in your contacts?

Published by knanosky

Our first piece of advice when we bought our Airstream was from friends and fellow campers. They said to make sure you "keep the shiny side up." Something that struck me kind of funny, but so true :)

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