We all know it's not great. But accidents happen.
Making the switch from glasses to contact lenses can give you a renewed sense of freedom: no more glasses slipping down your nose or fogging up on a humid day. Contacts become such a seamless accessory that it’s easy to forget they’re even there—especially when you’re eager to crawl into bed at night.
The thing with contact lenses is that they require proper care: not only to keep them in good condition, but to save your eyes from potential infections. Improper contact lens care, including sleeping in your contacts, raises your risk for an eye infection known as keratitis, or inflammation of the cornea. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are two main kinds of keratitis: parasitic and fungal. Both can cause serious complications, including (though rarely) blindness.
In one CDC report, half of participants admitted to sleeping in their contacts at least once, and almost 90 percent reported wearing contacts while napping. These behaviors may happen accidentally at times, but making a habit of sleeping in contacts can put your eye health at risk. In fact, the CDC reports that one-third of all contact lens wearers have had to visit their doctor because of red or painful eyes.
Some contact lens makers have gotten the message that sleeping in contacts is kinda part of human nature. Some brands, such as AIR OPTIX or Paragon Vision, are FDA-approved to be worn while sleeping. (AIR OPTIX, for example, says its lenses allow six times more oxygen to pass through to the eye than other kinds of lenses, making them safer to be worn overnight .) However, the CDC states that sleeping in any contact lenses, regardless of the type, increases risk for eye infections. If you’re using lenses that are approved for overnight wear, consider giving them a break (and letting your eyes sleep naked) at least a few nights a week.
Your contacts should help you see, not give you infections. To keep your eyes safe, make sure to follow the contact lens recommendations by the CDC for proper wear and hygiene.
Cope, JR, Collier, SA, Rao, MM, et al. Contact lens wearer demographics and risk behaviors for contact lens-related eye infections. MMWR 2014;64(32):865-70.
Show me the science: Data behind contact lens wear and care recommendations. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016. (Accessed March 22, 2017 at https://www.cdc.gov/contactlenses/show-me-the-science.html.)