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Can I Sleep with Contacts In?

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A close-up of a man's eyes got infected after sleeping with contact lenses on.

Many people believe that sleeping with contact lenses is safe. So it’s no surprise that one-third of contact lens wearers sleep or nap with their contacts. 

With a proper fit and prescription at your optometrist’s office, contact lenses may feel so comfortable you can forget you’re wearing a medical device in your eyes. We understand some days are too long, and you’d rather sleep with them than hassle with taking them out.  

However, sleeping with contact lenses can increase your risk of developing eye infections by 6 to 8 times

You can prevent contact lens-related eye problems by practicing proper contact lens wear and care habits and following your optometrist’s direction on the length of wear. 

Contact Lenses & Your Eyes

Most contact lenses sit directly on the eyes. During the day or in waking hours, blinking helps oxygen to reach the eyes and keeps them moist. 

While blood vessels in the eye also supply oxygen, wearing your contact lenses for too long or overnight can deprive your eyes of getting the oxygen required. 

When you sleep or nap with contacts, your eyes are closed, and there is no blinking, which causes a reduction in oxygen supply (hypoxia). 

A woman woke up with dry eyes after sleeping with contact lenses on.  She's pressing the part between her eyes above the nose with a gesture of irritation on her face.

Risks of Sleeping with Contact Lenses

Whether you wear contact lenses for vision correction or aesthetics, you’re at risk of infections. And wearing them for extended periods puts you at a higher risk of dry eyes and serious eye conditions:

Dry Eyes

Dry eyes occur when the eyes don’t produce enough or quality tears. There are several causes of this; one is contact lens-related dry eyes. Wearing contact lenses for long periods can decrease tear production. 


Keratitis is inflammation of the cornea (clear outer part of the eye). Bacterial keratitis is common in people who wear contact lenses for too long or use extended-wear contact lenses.  

Corneal Neovascularization

A common cause of corneal neovascularization is hypoxia from contact lens wear. When there is a lack of oxygen in the cornea, the formation of new blood vessels invades the cornea. 

Corneal Abrasion

A corneal abrasion or scratched cornea can result from a contact lens itself. If not treated, a corneal abrasion can lead to infection or a corneal ulcer

Signs of an Eye Infection

Visit your optometrist immediately if you notice the following signs associated with wearing contact lenses when you sleep, as they can indicate a possible eye infection: 

  • Red eyes
  • Eye pain and discomfort
  • Excess tearing or discharge
  • Light sensitivity
  • Irritated eyes
  • Gritty feeling in the eye
  • Blurry vision
  • Swelling

I’ve Worn My Contacts Overnight: Now What?

If you wake up in the morning and realize you forgot to remove your contacts, don’t panic. Follow these steps: 

  • Remove your contact lenses as soon as possible.
  • If they’re hard to remove, use a sterile contact lens solution for added lubrication. Do not tug at the contact lenses. 
  • Do not reinsert your contacts. Give your eyes a break by wearing eyeglasses for the day.
  • Look for signs of an infection and get in touch with your optometrist if you notice any. h
  • Schedule a reminder before bed to remove your contact lenses. 

Contact Lenses Approved for Sleeping

Daily contact lenses require you to remove them when you sleep. Extended-wear contact lenses are available for overnight wear and usually come in soft contact lenses.

Even though they are silicone hydrogel for more breathability, some cases show a significant increase in the risk of eye problems, regardless of lens material and frequency. 

Rigid gas permeable (RGP) lenses used in orthokeratology are hard lenses available for overnight use (at least 8 hours) and removed during the day. They are used to help correct myopia or nearsightedness. 

These lenses, prescribed for overnight wear, change the cornea’s curvature when you sleep for adequate vision during the day without needing glasses or contacts. However, the effects are temporary, as the cornea can revert to its original shape when you stop wearing the contacts. 

Tips to Keep Your Eyes Healthy When Wearing Contact Lenses

If you’re a contact lens wearer, there are steps you can take to prevent long-term damage to your eyes:

  • Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before handling contacts.
  • Clean and store your lenses in contact lens solution only. A saline solution or tap water is not suitable for disinfecting your lenses.
  • Never top up lens solution. Always replace it with fresh disinfecting solution in your lens case every day.
  • Replace your contact lenses as recommended. 
  • Replace your contact lens case every 3 months.
  • Avoid sleeping in your contact lenses. 

Proper Contact Lens Wear for Healthy Eyes & Vision

Even if you’ve previously worn contact lenses at night with no problem, it doesn’t mean you’re not at risk. 

Book an appointment with the optometrists at Brantford Eye Care to discuss your vision needs and ocular health, and determine what contact lenses best suit your eyes.

Written by Dr. Cynthia Markarian Bahoshy

How many doctors does it take to change a lightbulb?”

One or two.

Clear, comfortable vision is such an integral and important part of our lives. I enjoy interacting with our patients, learning about them and their visual needs and I get great satisfaction when I can improve their quality of life by providing them with optimal eyesight at the same time as screening for and treating potentially sight-threatening conditions.

I have been an optometrist at Brantford Eye Care (previously known as Dr. Robert Schumacher and associates) since 2002. I became the new owner of Brantford Eye Care in October 2012.

I attended the University of Ottawa where I studied Biochemistry as part of my undergraduate Bachelor of Science degree. I completed my Doctor of optometry (OD) degree at the University of Waterloo in 2002.

My externship was completed at the Houston Eye Associates in Texas. During that time, I gained extensive experience in all aspects of ocular health diagnosis and management. This included exposure to various retinal conditions, glaucoma, cataracts, children’s vision, binocular vision, and other aspects of ocular disease.

I worked as a student researcher at the Centre of Contact Lens Research at the School of Optometry, University of Waterloo where I gained extensive experience in all aspects of contact lenses. I also worked as a student researcher at the Ottawa General hospital in the Department of Ophthalmology during my university years.

I am an active member of the Ontario Association of Optometrists, The Canadian Association of Optometrists, the Ontario College of Optometrists, and the Hamilton and District Area Society of Optometrists. I am certified in the Treatment and Management of Ocular Diseases.

My main interests are in dry eyes, contact lenses, and in children’s vision. I have experience working as an optometrist at a Toronto LASIK centre and I am able to answer any questions you may have regarding LASIK and other refractive surgeries. We are affiliated with the various LASIK centres and can refer you for a complimentary LASIK consultation as well as perform your pre and post-op examinations at our office.

I enjoy many activities such as swimming, yoga, playing the piano, and spending time with my family. I enjoy solving visual issues and challenges and meeting new people.

I’ve been very fortunate to have met so many wonderful patients and families at our office. I enjoy being a part of Brantford’s health care team and look forward to seeing you at the office!

More Articles By Dr. Cynthia Markarian Bahoshy
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