You may think it’s no different than wearing them throughout the many hours of the day, and should pose minimal problems if you accidentally fall asleep in them. But beyond what our eyes can see, there is an entire world of microorganisms living around those contact lenses and even underneath them.

When you sleep in your contact lenses, whether that be a short nap or through the entire night, the risk of developing a corneal infection increases significantly as bacteria underneath the lens colonizes and initiates an inflammatory response. Your immune system responds to the bacteria on the surface of the cornea by sending white blood cells to the area of infection. This can lead to symptoms of acute eye pain or irritation, light sensitivity, redness, and tearing. If this occurs, the first thing you should do is remove your contact lenses and seek out an eye care provider. A topical antibiotic and anti-inflammatory eye drop, prescribed by your eyecare provider, is the typical method of treatment until full resolution of the condition. During that time, it is important to remain out of your contact lenses until your doctor gives you further instructions.

After the infection has resolved, you may consider switching into a daily replacement contact lens to reduce the risk of harboring bacteria within the lens over extended periods of time. Regardless of the contact lens modality or replacement schedule, it is imperative not to continue sleeping in your contact lenses or else risk infections that may permanently impair vision or prevent you from being able to wear contact lenses in the future.

If you’re suffering some type of infection, conjunctivitis or any other eye condition, make an appointment with the best eye doctor in New York!