A question that new and seasoned wearers alike ask very often is: “Can I sleep in my contact lenses?”. The answer is not straight forward, as it depends on many different circumstances.
If you ask an optometrist, there will be no discussion about it. The answer will be no. That’s because it is their job to make sure nothing goes wrong with the contact lenses they prescribed to you. But you may be surprised to find out that many popular contact lens brands today are approved for overnight wear ranging anywhere from 6 to 30 continuous days! So which is it then? Well in my opinion (and I shouldn’t be too hard on optometrists, in a lot of their opinions too), it depends.
It depends first of all on the brand of contact lens. You first have to be wearing a brand of contact lens that is FDA approved for overnight wear. If you are wearing an old brand made of a
conventional a hyrdogel material, then you can stop reading now. You cannot sleep in your contact lenses. Luckily however, not many people are still wearing these older designs anymore. So if your contacts are not from the stone age, or you are willing to change brands, read on.
There are five main brands of contact lenses that are approved for overnight wear. Air Optix Night&Day Aqua by Alcon, Biofinity by CooperVision and PureVision2 HD by Bausch & Lomb and are all approved for up to 30 days of continuous wear. Acuvue Oasys by Johnson & Johnson and Air Optix Aqua by Alcon are approved for up to 6 days of continuous wear. But with that being stated, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. These are the absolute maximum amount of time one can wear these lenses for, and that’s under ideal conditions (perfectly fitting contact lenses and eye health that is pristine).
Studies have shown that the more you sleep in your contact lenses, the higher your risk is of having a contact lens complication, which can range from a little bit of pesky redness, to severe infections that can leave you with permanent loss of vision or in extreme cases, blindness of the affected eye. Hence, optometrists say ‘no way!’ to sleeping in your contacts. But keep in mind that just wearing contact lenses on a daily basis (not sleeping with them) increases your risk of the same complications when compared to not wearing contact lenses at all. But optometrists are more than happy to prescribe you contact lenses. So it comes down to how much risk you are willing to take with your eyes. Optometrists seem to have drawn the line at sleeping with the contact lenses. The FDA has drawn the line a little further. Where would you draw the line?
Everybody is different how much risk they are willing to accept and how well they can tolerate sleeping with their contact lenses. Personally, I take a balanced approach. I have never had a positive experience sleeping with my contact lenses, so I rarely did it. If I slept in my contacts for even an hour, I would wake up feeling like I had sandpaper in my eyes. So I would only sleep with my
contacts if I absolutely had no other option (or if I fell asleep accidentally). For others, I advise them if they are in a lens approved for overnight wear, and sleeping with their contact lenses does not create discomfort, then it is acceptable to do so from time to time. If it’s a nap here or there, or for one night occasionally there won’t be too much harm in that. There certainly would be no need to lose sleep over it… get it? xp
If you’re asking yourself the question in the first place because you just HATE having to put in, take off, and clean contact lenses, then there are almost certainly better solutions for you then sleeping with them. If you’re a pro and inserting and removing contact lenses but just can’t be bothered to clean them every day, then you should really consider switching to a daily lenses. A daily lens is thrown out at the end of every day, and a fresh pair worn the next day. But if you really just want to see well without any of the hassles of contact lenses, then you could always do what I did, and get LASIK!
This goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway. If you ever experience anything that’s unusual for you (persistent redness, pain, discharge, changes in vision, etc.) while wearing contact lenses (whether you’re sleeping with them or not), don’t fool around, go see your optometrist!