Have you ever found yourself accidentally dozing off on the couch after a long day of hard work? If so, do not feel bad – you are just like everyone else.
Whenever exhaustion has taken over and your eyelids become too heavy to keep open, the only thing on your mind is going to sleep. This often results in a lack of motivation to complete certain tasks before bed, such as brushing your teeth, turning off the TV, taking the dog out, and so on.
There are some things, however, that you simply do not want to forget or neglect to do. One of those things is removing your contacts.
If you are someone who wears contact lenses, it is important to remember to take them out before falling asleep. If you don’t, you run the risk of getting an eye infection that could lead to permanent damage.
Sleeping in Contacts Increases Your Chance of Eye Infections
It is not uncommon for people to fall asleep with their contacts in (about 1 in 3 contact wearers do it), especially with many people having prescriptions for contact lenses that are considered “safe” to sleep in. This claim, however, is not necessarily true.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sleeping in your contact lenses, even if advertised for sleeping, significantly increases your chances of getting an eye infection.
Your cornea is exposed to different bacteria on a daily basis, but eye infections are rarely diagnosed. This is due to your cornea’s ability to fight off contaminants as a natural defense for your eye. In order to do this, it needs to be hydrated and have a sufficient amount of oxygen.
When you blink throughout the day, your eye stays moist and has a sufficient amount of oxygen that can flow in through your production of tears. Whenever you have contacts in, the amount of oxygen and moisture that accesses your eye decreases due to being covered.
For a short period of time, this usually poses no risk. However, if you fall asleep without taking your contacts out first, the problem becomes much more severe.
Without a sufficient amount of oxygen, also known as hypoxia, the cornea begins to lose its ability to fight off bacteria.
What Can This Cause?
This loss of ability to fight off bacteria can lead to three serious conditions.
Bacterial keratitis is an infection of the cornea caused by bacteria commonly found on the human body and in the environment.
Your chances of contracting bacterial keratitis are higher if you have a compromised immune system or have previously had an eye injury. This bacterial infection can typically be treated with eye drops, and in more severe cases, steroid drops.
Leaving this condition untreated is not recommended, as your cornea could become scarred permanently as a result.
This infection is caused by amoebas that are commonly found in water sources such as pools, lakes, rivers, hot tubs, and even tap water. This makes it especially important to avoid swimming in your contacts, let alone sleeping in them afterward.
Many people also make the mistake of rinsing their contact lenses with tap water before using them.
This infection can also be treated by eye drops. However, if the eye drops are not effective for treating the problem, then surgery may be required.
According to research, fungal keratitis is most commonly found in regions that have tropical weather with mild temperatures.
Oddly enough, the majority of people who contract fungal keratitis have also had some sort of trauma to their eye that involved some form of plant, a stick, or a branch.
While this may seem unlikely, it is very important to get this condition treated as soon as possible as it could lead to blindness in one or both of your eyes.
In India, fungal keratitis is one of the leading causes of blindness.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of an Eye Infection?
Granted, the majority of people who fall asleep with contacts in their eyes only wake up with a little eye dryness that can be fixed with a couple of drops. However, it is important to know what the signs and symptoms of an eye infection may be in case you ever fall asleep with your contacts in.
- Excessive Watering
- Blurred Vision
- Discharge Coming from the Eye
If you experience any or all of these symptoms, you should contact your doctor immediately. Be sure to take your lenses with you in an approved plastic container so they can do testing on them if necessary.
Tips and Tricks to Help You Remember to Remove Your Contacts Before Bed
As we mentioned at the beginning of this blog, sometimes a busy schedule makes time slip by you unnoticed. In this case, it can be helpful to set some reminders for yourself so that you don’t forget to take out your contacts before you go to sleep.
- Set an Alarm – Setting an alarm can be really helpful for creating reminders and will wake you up if you have already fallen asleep. Try to set the alarm for a time that you are usually settled down for the night and are in the process of preparing to go to bed.
- Put Your Glasses Somewhere Visible – If you have prescription glasses at home, try setting them somewhere easily visible so that you notice them when you get home. This can help you to remove your contacts as soon as you get home rather than right before bed.
If you are someone who likes to read before bed, try setting your reading glasses on top of your book by your bed.
- Leave Your Contact Supplies Out – After you use your contact supplies in the morning, such as your solution and case, leave them out so you remember to use them at night.
Just always remember to wash your hands before handling your contacts or the container that you pet them in.
All in all, do your best to avoid falling asleep with your contact lenses still in your eyes. If you do happen to fall asleep with them in, be sure to remove them as soon as possible.
If you are having trouble removing them from your eye, do not yank harder on them. Instead, pour a couple of drops of solution into your eye to hydrate it.