In a national survey, almost half of contact lens wearers said they would like
to be able to wear their contact lenses overnight. More than two-thirds said they
would do so if their eye-doctor gave them the go-ahead. Many people have dozed off
in their contact lenses, and having failed to suffer any drastic consequences, may be
emboldened to do so more often. But is it safe to sleep in your contacts? The answer
generally is no – not unless you are wearing lenses specifically approved for overnight
wear and are wearing them to the schedule prescribed by your eye-doctor. The fact that
you might get away with an occasional nap in your lenses by no means guarantees you will
be able to sleep routinely in your lenses without consequences. The fundamental problem
is that contact lenses restrict the flow of oxygen to the surface of your eye (the cornea),
and the longer you wear the lenses, the longer the flow of oxygen is restricted.
In extreme cases of over-wearing lenses, new veins grow out into the cornea as the body
attempts to correct for the oxygen deficit.
So if you want to sleep in your lenses, you should start by telling your eye-doctor,
and asking her to prescribe a suitable lens. So what lenses are approved for overnight wear?
Many of the new silicone hydrogels are approved, including the Air Optix Night & Day,
which is the only lens approved for a full 30-days of wear. There are also numerous conventional (hema) soft
lenses that are approved for up to 7 days of extended wear – all of the major manufacturers offer
such lenses. Check with your doctor, perhaps you are already wearing such a lens.