Contact lenses are so convenient and comfortable that wearers may forget about them, even when they go to bed. However, one eye expert believes that such “contact” sleeping is an unhealthy and potentially harmful practice, and he has some facts to support his claim.
Dr. Thomas Steinemann, a spokesman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, is critical of both the excessive use of contacts and the wearing of them while asleep. The threat is partially related to the way a contact lens covers the eye but also comes from infections that can result from the wearing of these corrective devices. This issue is discussed in great detail at www.buzzfeed.com/tag/eye_health.
According to Steinemann, contacts impair the flow of needed oxygen to the cornea, the invisible piece of tissue that covers and protects the eye. This phenomenon occurs whenever contacts are worn but is especially pronounced when the eyelid is closed while sleeping. He even recommends the periodic removal of lenses that have been approved for extended wear.
The overuse of contacts has been linked to keratitis, which is an inflammation of the cornea. The symptoms of this disorder include pain, eye redness, blurred vision and sensitivity to light. Keratitis affects hundreds of thousands of Americans every year, with the excessive use of contact lenses often the precipitating factor. An Australian study showed that those who sleep only occasionally while wearing their contacts are six times more likely to develop the disorder.
Contact lenses that are not regularly cleaned can worsen the situation by introducing into the cornea bacterial or parasitic infections. Steinemann suggests that contacts be cleaned with an approved solution and be removed before entering pools or hot tubs. Most importantly, he recommends against sleeping in them.