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What Happens When You Sleep With Contact Lenses?

Can You Sleep With Contact Lenses On?

A simple answer for this question is NO. Any individual who wears a contact lens for the first time is always recommended by the ophthalmologist to avoid sleeping with the contact lenses on. Despite this, many times people sleep with their contact lenses on either accidentally or when in long flights. There is always a question that comes to mind as to why is it that one should not sleep with contact lenses and what may be the ramifications of sleeping with contact lenses. This article gives a brief overview of what might happen to the eye if you sleep with contact lenses.

What Happens When You Sleep With Contact Lenses?

What Happens When You Sleep With Contact Lenses?

Following 5 Medical Conditions May Happen When You Sleep With Contact Lenses On:

#1. Corneal Neovascularization

When you sleep wearing contacts, the eyes tend to get deprived of the oxygen that it requires for functioning. This can result in a condition called corneal neovascularization. This results in enlargement of the vessels of the eye. If the enlargement becomes abnormal then your ophthalmologist may deem you to be unfit to be wearing a contact lens anymore for fear of adverse affects to the eye. This means that you will never be able to wear contact lenses again and will have to resort back to spectacles. Another condition that might result due to lack of oxygen to the eye is called microcysts.

#2. Contact Lens Acute Red Eye

If you sleep with contact lenses, you may end up having a red eye along with pain in the eye and extreme light sensitivity. This is called as Contact Lens Acute Red Eye.

#3. Development of Corneal Ulcers

One of the biggest complications that may arise when you sleep with contact lenses is development of Corneal Ulcers. Corneal ulcer is the development of ulcers on the cornea usually caused by infection as a result of wearing contact lenses while sleeping constantly. This is quite a serious condition and may lead to permanent visual impairment or even blindness. Some of the symptoms of a corneal ulcer are changes in vision, redness of the eye, pain or discomfort in the eye, and excessive tearing. This is perhaps the biggest complication arising out of sleeping with contact lenses because if the infection is quite aggressive in nature then the patient may lose vision quite rapidly.

For treatment of this, the individual will have to undergo a corneal transplant which is quite a complicated surgery.

#4. Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis

Another condition that may arise from sleeping with contact lenses is termed as giant papillary conjunctivitis. This condition causes development of bumps under the upper eyelid in association with mucous discharge and excessive itching in the eye region. The itchiness increases significantly once the lens is removed. This results in poor fitting lens as a result of the bumps.

#5. Acanthamoeba Keratitis

Sleeping with contact lenses may cause acanthamoeba keratitis. This is quite a rare disease in which there is invasion of the cornea with amoeba. It is quite a serious condition and may result in permanent loss of vision or blindness.


In summary, if you just accidentally slept with contact lenses for a night does not pose any threat to your eyesight or the eye as a whole. The problem arises when sleeping with contact lenses become a habit as it may result in certain deformities or infections of the eye some of which are quite serious and may even require complex surgeries to correct them.

Thus, it is highly recommended for everyone who wears a contact lens not to sleep with contact lenses. Additionally if you have a habit of sleeping with the contact lens and you start feeling a sensation of itchiness in the eye and redness of the eye then you need to consult with an ophthalmologist right away to identify the cause of the symptoms and begin treatment emergently to prevent any potential serious complications as a result of sleeping with contact lenses.

Fortunately, if you identify the symptoms of an infection early and stop using contact lens for a few days to allow the infection to clear then you may be able to prevent any serious complications that otherwise may arise as a result of sleeping with contact lenses.


  1. American Academy of Ophthalmology. “Sleeping in Contact Lenses Can Lead to Serious Eye Infections.” https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/sleeping-in-contact-lenses-can-lead-to-infections
  2. American Academy of Ophthalmology. “Corneal Ulcer.” https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/corneal-ulcer

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 24, 2023

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