Why You Should Never Be Lax When It Comes To Removing Contacts Before Bed

Most contact lens wearers are guilty of falling asleep while wearing their lenses at least once in their lifetime. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one-third of the U.S. population has admitted to sleeping with contact lenses still in their eyes. Clearly, it's fairly common to forget to remove your contact lenses, especially after a late night out or an innocent evening concluded by a wine-induced slumber. You might even forget to remove your lenses after passing out while mid-season in your favorite reality TV show. However, this doesn't mean that you shouldn't worry about leaving your lenses in.

As demonstrated in a recent TikTok video, there are many dangers of practicing poor eye care, especially when it comes to handling contact lenses. This video shows an ophthalmologist removing 23 contact lenses from a woman's eye — a woman who, miraculously, walked away without serious damage to her vision. According to a study published in the medical journal Annals of Emergency Medicine, however, this is not always the case. Here are several reasons why you should remember to remove your contact lenses before turning in for the night.

What happens if you fall asleep while wearing your contact lenses?

After years of poking and prodding your eyes to achieve spectacle-free 20/20 vision, it is inevitable for your eyes to become desensitized to the feeling of wearing contact lenses. However, this is no reason to allow yourself to fall asleep before removing your lenses. According to a study published by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, wearing your contacts overnight puts you at risk of developing a type of corneal inflammation called microbial keratitis, which is caused by an infection of the eye, and can cause pain, discharge, loss of vision, and scarring.

If this fact alone isn't enough to deter you from sleeping in your contact lenses, then you should also know that a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that sleeping in your lenses increases the risk of developing this type of corneal infection by anywhere from a whopping six to eight times. Microbial keratitis infections can be bacterial, amoebal, or fungal in nature — all of which increase the risk of vision loss and scarring, per The College of Optometrists.

Sleeping or napping while wearing contact lenses often leads to infection due to the lack of oxygen and moisture in the cornea (via Healthline). Contact lenses sit over a large portion of your eyes and already block a significant amount of hydration and oxygen from reaching your cornea, per Healthline. When your eyes are closed for long periods of time, your cornea is weakened due to the lack of oxygen and loses its ability to fight off infection.

Dos and don'ts for contact lens wearers

To avoid the risk of developing a severe corneal infection and the partial or full loss of your vision, there are several things you should incorporate into your daily routine. It is essential that you maintain proper eye hygiene while handling contact lenses and this includes washing your hands with soap before inserting your contacts, the Cleveland Clinic reports. For biweekly contacts, make sure to rinse and gently rub your lenses with contact solution — never tap water — prior to wearing to remove protein build-up and bacteria, according to a study published in the Journal of American Academy of Optometry. However, if you use daily contacts then there is no need to rinse your lenses before use as they are single-use only.

While wearing your biweekly contact lenses, be proactive about your eye care and avoid taking naps or sleeping overnight, even if you use single-use contact lenses. If you tend to rush your morning routine, try rinsing your contacts in solution before you sleep instead, and then soak them in contact solution overnight. You will also benefit from replacing your contact cases every few months to prevent bacteria build-up (via the Cleveland Clinic).

If you take anything away from this article, let it be this: do yourself a favor and remove your contacts before bed and practice regular eye hygiene, including cleansing your lenses and washing your hands to prevent irritation, infection, and potential long-term damage to your vision.