In a nutshell, the answer is yes—sleeping in your contacts is a bad idea. Even extended-wear contacts that are approved by the FDA for multiple-day wear (meaning that you can sleep in them most nights) come with the risk of eye infection—and the FDA recommends that you still remove them at least one night a week. If you need motivation to haul your butt to the bathroom to remove your lenses when all you want to do is collapse into bed, read on to discover some scary potential problems that can come from sleeping in your contacts.
You May Never Be Able to Wear Contacts Again. Leaving your contacts in overnight blocks nourishing oxygen from reaching your cornea. That can lead to something called corneal neovascularization, where there’s an overgrowth of new blood vessels into the cornea. It triggers inflammation, and, if enough damage is done, doctors won’t be able to fit you for contact lenses at all.
You Could Suffer Serious Red Eye. Pain, light sensitivity, and a reddish cast are symptoms of another common condition triggered by sleeping in your lenses called CLARE, or contact lens acute red eye. Even if you hate glasses, you might remind yourself that wearing them at night after you remove your lenses may be a more attractive alternative than walking around with crimson-colored eyes.
You May Get Ulcers In Your Eyes. If you over-wear your contacts, your cornea could erupt and cause an infection that could lead to permanent vision loss; the most serious cases call for corneal transplant surgery. Red eyes, vision changes, lots of tearing or discharge, and pain could all be signs that you’re suffering from this problem and should see an eye doctor. Moreover, sleeping in your lenses even once in a while makes you almost seven times more likely to get an inflamed cornea.
Your Contacts May Stop Fitting Well. Wearing your contacts overnight or just too much in general can irritate your upper eyelids and cause bumps underneath them. Known as giant papillary conjunctivitis, or GPC, those bumps pull up on your lenses and make them fit poorly.
You Could Get an Eye Infection. Last but not least, the most common problem you may have if you sleep in your lenses is conjunctivitis, which is a bacterial eye infection that requires antibiotic drops and prevents you from wearing contacts until it heals. That’s because sleeping in your contacts can make you more susceptible to microscopic tears on your cornea and increases your odds of bacteria (as well as less-common fungi) entering your eye.