When the sweet feeling of sleepiness starts to come over you and your eyelids start to get heavy, lifting them and plucking out your contact lenses could not sound less appealing.
But it’s worth it, according to the latest Centers for Disease (CDC) study.
Sleeping in your contacts can increase your eye infection risk by eight-fold, according to the new report.
And for the 45 million Americans that wear corrective lenses, these infections can cause permanent eye damage, the CDC warns.
Wearing your contact lenses overnight can deprive your eyes of oxygen, raising your risk of infection by six- to eight-fold. Infections can permanently damage your vision, the CDC warns
The majority of Americans – 75 percent – need a little help seeing.
Though most people stick to glasses, contacts make life easier for 11 percent of people with imperfect vision.
Contact lenses offer some safety advantages, especially for people who play sports or engage in outdoor activities because they wont break or fall off.
But eyes are delicate organs, and need the proper balance of saline, oxygen as well as good nutrition.
Contacts help you avoid straining your eyes to see better.
But they can also suffocate your eyeballs, especially if you wear them too long.
Without sufficient oxygen, they are vulnerable to all manner of bacteria that live peacefully on the skin or in the mouth – as well as other bugs, like measles or even STIs – but that don’t belong in eyes.
The conjunctiva, the outermost mucous membrane that covers the eye, can normally provide a solid guard against these invaders.
But oxygen deprivation weakens this defense system and allows tiny holes to open in the cornea’s surface, where the bacteria sneak in.
This can cause keratitis infections which, if left untreated, can cause permanent corneal damage and vision loss.
In 2010 – apparently the most recent year from which the CDC has comprehensive data – one million people went to emergency rooms across the US for eye infections.
Only 1,075 of those were related to contacts, but the agency’s latest report found that falling asleep in them regularly was usually the reason the lenses turned against their wearers.
‘Among the many behaviors that increase the risk for a contact lens–related corneal infection, sleeping in lenses is one of the riskiest and one of the most commonly reported behaviors among adolescent and adult contact lens wearers,’ the CDC wrote.
Doing so is common, too, with about a third of all contact-wearers admitting that they fall asleep or take naps in their contacts at least occasionally, according to the report.
They looked at six case studies that prove why the habit is worth breaking.
One teenage girl, 17, who slept in her soft over-the-counter contacts got an infection so bad that it became an ulcer in her eye, permanently scarring the cornea.
Another man discovered his eye infection after a two-day hunting trip. when he wiped his eyes after a shower and heard a ‘pop.’ He, too had developed an ulcer, but it was far worse.
He had to have an emergency cornea transplant, and even after that and cataract surgery a year later, never recovered his vision entirely.
Another young man, 18, had gotten non-prescription decorative lenses. He often slept in them and had been wearing them for a year. Doctors were able to help him clear up the infection, but he forever lost some of his vision.
The CDC noted that all contact lenses are regulated, and no one should be able to get them – even if they don’t correct vision – without a prescription.
It warned that, while some contacts are approved to wear overnight, it is always better not to.
The Food and Drug Administration actually puts overnight-wearable contact lenses in the same class as pace makers, because they have ‘the greatest risk of harm,’ according to the CDC’s report.