It's all too easy to forget you're wearing your contact lenses when you drift off to sleep for a short nap, but you probably won't forget about them upon waking. Most lens wearers have experienced the dry, irritable feeling of contacts left in during a nap, and in fact, sleeping with lenses can cause more serious eye problems. Leaving lenses in -- particularly with overnight while sleeping -- prevents necessary oxygen from getting to your cornea, and may cause infections. These infections can lead to blindness. However, you can take precautions to enable safe napping with contact lenses.
Try extended wear contact lenses. A study led by optometrist Peter Morgan of the University of Manchester and published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology reports that there is a significantly higher risk of an infection called keratitis among those who sleep in contact lenses. However, the study also notes that those who sleep in silicone hydrogel lenses, a newer type of lens meant to be worn for extended periods, have a five times decreased risk of developing this infection. Some silicone hydrogel lenses are indicated for overnight wear.
Replace your lenses according to instructions. Even silicone hydrogel extended wear lenses must be disposed of or replaced within a certain period of time. Depending on the type of lens you wear, this might mean replacing them weekly, every other week, or on a monthly basis. Replacing your lenses in a timely fashion is especially important when you sleep in them.
Avoid additional risks. Certain irritants such as smoke, swimming with your lenses and a history of infection can increase your risk of eye infections. Be aware that if you expose yourself to such risk factors regularly, you'll need to be especially careful about napping in your lenses.
Evaluate the appearance and function of your eyes. You can prevent infection and make napping in your lenses safer by assessing daily how your eyes look and feel. Be on the lookout for redness, irritation, blurred vision or lens discomfort. Ideally, you should replace lenses before noticing such signs, but if you do note these symptoms, you should replace or clean them. If the symptoms don't resolve after replacement or cleaning, call your doctor.