Even though some contact lenses are FDA approved to sleep in, removing them overnight is still the safest practice. Studies have shown a 10-15 percent increase in the rate of infections in people who sleep in lenses versus people who remove their lenses at night1. However, there are some lenses that are much safer to sleep in than others. Sleeping in contact lenses is referred to as “extended wear”, and some have been approved by the FDA for extended wear. These lenses tend to be very breathable and have very high levels of oxygen that is transmitted through the lens to the cornea.
The Air Optix Night and Day lenses made by Alcon and the PureVision lenses made by Bausch and Lomb are both FDA approved for 30 days of extended wear. Both of them are monthly disposable lenses, so they should be thrown out at the end of 30 days. But even though these lenses are approved for 30 days of sleeping, most doctors recommend that you leave them out overnight at least once a week.
The Air Optix Aqua lenses made by Alcon, Biofinity lenses made by CooperVision, and the Acuvue Oasys lenses made by Vistakon all have FDA approval for six nights of continuous extended wear before they should be removed and left out overnight. These lenses are a good option for people who usually take their lenses out at night, but sometimes forget. They are also nice if you sleep at a friend’s house and forget your lens case or if you are camping and it’s not possible to remove them.
If you do happen to fall asleep in contact lenses that aren’t designed to be slept in, be sure to remove the lens as soon as possible in the morning and give your eyes a day to rest without the lenses in. If the lenses are still fresh, they should be safe to use again after soaking in solution overnight. If they’re older than they should be, be sure to throw them out and start with a fresh lens. If your eye is a little irritated or dry, use some artificial tears or lubricating drops. If you experience pain, light sensitivity, blurred vision or extreme eye redness after sleeping in them, be sure to contact your eye doctor right away. Not everybody is able to sleep in lenses, but if you’d like that convenience, ask your eye doctor if it is an option for you. 1. http://one.aao.org/clinical-statement/extended-wear-of-contact-lenses–january-2008
Updated Feb 9th, 2015
Clay Mattson, O.D. has been practicing optometry at EyeMax in Nicholasville and Lexington, KY since 2000. Dr. Mattson also serves as a consultant, lecturer, author and advisor to the eye care industry and to other eye doctors.