Left Your Contacts In Overnight? Here's What To Do

Woman in bed rubbing her eyes
Woman in bed rubbing her eyes
Hemera Technologies via Getty Images

For the visually impaired, leaving your contact lenses in overnight usually means one of two things: either you had a few too many the night before, or you simply passed out from pure exhaustion and forgot to take the little guys out.

While some lenses are designed for Extended Wear (EW) meaning they are OK to sleep in, forgetting to remove them for the most part isn’t great for your eyes and can put them at risk of infection.

“If you accidentally sleep in your lenses, remove them as soon as you wake up and do not re-insert that day,” associate professor Tony Phillips, Head of Contact Lens Teaching, Optometry and Vision Science at Flinders University told The Huffington Post Australia.

Often they will be quite difficult to remove due to some lenses slightly dehydrating on the eye overnight.

“If this occurs lie with your head back and put several drops of saline (e.g. most contact lens solution) into the eye over several minutes. The lenses can usually be easily removed,” Phillips said.

If you are flying and are likely to doze off, remove your lenses before you board and wear your glasses.

Phillips said problems that arise from contact lens wear are rarely caused by the lenses themselves rather, the poor hygiene of the wearer.

“Patients get blasé after a while and don’t wash their hands thoroughly before handling their lenses. They don’t clean the lens properly when they remove them at night and they also don’t change the storage solution every day,” Phillips said.

Another important measure that wearers should take is getting an annual check-up. This is to ensure the lens fitting is correct and that the eye’s surface is healthy and normal.

The question of whether you should have a “day off” from wearing your lenses so as to let your eyes “breath” is largely not necessary.

“Modern lenses are very forgiving and have excellent oxygen transmissibility. However, tolerance does vary between individuals so that a small percentage of people do find a break is helpful.”

“This is particularly the case with people who have a dry eye tendency or who work at computers for long periods. Optometrists who do a lot of contact lens work will often try different lens designs and materials to get the best results,” Phillips said.

If the lens ever feels anything but normal and there is persistent discomfort, Phillips advises to cease wearing the lens and see your optometrist as soon as possible.

“If there is persistent pain or discomfort after forgetting to remove your lenses for an extended period, see your optometrist or emergency hospital department as soon as possible,” Phillips said.