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Can I Wear Contact Lenses Overnight?


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Contact lenses come in a variety of different formats, which means that there is a whole host of choices out there for anyone looking for a specific option to suit their needs. Some people might be looking for contacts that they can wear during the day and then dispose of; while others will be after lenses they can pop in and leave in for a longer period of time, without worrying about taking them in and out on a regular basis.

Can all contacts be worn overnight?

Not all contacts are suitable for overnight wear. Many contacts are in fact suited only for daily wear and should not be left in your eyes overnight. Broadly speaking there are two classes of contact lenses in terms of whether they can be left in while you sleep, and these are:

  • Daily wear lenses – worn only throughout the day and removed or disposed of before sleep.
  • Extended wear lenses – worn continuously, including through the night, throughout the lifetime of the lens.

Why can’t some contact lenses be worn overnight?

Your eyes, like any other part of your body, rely on oxygen to work properly and maintain its health. A contact lens covers an important part of your eye and can therefore deprive it of oxygen. While some lenses are designed to facilitate the flow of oxygen through the contacts and to your eyes, most are not, and hence shouldn’t be worn overnight.

What kind of lenses can be safely worn while I sleep?

At the moment there are two types of contact lenses that are favoured in the extended wear department. These are some gas permeable lenses which can be worn continuously for up to 30 days, and a newer type of soft lens which is renowned for its comfort and safety is the silicon hydrogel lens, which can be worn for up to 30 days continuously.

Extended (called continuous in some areas) wear lenses have only become safe and effective in more recent years. Previously wearing lenses overnight carried with it a considerable risk of eye infection, and approval was only really granted to some lenses that could be worn continuously for up to 7 days. While these lenses were around, the likelihood of infection was still too high for their widespread use. This was because as a contact lens sits on the eye it accumulates a collection of deposits (like protein and fat) that can carry with them potential infectious agents.

The current revival and use of extended wear lenses is most likely due to the fact that most extended wear lenses are designed to be discarded every two weeks. This is considered the safest time frame for their use in which the likelihood of infection is minimal.

If you are interested in extended wear lenses, then discuss the option with your optician as he or she will be best suited to give you any advice you need about what is best for your eyes.


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