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Home » COVID » Did You Know That 20% of People Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

Did You Know That 20% of People Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

jen theodore pSGmANK36LQ unsplashEver heard the saying “to sleep with one eye open”? It’s generally used as a metaphor when advising one to stay vigilant. But sleeping with eyes open is a common eye and sleep disorder known as nocturnal lagophthalmos. In fact, the National Sleep Foundation estimates that about 1 in 5 people sleep with their eyes open.

This condition is problematic because it can interfere with sleep and impact eye health. People may not get as much sleep, or sleep as soundly as they’d like, due to the pain and discomfort caused by the eyes drying out during the night.

Nocturnal lagophthalmos generally indicates an underlying medical condition, such as a thyroid problem or an autoimmune disorder. If upon waking you experience irritated, dry, tired, red, or painful eyes, or if you suspect you might be sleeping with your eyes open, speak with Dr. Golemba at Valley Vision Optometry today.

What Happens When You Sleep With Your Eyes Open?

People who have nocturnal lagophthalmos may not even know they have it. It is difficult to evaluate whether your eyes are closed when you're actually asleep. However, some important indicators may point to the condition, including:

  • Eyes that feel scratchy, irritated and dry
  • Blurred vision
  • Red eyes
  • Eye pain
  • Tired eyes

For those with nocturnal lagophthalmos, the eye loses the protection of a closed lid and becomes dehydrated, causing the tear layer to evaporate and the eyes to become dry. Nocturnal lagophthalmos also reduces the eye’s ability to discharge contaminants such as dust and debris that fall into the eye during the night. These contaminants can potentially lead to:

  • Eye infections
  • Corneal damage, such as corneal abrasion, sores and ulcers
  • Eye dryness and irritation
  • Poor quality sleep
  • Loss of vision

Why Do We Close Our Eyes to Sleep?

There are several reasons why it’s important to close our eyes while we sleep. Closed eyelids block light, which stimulates the brain to wakefulness.

Closing our eyes also protects and lubricates the eyes while we sleep. If your eyelids don’t close, your eyes become more susceptible to dryness, infections, and debris that can scratch and damage the cornea.

Why do Certain People Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

There are a number of reasons people might sleep with their eyes open. The most common reasons for nocturnal lagophthalmos include:

Problems With Facial Nerves and Muscles

Issues with facial nerves and muscles surrounding the eyelid can cause the lid to remain open during sleep. Weakness in facial nerves can be attributed to several factors.

 

  • Injury or trauma
  • Stroke
  • Tumor
  • Bell’s palsy, a condition that causes temporary paralysis or weakness of facial

muscles.

  • Autoimmune disorders and infections, such as Lyme disease, chickenpox, Guillain-Barre syndrome, mumps, and several others.
  • Moebius syndrome, a rare condition that causes problems with cranial nerves.

Damaged Eyelids

Eyelids can become damaged as a result of surgery, injury or illness, making it difficult to fully close the eyes during sleep. Furthermore, a condition known as floppy eyelid syndrome can also interfere with eye closure, and is often associated with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is commonly linked to eye diseases like glaucoma and optic neuropathy.

Thyroid-Related Eye Problems

A common symptom of Grave’s disease, a form of hypothyroidism, is protruding eyes. The bulging eyes, known as Graves’ ophthalmopathy, can prevent the eyes from closing.

Genetics

There also tends to be a genetic component to nocturnal lagophthalmos, as it often runs in families. Whatever the cause, the symptoms of nocturnal lagophthalmos are uncomfortable and the consequences can lead to ocular complications.

Can Nocturnal Lagophthalmos Be Treated?

This condition can be treated in several ways, depending on the underlying cause and severity of symptoms. Treatments include:

  • Administering artificial tears throughout the day, providing a film of moisture around the eyes that protects them at night.
  • Wearing an eye mask or goggles to protect the eyes from external debris and visual stimulation. These items are uniquely designed to generate moisture for the eyes while you sleep.
  • Using a humidifier, which provides a moisture-rich environment to prevent your eyes from drying out.
  • Wearing eyelid weights to help keep the eyelids closed.
  • In acute cases, surgery may be recommended.

Make sure to consult your eye doctor before undertaking any of these treatments.

Because nocturnal lagophthalmos sometimes signals an underlying condition, it is especially important to contact Dr. Golemba at Valley Vision Optometry in Vancouver Island for a proper diagnosis and to receive prompt treatment. If nocturnal lagophthalmos is left untreated for an extended period, patients risk seriously damaging their eyes and vision.

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We are currently offering in-office care by appointment only.

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COVID-19 UPDATE

The following is a summary of the steps we have taken to protect your safety.

Physical Distancing Measures:

o Reducing density of people: We have adopted a schedule which will reduce the amount of patients in our facility at one time.

o We will have some of our team working from home operating a call centre and tele-medicine pre-screening.

o Spacing stickers have been placed on our floor.

Engineering controls:

o Forms have been digitized and will be emailed to patients in advance of the appointment to minimize contact.

o A “For Payment" button has been installed on our website, valleyvisionoptometry.ca for patients to be able to pay from home to minimize contact.

o Plexiglass barriers have been installed at all 3 Front Desk stations

o Our doors will remain locked during Phase 2, opening the door to let in scheduled patients only.

o A dropbox has been installed for patients to drop off glasses in need of repair.

o Contact lens sales are administered through our webstore.

Administrative controls:

o Cleaning protocols have been written. Staff training on these protocols has been scheduled.

o Clear rules are posted on our front door and throughout all of the stations in our office.

Personal protective equipment:

o Patients will be required to wear a mask upon entry to the office and throughout their time with us. Those who do not have a mask will be supplied a surgical mask upon entry.

Policies around sickness:

o Employees and patients with cold or flu symptoms will be required to stay home.

Frequent hand washing:

o Patients, Doctors, and our Team will be required to wash hands upon entry and exit in to the exam rooms.

o Eyewear Consultants will wear gloves when handling eyewear and performing adjustments.

We currently are operating a reduced schedule, so are triaging patients to ensure those with the highest needs are prioritized.

Sincerely,

Dr. Shaun Golemba

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As of May 19th, we have re-opened by appointment only. Our current hours are Monday to Friday, 8am – 4pm. Please call our office to schedule an appointment. Read about our safety protocols here.