Sleeping with your eyes open: Consequences and solutions

Sleeping with your eyes open: Consequences and solutions

Sleeping with your eyes open: Consequences and solutions

People who sleep with their eyes open may wake up with dry, grainy eyes. Some may think this habit of sleeping with your eyes open is weird, but it is quite common. However, a person who regularly sleeps with their eyes open could end up with serious eye problems if this issue is not handled properly.


Sleeping with your eyes open: What is it?

The medical term for sleeping with your eyes open is nocturnal lagophthalmos. Up to 20% of people are affected. One of the reasons this happens is problems with the nerves or muscles in the face that make it difficult to close your eyes. It can also occur due to skin problems around the eyelids.

If people keep their eyes open while sleeping, their eyes can dry out. Without sufficient lubrication, the eyes are more susceptible to infection and can become damaged.


People may experience the following:

  • Rash
  • Blurred vision
  • Irritation or burning sensation
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Feeling of rubbing in the eye
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Most people realize they slept with their eyes open because another person tells them they did.


Sleeping with your eyes open: Consequences and solutions


What are the treatment options?

There are several treatment options.

A doctor may also prescribe medications, including:

  • Eye drops
  • Artificial tears
  • Eye ointments
  • A person sleeping with their eyes open can also wear moisture-blocking goggles at night or a 3D sleep mask to avoid external attacks that can lead to serious injuries, sometimes irreversible.



Sleeping with your eyes open: Consequences and solutions


These act in hydrating eyes while sleeping. Sleep with a humidifier in the room can also keep surrounding air moist and less likely to dry out the eyes.

A doctor may recommend using a outer eyelid weight. This is attached to the outside of the upper eyelids to keep them closed. Applying surgical tape to the eyelids also serves the same purpose.

Another option is surgery, although it is generally only recommended for severe cases.


Nocturnal lagophthalmos surgery

There are several surgeries that can treat lagophthalmos and prevent problems with sleeping with your eyes open.

In this type of surgery, a gold surgical implant is inserted into the eyelid which functions as a eyelid weight to keep the eye closed while someone is sleeping.

This surgery involves making a small incision on the outside of the eyelid above the eyelashes. This creates a small pocket where the implant is inserted. The implant is held in place by stitches that seal the pocket.

An antibiotic ointment is applied to the eyelid to help it heal. As a result of surgery, a person may experience:

  • Swelling
  • Discomfort
  • Redness
  • bruising


These symptoms lessen over time as the eyelid heals.


What are the causes of sleeping with your eyes open?

People usually sleep with their eyes open due to a problem with facial muscles, nerves or skin around the eyelids.

Paralysis or weakening of the muscle that closes the eyelids, known as the orbicularis oculi, can cause someone to sleep with their eyes open.

Conditions that can cause muscle weakness or paralysis of the facial nerves include:

  • Bell's palsy
  • Stroke
  • Tumor
  • Autoimmune diseases, such as Guillain-Barré syndrome
  • A rare neurological condition called Moebius syndrome that affects the muscles controlling facial and eye movements
  • Trauma, injury, or surgery can also lead to damage and paralysis of facial muscles and nerves.


Infections have less common causes and can include:

  • Lyme disease
  • Mumps
  • Varicella
  • polio
  • Meadow
  • Diphtheria
  • Botulism


Sleeping with your eyes open: Consequences and solutions


Graves' ophthalmopathy, where the eyes bulge or protrude, can also make it difficult to close the eyes.

Very thick upper or lower eyelashes can also prevent the eyelid from closing completely, although this is rare.

There isn't always an underlying reason or condition that causes nocturnal lagophthalmos. Sleeping with your eyes open can also be genetic.


How is it diagnosed and is it bad for vision?

A doctor can use a slit lamp to examine the eyes.

If anyone suspects they have nocturnal lagophthalmos, they should see their doctor.

A doctor will ask if recent trauma or illness could be the cause, how long the symptoms have been occurring, and when the symptoms are at their worst.

If a doctor thinks nocturnal lagophthalmos is the cause of the symptoms, they will see what happens to the eyelids after they close.

He will observe the eyes for a few minutes to see if the eyelids begin to twitch or open.


Other tests a doctor may perform may include:

  • Measure the space between the eyelids
  • Measure the amount of force used to close the eyes when blinking
  • A slit lamp examination, using a microscope and bright light to examine the eyes
  • A fluorescein eye stain test to see if the eye has been damaged


Complications of sleeping with your eyes open

Serious problems can occur if the eyes become dry or dehydrated. These include:

  • Loss of vision
  • Eye infections
  • Risk of scratching the eye
  • Exposure keratopathy where the outermost layer or cornea is damaged
  • Corneal ulcer where an open sore develops on the cornea


How sleeping with your eyes open affects sleep quality?

Nocturnal lagophthalmos is linked to a reduced quality of sleep. A person may not sleep as long or as well due to pain and discomfort caused by dry eyes throughout the night.

Sufferers should make an appointment with their doctor if nocturnal lagophthalmos is suspected. A doctor can then help find an appropriate treatment.



People who sleep with their eyes open usually do not have no serious complications or eye damage. However, if left untreated for a prolonged period, the risk of serious eye damage increases and may lead to vision loss.

The treatment for sleeping with your eyes open is usually simple, and eye drops, eyelid weights, and air humidifiers can all help. You can also sleep with a travel pillow to prevent open eyes from rubbing the pillow.

In some cases, sleeping with your eyes half open or open is a sign of an underlying condition. Therefore, a person who suspects that he sleeps with his eyes open or even sleeps with his eyes ajar should contact their doctor to rule out a bigger problem and get treatment quickly.

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