The Surprising Explanation for Why Some People Can Sleep with Their Eyes Open

While sleeping with your eyes open may seem like a rare and surprising sleep quirk, it’s actually more common than you might think. Scientifically known as nocturnal lagophthalmos, sleeping with your eyelids open is a condition that affects up to 20% of adults and children in the United States (via Medical News Today). Typically caused by an underlying illness that affects the nerves and muscles in your face, sleeping with your eyes open may be a sign of Bell’s palsy, Moebius syndrome, an autoimmune disease, or even a stroke or tumor. It can also be caused by external damage to the eyelid, or by infections such as Lyme disease, polio, chickenpox, mumps, or botulism (per Healthline). 

Nocturnal lagophthalmos can affect one or both eyes and is often accompanied by a range of unpleasant and uncomfortable symptoms. People who have nocturnal lagophthalmos may experience redness, scratchiness, blurred vision, irritation or burning, dryness, and sensitivity to light. If left untreated, nocturnal lagophthalmos could cause vision loss and permanent damage to the cornea. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, contact your doctor to schedule a visit.

How to treat nocturnal lagophthalmos

Girl putting in eye drops

Treatment for nocturnal lagophthalmos usually involves eye drops, artificial tears, or ophthalmic ointments to prevent scratches (via Healthline). These work by lubricating or moisturizing the eyes to reduce dryness, redness, and irritation. If your doctor prescribes artificial tears, they must be administered at least four times a day. Your doctor may also recommend using a humidifier or wearing an external eyelid weight to keep your eyelids closed while you’re asleep.

In more severe cases, however, you may require surgical intervention, in which case your doctor would most likely insert a gold surgical implant in a small pocket in your eyelid near the lash line. This acts as a weight, allowing your eyelid to fully close. After surgery, you may experience some swelling, bruising, redness, and general discomfort, but these symptoms should resolve on their own over time. Once your eyelid has fully healed, it may feel slightly larger or thicker than it did before the surgery, but you shouldn’t be able to feel the implant.

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Authors at GlobalIdeas
Authors at GlobalIdeas

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