As unusual as sleeping with your eyes open may sound, it is something that 20% of people are affected by.  Most individuals are not even aware of it themselves until someone brings it to their attention. Nocturnal lagophthalmus is the medical term used for someone who sleeps with their eyes open. Sleeping with your eyes open does not mean that your eyes are wide open, but rather that the eyelids don’t close all the way. Over time, sleeping with your eyes open can cause someone to experience chronic dryness and discomfort leading to a lack of lubrication that can put one at risk for eye damage and scratches. 

Additional side effects to nocturnal lagophthalmus are:

  • Redness and irritation

  • Light sensitivity

  • Reduced quality of sleep

Luckily there are a number of treatments that are available that can help individuals with nocturnal lagophthalmus, such as:

  • Prescribing medications, such as eye drops, ointments and artificial tears to reduce dryness and scratches

  • Wearing moisture goggles when sleeping

  • Placing a humidifier at night to moisten the air to reduce dryness

  • Inserting an external eyelid weight or surgical tape to the upper eyelids to keep them closed

  • Performing surgery (generally for severe cases)

If you experience times when you wake up the next morning with dryness, discharge, or discomfort in your eyes, think about looking into whether you have nocturnal lagophthalmus. Your optometrist can perform a thorough assessment to find signs of this condition, and will recommend the best treatment for it.


Written by: Stephanie Teixeira and Sandra Mazur

Photo Credit: Vlad Tchompalov