Sleeping with Eyes Open

It's not out of the ordinary to wake up from a good night's sleep and feel as though your eyes are itchy, tired and dry. If it's something that occurs once in a while, it's nothing to worry about; but if it happens often, you may be one of the small group who is sleeping with eyes open.

What does It Indicate?

What exactly does sleeping with eyes open mean? It is a fairly common condition that effects up to 20% of the population, mostly children, and is called lagophthalmos. Simply put, this condition occurs when the eyelids are unable to fully cover the eye in its entirety. If you suffer from this condition, you might experience many issues with your eyes when you first wake up, such as redness and pain, blurry vision, and sensation of foreign bodies in your eyes. You may even feel sensitivity from light.

Why does It Happen?

This condition can be the result of trauma to the eye, an infection, Bells's palsy, a form of facial paralysis, or a stroke. The eyelids are supposed to protect your eyes when you are sleeping, but if the eyelids don't cover the eye completely they will be subject to anything that may be in the air. Certain procedures and medications can result in scratched eyes as can an overuse alcohol.

Is Sleeping with Eyes Open Serious?

Besides protecting the eyes from actual objects and particles, they become a barrier that will help your tears to lubricate the eye's surface. The natural antibiotics that are found in tears work to keep bacteria and viruses from spreading throughout the eye.

The film that protects the tears will dry up right away if it becomes compromised. The seriousness of this condition occurs when the eye remains unprotected and the conjunctiva and cornea are constantly exposed resulting in dry areas. Without treatment your vision can become damaged permanently.

How Is It Evaluated?

How does your doctor determine that you have lagophthalmos?

  • First he will check your medical history to see if there has been any recent surgeries or trauma to the head or eye area. Documentation of an infection called herpes zoster should be noted as well as problems with the thyroid or severe sleep apnea.
  • Next the doctor will take measurement of the eyes closed and the space that is open, the rate the eye is taking to blink, and how complete the blink is. The cranial nerve, ocular motility, and strength of the oculi muscle are also evaluated.
  • Finally, the sensitivity of the cornea is taken into consideration by testing the timing of the blink against the other eye. This is accomplished by placing a piece of cotton material over the eye. Corneal ulcers and defects of the epithelial are also checkout out and documented.

What Is the Treatment for Sleeping with Eyes Open?

  • Many people who suffer from this condition don't have to deal with serious side effects and there are many fixes that can be implemented fairy easily. There are ointments for the eye that can help as well as fake tears to keep the eyes moistened. A mask over the eyes while sleeping can quickly provide relief.
  • A more serious approach is a surgical procedure, tarsorrhaphy, where the eyelids are sewn shut to keep the cornea closed. This procedure has no side effects and can be reversed.
  • For more serious cases and permanent corrections weights are placed in the upper eyelid to help it move down more easily There are additional surgeries that may be required to adjust the fit of the eyelids over the eyes. Side effects include problems with vision.
  • There are riskier ways to correct lagophtalmos include LASIK surgery, injections of BOYOX, and blepharoplasty. Make sure you speak with your doctor before making a decision on any of these extreme solutions.

Babies Sleeping with Eyes Open

If you have walked by your baby sleeping and noticed that it looked like his/her eyes were open, don't be alarmed, it is a common occurrence. The eyes may not look like they are open wide they just appear to be slightly open.

Babies often inherit this tendency from their parents, so don't be worried. If it continues for long periods of time, you may want to contact your physician so you can rule out a tumor, thyroid issues, or some kind of facial nerve.

Most doctors agree there is no immediate danger for babies to sleep with eyes open. Many have grown out of the habit by the time they are 18 months old. This condition carries no risk or side effects for the baby. If the baby is happy don't worry about it.

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