Sleeping with Your Eyes Open: All About Nocturnal Lagophthalmos

Did you know that some people sleep with their eyes open? The condition is called nocturnal lagophthalmos and it affects about 1 in 5 people. If you wake up every morning with dry painful eyes, you may be experiencing nocturnal lagophthalmos. Let’s talk about sleeping with eyes open treatment, diagnosis, and how you can wake up refreshed while managing nocturnal lagophthalmos. 

Sleep with eyes open disorder, nocturnal lagophthalmos, causes pain, blurry vision, dry eye syndrome, and redness

What Happens to Your Eyes When You Sleep? 

There are 5 stages of sleep that you cycle through every night with the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) phase being where you experience vivid dreams. During this phase, your eyes will dart from side to side. You experience up to 6 REM cycles every night. You may not remember your dreams every day but that does not mean you have not dreamed. 

The REM phase of sleep is akin to your brain being power washed. Clearing away all the grime (data) that you don’t need. Your memories are cataloged and stored, hormone levels are regulated, proteins are building your muscles, and energy is restored. REM sleep is not only fun as dreams can be fantastical and funny, but dreaming is a vital phase of sleep that keeps your mind and body healthy. 

Am I Sleeping with My Eyes Open?

Sleep with eyes open disorder, nocturnal lagophthalmos, causes pain, blurry vision, dry eye syndrome, and redness. Typically, a partner, friend, or family member will tell you if you’re sleeping with your eyes open but if you’re experiencing these symptoms it’s best to see an eye doctor for a diagnosis. Nocturnal lagophthalmos is a nerve and muscle problem that makes it difficult to close your eyes fully and will have you sleeping with eyes partially open.

Sleep helps flush your eye of debris that has accumulated during the day

Symptoms of Sleeping with Your Eyes Open

Blinking keeps your eyes moistened and this lubrication keeps your eyes healthy, opening eyes while sleeping deprives your eyes of vital moisture. Sleep helps flush your eye of debris that has accumulated during the day. 

Sleep with eyes open disorder symptoms:

  • Redness
  • Blurred vision
  • Burning sensation
  • Light sensitivity
  • Scratchiness 
  • Feeling like there is sand under your eyelids 
  • Poor quality sleep

Causes of Sleeping with Your Eyes Open

Falling asleep with your eyes open can be caused by medical issues relating to facial nerves and muscles. There are some medical conditions that paralyze or weaken the orbicularis oculi, the muscle in charge of opening and closing your eyelid, such as; 

  • Stroke
  • Tumor 
  • Autoimmune condition 
  • Bell’s palsy
  • Injury or trauma    

Or a side effect of:

  • Chickenpox
  • Mumps
  • Leprosy
  • Lyme disease 
  • Polio 
  • Diphtheria
  • Physical damage/injury 
  • Eyelid surgery
  • Overactive thyroid     

Sleep with eyes open disorder is also hereditary. Thus, don’t panic if you think you’re sleeping with eyes partially open. Visit your doctor for some diagnostic work to pinpoint the source of your lagophthalmos.  

Eye moisture is vital to maintain good eye health

Complications of Sleeping with Your Eyes Open

Eye moisture is vital to maintain good eye health. If you’re sleeping with eyes partially open every night, your eyelids are unable to create the necessary film of moisture. This can cause some nasty side effects.

Sleep with eyes open disorder potential consequences;

  • Eye infections 
  • Loss of vision
  • Corneal ulcer 
  • Risk of eye scratches or injury     

Treating Nocturnal Lagophthalmos 

There are many sleeping with eyes open treatment that can help you regain your eye health and better sleep. Wearing eye goggles at night could help retain moisture as you sleep. Surgical tape or an eyelid weight could help to keep your eyes closed but may not be the most comfortable to use. Other options include;  


  • Natural tear eye drops  
  • Ophthalmic ointments


Apart from an external weight that is placed on the eyelid. In severe cases, a gold implant can be sewn into the eyelid instead. The implant is so thin it is hardly noticeable and could be a viable option if you’re suffering immensely and have tried everything else. 


How Long Can Your Eyes Stay Open?

Michael T. is a record-setter for keeping his eyes open for over one hour. But, keeping your eyes open deprives your eyes of moisture and lubrication it needs to keep your eye healthy. When you blink, you create a film of moisture on your eye, this cleans dust and debris out of your eyes, keeping them healthy and comfortable. 

Can You Sleep with One Eye Open? 

Although rare, sleeping with one eye open is possible. Sleeping with eyes partially open is more likely and called nocturnal lagophthalmos. This can occur in the elderly sleeping with eyes open, toddler sleeping with eyes open, and even babies nocturnal lagophthalmos. It can affect anyone at any age but can be treated.  

How to Fall Asleep with Your Eyes Open

It is inadvisable to attempt to sleep with your eyes open. Your eyelids do very important work as you sleep, they keep your eyes moist and push dust and debris out, keeping your eyes healthy and clean. Sleeping with eyes partially open is a medical condition called nocturnal lagophthalmos and is treatable.   

How Can I Stop Sleeping with My Eyes Open?

Sleeping with eyes partially open is a medical condition called nocturnal lagophthalmos and can be unpleasant but treatable. Your doctor may recommend wearing moisture goggles at night, eye drops, or ointment. In severe cases, minor surgery is performed where tiny weights are sewn into the eyelids. These are hardly noticeable but can be an effective treatment.      


Sleeping with eyes open children, adults, and the elderly is a common occurrence. Nocturnal lagophthalmos can be treated with eye drops, ointments, eyelid weights, or surgery. A dehumidifier in your bedroom could ease lagophthalmos symptoms as you sleep.  

When you awake from your sleep the drying of your tears (rheum) accumulates in the corners of your eyes. Blinking allows the rheum (or eye boogers) to be cleared from your eyes. Lagophthalmos prevents your eyes from keeping themselves clean. Therefore, you will need some natural tear eye drops or ointments to help ease symptoms.  

Sleeping with eyes open spiritual meaning (to sleep with one eye open) indicates troubled relationships and fear. If you’re considering implant surgery for lagophthalmos, you have nothing to fear as it has an over 90% success rate and the implants are easily removable. Having trouble keeping eyes open at night will be your only concern, as you regain quality restful sleep and healthy eyes. 

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