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Sleeping with Your Eyes Open: All About Nocturnal Lagophthalmos

Sleeping with Your Eyes Open: All About Nocturnal Lagophthalmos

by

Aoife O.
 | 
Dec 28, 2020

Did you know that some people sleep with their eyes open? The condition is called nocturnal lagophthalmos and it affects about 1 in 20 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.


What Happens to Your Eyes When You Sleep?

There are four 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, may cause 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.

Nocturnal lagophthalmos may cause pain, blurry vision, dry eye syndrome, and redness.


Sleeping with Eyes Open Spiritual Meaning

While lagophthalmos is a medical condition, many believe that sleeping with your eyes open has a spiritual meaning as well. For example, some people associate sleeping with your eyes open with fear, worry, imbalance, distrust, or seeking clarity and truth. Others believe that sleeping with your eyes open indicates that someone or your guardian angel is watching out for you.


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.


Nocturnal lagophthalmos symptoms can include:

  • 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

Some nocturnal lagophthalmos causes include 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
  • Lyme disease
  • Diphtheria
  • Physical damage/injury
  • Eyelid surgery
  • Overactive thyroid

Sleep with eyes open disorder is also hereditary. 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.


Sleeping with Your Eyes Half Open

If you have lagophthalmos, you may sleep with your eyes partially open or open about halfway. This generally has the same causes and comes with the same potential complications as sleeping with your eyes completely open. It's more common among young children, who often grow out of the condition. However, you should talk to your kids' eye doctor or pediatrician if it causes them discomfort or issues with vision.


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

If you suspect you may have nocturnal lagophthalmos, talk to your doctor about treatment options. They may recommend at-home options like wearing eye goggles at night to help retain moisture as you sleep. Your doctor may also suggest:


Medications

  • Natural tear eye drops
  • Ophthalmic ointments

Surgery


In severe cases, a gold implant can be sewn into the eyelid. 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.


FAQs

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.

Disclaimer: Nolah does not provide medical advice. All resources on the Nolah blog, including this article, are informational only and do not replace professional medical counsel. Talk to your doctor about any health, mental health, or sleep-related issues.

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