Is It Possible to Sleep With Your Eyes Open?

Is It Possible to Sleep With Your Eyes Open?

3 minute read

Someone sleeping with their eyes wide open sounds like something you’d only see in horror movies. Surprisingly, it’s a real sleep condition called nocturnal lagophthalmos. It’s also more common than you may think. According to the National Sleep Foundation, they estimate as many as 20% of people — including infants — experience this condition. Sleeping with your eyes open may seem like just a quirk, but it is possible, and if left untreated for a long time, it could lead to other health problems.


Keep reading to find out the causes of nocturnal lagophthalmos, what happens when you sleep with your eyes open, and how you can treat it. 


Why Do People Sleep with Their Eyes Open?

Nocturnal lagophthalmos happens when the eyelids remain partially or completely open during sleep. The most common cause tends to be weakness or paralysis in the facial nerves and muscles. This can occur if you had a stroke, severe injury, surgery, or Bell’s palsy, which causes muscle weakness on one side of the face.


Another reason why people sleep with their eyes open is floppy eyelid syndrome. It’s a disorder that causes the eyelids to be loose and rubbery, allowing them to open easily whenever you roll over in bed. In fact, floppy eyelid syndrome is associated with sleep apnea.


Graves’ disease — a condition that causes your eyes to bulge forward — can also lead to nocturnal lagophthalmos. People with bulging eyes have a difficult time fully closing their eyelids. 

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What Happens When You Sleep with Your Eyes Open?

There’s a reason why we blink during the day and shut our eyes at night. Every time you close your eyes, the eyelids produce a thin layer of tear fluid. This lubrication helps clean and repair the cornea. Without the protection of closed eyelids, your eyes can become dry and exposed to outside stimuli, which can lead to:

  • Eye infections
  • Damage such as scratches, sores, and ulcers
  • Blurry vision
  • Light sensitivity

Nocturnal lagophthalmos may also cause poor quality sleep. Eye discomfort, dryness, and exposure to light can all disrupt a good night's rest even when wrapped up in your cool bedding sheets.


Is There a Treatment for Sleeping With Your Eyes Open?

Fortunately, nocturnal lagophthalmos is treatable. If you regularly wake up with dry, itchy eyes or your partner says you sleep with your eyes open, visit your doctor to get it checked out. Here are some options that may help treat this condition:

  • An eye mask like the SHEEX Original Performance Cooling Sleep Mask can shield the eyes from damage and light. There are also goggles that help moisturize your eyes while you snooze.
  • Using a humidifier brings more moisture into your bedroom, which may help relieve dry eyes.
  • Your doctor may prescribe you medications such as eye drops, artificial tears, or ophthalmic ointments. 
  • Your doctor might also recommend eyelid weights. These weights are placed on the outside of your upper eyelids and help keep your eyes closed.
  • In severe cases, surgery may be the only option. Surgeons implant a gold weight into the eyelids to weigh them down.

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