Have you ever seen someone sleeping with their eyes open? It can be surprising and a little unsettling. But if someone is, you ought to let them know, because sleeping with open eyes can be harmful.

How many people sleep with their eyes open?

As much as 10 percent of the American population sleeps with their eyes open. Contrary to what you may have seen on TV, though, they don’t always sleep with their eyes wide open. Most people’s eyes will actually close most of the way.

What are the signs that I’m sleeping with my eyes open?

You may experience symptoms of dryness, red eyes, blurry vision, scratchiness, irritation, feeling like something is in your eye, light sensitivity, and poor sleep if your eyes aren’t closing all the way when you sleep.

Why am I sleeping with my eyes open?

There are a number of reasons why your eyes might not shut when you’re sleeping. They include Bell’s palsy, Grave’s disease, a stroke, a neuromuscular or autoimmune disease, physical injury, complications from surgery, or an infection. In some cases, you might have been born with eyelids that don’t close properly. In other cases, it may be a family trait. In still others, it’s because your eyelashes are too thick for your eyes to close properly. Finally, sometimes there is just no obvious cause.

How can sleeping with my eyes open hurt them?

Sleeping with your eyes open can cause them to dry out. Constantly sleeping this way can lead to chronic dry eye, which can in turn lead to scratches on the eye, corneal damage, eye infections, and vision loss.

How do I take care of my eyes?

Usha Reddy, MD

In some cases, artificial tears, eye drops, or ointment can be used to keep your eyes from drying out, CEENTA Ophthalmologist Usha Reddy, MD, said. In other cases, you and your doctor may want to consider using medical tape to keep your eyes closed. Sometimes, treating the underlying cause of your open eyes may help resolve this problem. Finally, surgery may be an option.

If you think you are sleeping with your eyes open, come see one of CEENTA’s eye doctors. They will help you make sure you get shuteye, literally.

This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your physician. Dr. Reddy practices in our Concord, Huntersville, and Statesville offices. To schedule an appointment with her or any of CEENTA’s eye doctors, call 704-295-3000. You can also request an appointment online or through myCEENTAchart.

Why do your eyelids feel tired when they're sleepy? Learn more in this blog.

Why do relaxing sounds help you sleep? Learn more in this blog.

When should you not use eye drops? Learn more in this blog.


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