Do you suspect that you sleep with your eyes partially open? Perhaps someone has even told you that your eyelids tend to open while you sleep. Seem odd? Well, it’s actually not uncommon for people to naturally sleep with one or both eyes partially open. Scientifically known as nocturnal lagophthalmos, when your eyelids do not fully close during rest, the ocular surface is overexposed to the open atmosphere. In fact, even a hairline gap between eyelids during sleep can result in major eye irritation and discomfort upon waking.
But lagophthalmos doesn’t merely affect sufferers during sleep. Some patients with the condition also lack a ‘full blink’ during their waking hours. Insufficient blinking robs the eye of maximum ocular lubrication. This lack of lubrication often leads to dry spots on the cornea, leaving patients with gritty, itchy, tired eyes.
So what exactly causes this bizarre, yet common condition? It might sound a little strange, but nocturnal lagophthalmos is a form of facial paralysis. Such facial paralysis (sometimes temporary) can be caused by a number of different things including: infection, genetics, trauma, stroke, surgery or Bell’s Palsy.
It’s imperative to treat nocturnal lagophthalmos -and not just because it’s um, kind of creepy- but because when the eyes are left open during sleep, tears evaporate and eyes do not get the rejuvenation that they require. When there are fewer tears available to wash away debris like dust and bacteria, sufferers experience blurred vision and more frequent eye infections. Treatment for nocturnal lagophthalmos varies, so it is crucial to seek out the underlying condition before choosing a treatment method.
Not surprisingly, one of the initial ways to treat nocturnal lagophthalmos is by simply wearing a mask while snoozing. So, we thought we’d try just that! We recently tried a pair of specialized goggles that provided coverage, comfort and a hot compress option by TranquilEyes. The Eye Hydrating Therapy Goggles not only helped seal our eyes and protect them from drafts and drying out during the night, they also blocked all light for a comfortable, undisturbed slumber. (An added bonus? The flexible, hypoallergenic goggles come with beads that can be conveniently heated in the microwave to stimulate tear production. The beads can also be placed in the freezer to reduce eye puffiness and relieve itch.)
However, in more serious cases of nocturnal lagophthalmos, some find it necessary to tape their eyes shut before bedtime. Surgery is another option for sufferers. An ophthalmic surgeon can implant small gold weights into the eyelids which assist in closing them fully. If you think you may be dealing with nocturnal lagophthalmos, consult an eye care professional as soon as possible.
Tired of waking up with red, painful eyes? You’re in luck. You could WIN a TranquilEyes Eye Hydrating Goggles + Beads Kit (a $50 dollar value!) by posting anywhere in our forum, or by commenting on any of our blog posts! Start commenting and you’ll be automatically entered. We’ll announce the winner April 30, 2013. Good luck!