Contacts make me sleepy
November 17, 2005 7:25 PM   Subscribe

Two months ago, I switched to contacts after 20 years of wearing glasses. Ever since I started wearing them, I'm always tired. Related? Have you had this problem? Is there a solution?
posted by panoptican to Health & Fitness (23 answers total)
Response by poster: Mostly, I'm curious if there is some sort of psychological thing going on. Like the extra layer of eyeball makes my lids feel a little heavy and my brain processes this by making me tired. That's my theory since I don't think they're related. But perhaps you know something I don't know. Metafilter usually does.
posted by panoptican at 7:29 PM on November 17, 2005

It's possible that you're not quite used to them yet and you're squinting - which fatigues the muscles in your face, &c.

Also, are the prescription for each of your eyes different? If so, make sure that you've got the right contact in each eye as having them reverse can alter your sense of sense and balance and requires more concentration from you.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 7:38 PM on November 17, 2005

Are they hard, or soft? I had this problem months ago--hard contacts, here--and I always felt tired when I wore them. This wasn't a problem back when I wore them all the time, though.
posted by interrobang at 7:46 PM on November 17, 2005

Response by poster: Some more information. Soft contacts of the Night & Day variety. You can wear them continuously for 30 days (including in your sleep). A very strong prescription according to my doctor. Something to do with the number 11. I have the same prescription in both eyes.
posted by panoptican at 7:49 PM on November 17, 2005

I think that contacts take some getting used to--especially the hard kind--but generally, I've heard that vision takes up an unusally high amount of energy, and it makes sense to me that anything you do to your eyes is going to be fatiguing, at least at first.

My advice is just to stick with it; it will definitely get less difficult, as long as you stick with it. I wore contacts for about ten years, before lazying out and wearing glasses all the time.
posted by interrobang at 7:49 PM on November 17, 2005

...also, my eyesight is *significantly* better with contacts; if I weren't such a lameass, I'd wear contacts all the time. I'm just too unwilling to put up with the accompanying fatigue to wear them right now.
posted by interrobang at 7:52 PM on November 17, 2005

Strangely enough, I wear contacts most of the time, and when I switch to glasses, I feel tired. Could it just be that (some) eyes need time to get used to change, no matter what that change may be?
posted by amro at 7:55 PM on November 17, 2005

You most definitely should NOT leave Night & Days in for the full 30 days if you have a strong prescription, just BTW.

If you're new to contacts you should work up to wearing them all day. Your corneas need time to build up some calluses. It's generally not a great idea to wear them the full 16 hours you're awake, either, although the N&Ds are probably better for that than most.
posted by kindall at 8:08 PM on November 17, 2005

Your corneas need time to build up some calluses.

This is part of what's causing the fatigue. You can build up to it, but it's sort of like quitting coffee, in a way; it's painful, but it's worth it.

Note: I am weak, and have not quit tea yet.
posted by interrobang at 8:12 PM on November 17, 2005

Sort of speculation, since I've never worn contacts, but ...

My eyes are bad. Hence, for the last 20 years of my life, I've worn glasses all the time with three exceptions: sleeping, showering, and, um, you guess the third one.

For the most part I associate taking them off with sleep, meaning that I get tired the instant I do so -- unless there's hot running soapy water or other stimuli to keep me alert.

My best guess is that this may be part of what you're feeling. And that it should fade as you get used to the contacts.
posted by donpedro at 8:16 PM on November 17, 2005

I don't remember feeling tired back when I was wearing contacts daily (4 or 5 years ago) . They were two-week disposables. In the last two years I've switched to 30 day Night & Day contacts, but I wear my glasses on most days. I have the same problem you do now when I wear my contacts. I'm usually OK for the first few hours, but by the end of the day I can barely keep my eyes open. I've been meaning to ask my eye doctor about the tired feeling next time I see him. My guess is that it is partly from not wearing the contacts on a regular basis, and partly from the material and/or thickness of the N&D lenses.

So, to answer your questions: Yes, I do believe it is related. Yes, I have had the same problem. Unfortunately, I don't know the solution.
posted by geeky at 8:28 PM on November 17, 2005

I'm with donpedro on this one - after 20 years of conditioning, you currently associate having your glasses off with sleepy time. After a few hours of no glasses, part of your brain is thinking, "Why are we up so late? Let's go to sleep!" Your next day off, when you can stay home and not wear either for a while, try this: when you get up, put on your glasses. Take them off after a while, but don't put in your contacts. If you get tired, that could be it. Of course this will be affected by how much sleep you got the night before, what you will be doing and will have done just before, when and what you have eaten, etc. Try to make it a pretty "normal" day otherwise, with only the corrective lenses as a variable. You could also try switching in the middle of the day - glasses until noon, contacts after; and/or vice versa. This could be done more easily on an already normal day.
posted by attercoppe at 8:50 PM on November 17, 2005

I tried 30-day-and-night contacts for awhile. Problem was, I couldn't get used to sleeping with contacts in all night; even once I was able to fall asleep, I think my body feeling contact lenses under my eyeballs kept me from falling as deeply asleep as usual. It probably makes sense, because by preventing REM, it prevents a lot of eye movement (and you don't usually want to move your eyes when there's foreign objects in them). Anyway, lack of sleep and/or REM made me tired.

I went back to normal contacts, take them out every night, and am sleeping happily ever after.
posted by booksandlibretti at 9:01 PM on November 17, 2005

attercoppe: If his prescription is as bad as it sounds (11?!) then once he takes off his glasses all he's going to be doing is sitting around looking at how blurry things are.

This is tiring and boring and thus makes for bad science! (it won't prove anything)
posted by aubilenon at 9:02 PM on November 17, 2005

I have a very similar problem with contacts.
Contacts, especially soft contacts, can have the tendancy to dry your eyes, and it's harder to keep dry eyes open. It fealt so similar to the sleepy feeling of heavy eyelids that I actually thought I was falling asleep even when I was not. Occasional re-wetting with saline drops solved the problem at the time, and now that I am more used to contacts it doesn't occur as often.
posted by shanevsevil at 9:20 PM on November 17, 2005

Best answer: Panoptican,

You almost certainly either have the wrong prescription; are dehydrated; have a vitamin deficiency; are ergomically fucked and/or never take breaks from your computer; spend too much time in the sun; or you are not getting enough sleep and the unfamiliar contacts are exacerbating that problem.

Things to consider:

1. Contacts should not make your eyes tired. They should be fitted perfectly, and there should be a thin layer of lubrication between the two lenses at all times.

You should feel free to use lubricating eyedrops made for contact-lens wearers at any time throughout the day, but generally your eyes will tire of wearing them after 8-12 hours. At this point, go ahead and take them out. It won't take long for your brain to associate your glasses rather than your lenses with bedtime. 30-day lenses? These should only be used in special cases where you and your doctor are using them to reshape your lens. Otherwise, your lens may get reshaped in a way that is unplanned and maybe not so good.

Note: DO NOT USE VISINE. Use saline. Visine is not good for your eyeballs; it works by constricting the blood vessels to make your eyes less red by shrinking the veins. This decreases the circulation to your eyes and may harm your vision. The chemicals are actually dehydrating and slightly gritty, as well.

2. Because they are fitted over the lens of your eye (whereas glasses by nature have a gap between two lenses), the prescription should be crisper and you should be *less* tired. You are almost certainly wearing the wrong prescription. Even if your vision is better now, the prescription may be off. See if you have been fitted properly; if your doctor can't find the problem, they may be missing something, and you can get a second opinion by seeing another doctor in your office or a doctor in another office. You may have been slightly overcorrected. Or, as people have said, you may just be so unfamiliar with being able to see 20/20 after all these years, that your brain is making you tired so that you will take in less data, of which your brain is feeling the results of taking in an increased amount. If you don't "get used to" your lenses soon, though, they should be refitted.

3. Your doctor may have fitted you for contacts that correct your basic sight problem but not your astigmatism. This would make your eyes work harder, because they would be fighting to move within a lens that is the wrong shape for your eye. I have astigmatism-fitted lenses that are shaped in a bulbous oval instead of a round partial sphere. These have tiny weights made of water in the bottom of each contact lens, so that gravity pulls the weight groundward and thus the odd-shaped lenses are always oriented properly. They are handtooled and expensive, but I can see properly for the first time in my life.

4. Most people have a different prescription for each eye -- call your eye doctor and ask if this is the case for you. You may then want to go back in to the shop and have them checked, to make sure you have not accidentally switched the R and L lenses.

5. Drink your 6 8-oz glasses of water each day, for sure. Your eye will change shape if it is not hydrated properly. And if your eyes are not producing enough tear fluid, there will be friction between your eye and the contact lens, which will cause enough discomfort that your brain will make you sleepy in order to make you take a nap and stop using your eyes. (The surface of your eye is the fastest-healing area of your body, so any minor scratches that your dried-out contacts make on your cornea will not cause permanent damage.)

6. Nutrition is important for contact-lens wearers in particular. You need to make sure to get enough A and B-complex vitamins that your eyes communicate properly with your brain via healthy nerves and healthy eye skin. You need a surfeit of B12.

If you have ever been a drug user, if you have ever used nitrous oxide, or if you are a moderate to heavy alcohol user, you may have depleted your B12, which thus damaged your liver, which moderates the way your central nervous system communicates with your sense organs and limbs. This can cause a neurological problem in which your brain/spinal cord and your limbs operate on different clocks, causing all kinds of problems. This is why so many drunks walk with canes.

Also, if you are overweight and/or diabetic, you may experience eye strain if you let your sugar go over its limit very often.

And vitamin A for night vision will keep your eyes from straining in dim light, while driving at night, or while watching television in the dark (bad for you if done too regularly).

7. Dollars-to-donuts, you are a heavy computer user, and you are not taking enough breaks. Also, you probably watch a lot of tv or play a lot of video games, and I bet you have a long commute. While using the computer, you need to stand up and turn away from the screen every 15 minutes. This is good for your nervous system, good for your cardiovascular system, better for your tendons, and eases strain on your neck, back, shoulders, calves, and ankles, as well as your arms and wrists -- and your eyes. While driving, make sure you are driving in a position that allows your neck to have enough slack that you can move it easily, and that you are sitting up straight without your shoulders locked or up around your ears.

If you are in a bad ergonomic situation or are in poor health, i.e., overweight, poor circulation, risk of clots, tendonitis, nerve damage, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, you really, really need to get up and walk around frequently while at your desk, or your body will develop poor ergonomic habits and permanent tendon and nerve and circulatory problems. These all impact your vision -- your body is full of tubes and wells, and if the pressure in any of these systems is out of whack, it can put undue pressure on your eyes. Even gallstones or kidney stones can cause eye strain. Plus, if you don't have enough energy and you're not getting enough sleep, you will not be able to focus, and your eyes will feel burned out pretty quickly wearing contacts.

If you are using the computer for hours at a time, in addition to the every-15-minute stretch (just stand up and stretch, then you can get back in the chair), you need to look at reflected light, i.e. actual objects, rather than projected light, i.e., your screen, on a regular basis. Think of it as the same thing as checking your rearview mirrors while you drive. Keep a wide variety of objects that are pleasing to look at around you in your office -- plants, an aquarium, posters, a bookshelf, photographs, desk toys -- pretty much anything will do the trick, but having plants and posters that are full of soothing, pleasing colors is the best thing for your mental and physical health.

Ask your HR department at work if they can bring in an ergonomist to fit you to your desk properly and give you tips on reducing work-related injuries and eye strain.

8. I am pretty sure that whomever said that you need to develop calluses on your eyes is wrong. You need to make sure your eyes are lubricated enough that this does not happen. Eye calluses are often the beginning stage of cataracts, and can cause poor night vision, or even make you go blind (my mother has them). These are most frequently caused by spending lots of time outdoors in bright sunlight without UV protection (she is a gardener), creating a callus that in time, hardens and clouds over, obscuring your vision entirely. Glasses provide a modicum of UV protection even if they are not treated with UV coatings; now that you are not wearing them, you need to make sure you wear UV sunglasses EVERY TIME YOU LEAVE THE HOUSE.

I know all of this sounds really alarmist, but it is all true. I have worn glasses since I was five years old and contacts since I was 16, and I am personally familiar with all the health problems described here, because either I or someone I know has had them.

Please take care of your sight; it is difficult to repair if you go too long with the wrong prescription or the wrong shape of contact lens. Get a second opinion if needed, and keep getting adjustments until your eyes feel right. Get enough sleep, drink lots of water, and for god's sake, eat properly. YMMV, but it ought not to.

Take care,

posted by tarintowers at 12:31 AM on November 18, 2005 [4 favorites]

I do find my eyes becoming lazy with contact wear, (like a sleepy feeling), I also read once that the more you wear contacts, the more comfortable they are to wear. I wear mine mainly in the summetime, so I don't really give myself a chance to get used to them on a daily basis, I prefer glasses to contacts anyway.
posted by Chimp at 3:19 AM on November 18, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice/theories/tips guys and gals. I'm out of contacts in a month and at that point, I'll see another eye doctor just to get a second opinion. In the meantime, we'll see if I get used to them. Also, tarintowers answer is fantastic and really, it applies to anyone who has vision problems. You should read it if you wear glasses or contacts.
posted by panoptican at 8:42 AM on November 18, 2005

Late to the thread, but I've found that the brand of saline solution and cleaner and such to have a huge impact on how comfortable my contacts are. There's really only one brand that I can use that doesn't make my eyes so dry that I need to close my eyes, NOW, at 8pm every night. So you might want to experiment with different brands -- though, as tarintowers says, general hydration is also important.
posted by occhiblu at 9:09 AM on November 18, 2005

The nerves in your eyes could be starving for oxygen. Look into more porous contacts that let in more air than the standard ones, they exist (they're the ones advertised as "sleep-in" contacts, which I don't really recommend taking at face value).
posted by evariste at 10:38 AM on November 18, 2005

With regard to the "best answer" posted above:

Readers of this post should probably know that the neurological manifestion of B12 deficiency is necrotic degeneration of the spinal cord, not some "weird liver-brain clock thingy." The technical term is "subacute combined degeneration of the spinal cord."

Also, there is no such thing as "eye calluses." There is such a thing as a one-to-two-week period of adjustment while your eyes get used to having contact lenses in them. Corneal abrasions caused by contact lenses can affect the cornea, which is the name for the clear surface of the eye where they sit.

Cataracts are an age-related change of the lens of the eye, which is a structure that sits about a centimeter behind the cornea, deep in the eye globe; cataracts have nothing to do with the cornea, nor with contact lenses.

I like the rest of tarintowers' post, especially the part about avoiding Visine and other vasoconstrictor drops, and the part about good UV protection for the eyes. Those things are important.
posted by ikkyu2 at 3:48 PM on November 18, 2005

The nerves in your eyes could be starving for oxygen. Look into more porous contacts that let in more air than the standard ones, they exist

Indeed, this is exactly what panoptican already has. The Focus Night & Day are pretty close to being the ultimate in this type of lens.
posted by kindall at 4:02 PM on November 18, 2005

I have this disorder, and the way you experience it is that your body parts track differently. I was not aware of the name of it, but it sounds as though it could be right.

Also, cataracts are generally *described as* a callus on the eye; as I've said, my mother has them. A cataract cannot be removed until it is completely solidified, which is called "ripening"; it thickens to a hard and cloudy mass on the eye, which can then be "popped off". I apologize for saying "cornea" instead of lens; I am not a doctor, nor do I wish to be one. : )
posted by tarintowers at 5:06 PM on November 18, 2005

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