What Happens If You Sleep With Your Eyes Open?

Do you know some people sleep with their eyes open? Well, I am sure you are as shocked by this question as I was when I heard it first. But the reality is, this is a comparatively common phenomenon. Nearly 20% of people are affected by this condition. The eyelids do not close completely when they are asleep. As a result, they experience dryness in the eyes, and it can also result in severe complications if left untreated for very long.

This condition is called Lagophthalmos or sleeping with eyes completely open or partially closed. It still sounds slightly weird. This is a condition that can severely impact a person’s eye health. Often this is also known as Nocturnal Lagophthalmos. It can affect people of various age groups and both men and women. This is because there are a lot of causes for Lagophthalmos.

Causes of Sleeping With Your Eyes Open

So then the question is what exactly triggers this condition? Is it a natural development? Why do some people have and most don’t have it? Various reasons can result in this condition. It is primarily a muscular or nerve related disorder. In this condition, facial muscles or nerves are affected. As a result of this, the eyelids are not able to close completely.

So the medical term that causes Lagophthalmos is a paralysis or weakness of the muscles that enable the eyelid to open and close at will. It is called the Orbicularis Oculi, and when this is paralyzed for some reason, it results in people sleeping with open eyes. Some of the common conditions that can trigger this disorder include:

  • Stroke
  • Tumor
  • Bell’s Palsy
  • Neuromuscular disorder or disease
  • Moebius Syndrome
  • Autoimmune issues like Guillain-Barre Syndrome

However, these are not the only conditions affecting this disorder. Several infections can also trigger this weakness or paralysis of the Orbicularis Oculi. Different infections can cause this as well.

  • Chickenpox
  • Mumps
  • Polio
  • Leprosy
  • Lyme disease
  • Diphtheria
  • Botulism

A whole range of injuries or trauma can also result in this condition. Any type of injury or trauma may also result in this condition. In case there is any physical damage to the eyelids or any burns, it can trigger Nocturnal Lagophthalmos.

Many people also suffer from Grave’s Ophthalmology. This is common in those who may have hyperthyroidism. They face difficulty in closing the eyelids completely. There can also be genetic triggers for it. Some people may not be able to close their eyelids for no apparent reasons.

Symptoms of Nocturnal Lagophthalmos

Do you know why we blink our eyes or why it is essential to close our eyes? Every time you close your eyes, your eyeball is covered by a layer of tears. This layer helps in maintaining a moist covering for the eyeballs. In other words, it provides lubrication to your eyes. So, needless to mention that the open eyelids rob the eyes of this precious lubrication to a large extent. As a result, your eyes become dry. This dryness results in

  • Burning sensation
  • Blurred vision
  • Redness of eyes
  • Irritation and Itchiness
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Redness
  • Poor sleep

Most people who are affected have to continuously fight the sensation of scratching the eyes or rubbing the eyes. We all know that rubbing or scratching the eyes can never be good news. The eye is too delicate, and this can result in the long-term impact on your eye health. In other words, your vision can also be impaired if it is not taken care of well in time.

Cure For Nocturnal Lagophthalmos

But the good news is Nocturnal Lagophthalmos is treatable. The treatment for this mostly depends on the degree of complications. It can include introducing fake tears, applying eye creams, eye drops and other solutions. You can also use an eye mask or artificial tape. But these are only stop-gap solutions. They may avoid additional complications, but it does not solve the problem completely. All it does is to stop the problem from worsening any further. So the damage to the eyes is reduced only partially in this method of treatment.

For a more permanent cure, you will need to opt for surgical methods. There are various approaches to this method. The idea is to introduce a trigger that helps the eyelids to close completely while sleeping. The most common option is introducing an artificial weight in the eyelid to help it close on its own. Gold or platinum weights are used in this case.

However, the treatment methodology also differs depending on the triggers that result in Nocturnal Lagophthalmos. Some conditions are reversible, and in some instances, the damage is permanent. As a result, the type of surgery too differs as per that and also as per the patient.


Nocturnal Lagophthalmos affects sleep quality significantly. So individuals may also suffer from various other conditions as well. So, early diagnosis is one of the most critical factors that can help quick cure for this condition. If you are experiencing dry eyes and a constant urge to itch your eyes, it is best to visit the doctor.

In case your doctor suspects Nocturnal Lagophthalmos, they will also suggest a series of tests to confirm the conditions. If you have trouble closing your eyes, do not delay taking a medical opinion. The faster you seek help; the better are the chances for long-term benefits. If left untreated, it can also result in loss of vision.

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