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Eyes wide open

AOP spokesperson comments on condition that causes sleeping with eyes open

26 May 2016

Nocturnal lagophthalmos – the inability to close eyelids during sleep – has been featured in today’s Daily Mail. The condition, which can result in blurred vision and dry eyes, was covered in a real-life piece profiling three women and provided advice from AOP's spokesperson, Ceri Smith Jaynes.

Commenting on the causes of the condition, Ceri Smith-Jaynes said: “There can be medical reasons, such as a stroke, a knock to the face, or the facial paralysis condition Bell's palsy. Or it could be down to thyroid eye disease, which makes the eyeball bulge forward so the lids physically can't meet over it, but in many cases it's just physiological; the way you are."

“When our eyes are closed during sleep, the surface of the eye is exposed to moisture from the tear ducts," Continued Ms Smith-Jaynes, "but with nocturnal lagophthalmos, the lids are open so they are unable to help spread the necessary film of moisture over the eye, as happens when blinking, to wash away dust and bacteria. In the worst case scenario, the cornea can become damaged and there is a risk of sight loss. Many people with nocturnal lagophthalmos also suffer from blurred vision after waking because their eyes are so dry.”

It's thought that eye drops and ointment can help to keep eyes lubricated at night, as well as moisture chamber glasses (goggles with a moist pad inside). Ms Smith-Jaynes added: “Some sufferers find that taping swabs over their eyes encourages them to stay closed. In extreme cases, usually where the lids are too wide open during waking hours too, a gold weight can be surgically inserted in the lids to weigh them down or the surgeon can stitch the lids together a third of the way along, bringing them close enough together to stop the eye being so exposed at night.”

The article also reported that the condition affects 10% of the population, including opera singer Katherine Jenkins, who talked of living with the condition since childhood.

Professor Kevin Morgan, who leads the Loughborough University Sleep Research Centre, added: “If you've been told for as long as you can remember that 'you sleep with your eyes open', it's probably physiological. But if it's something you suddenly start doing then it would be smart to get checked out by your GP to rule out more serious problems such as a tumour or nerve damage.”