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Sleep Disorders

Sleeping with eyes open



My husband of 27 years sleeps with his eyes open. When our first son was born, he also slept with his eyes open. We now have 3 children and 5 grandchildren. All of the males in the family sleep with their eyes open but not our daughter or grandaughters. Their are 6 males all of whom sleep with their eyes open. My husband was adopted therefore, we do not have information before him. What can you tell us about this?


Sleeping with the eyes open, also known as nocturnal lagophthalmos, is not uncommon. It may effect somewhere between 4-20% of the population and is reported most frequently in children, probably because they are more often observed during sleep than adults. Unless the patient is awakening or manifesting unusual behavior such as shaking or talking, then it is probably not related to their sleep.

If the individual is otherwise completely asleep, and his or her eyes are open (or partially open), then it is most likely to be related to a disorder of the eyelids. Short or weak eyelids may not completely cover the eyes during sleep and lead to this presentation. Bilateral facial weakness, which could be caused a number of neurologic disorders, some of which may be hereditary, should be considered. An association between sleep apnea and "Floppy Eyelid Syndrome" has been reported, however, this is not likely to explain your family's presentation.

As a result of exposure of the eye to the atmosphere, patients may develop dry eyes or even blurred vision in the morning. Treatments include application of lubricant ointment at night, pads to cover the eyes or, in severe cases, surgery.

It would be reasonable to have your husband evaluated by an Ophthalmologist as the initial step. Referral to a Neurologist may also be considered, depending on the Ophthalmologists evaluation.

If you would like additional information regarding sleep and sleep disorders, you can obtain it on the American Academy of Sleep Medicine website. This website also contains a list of Sleep Centers across the country so you can locate one near you if need be. Good luck and here's to better sleep!

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Response by:

Rami N Khayat, MD Rami N Khayat, MD
Clinical Associate Professor of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care & Sleep
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University