Have you ever wished you could sleep during a boring meeting or school lecture without being noticed?
For up to 10% of the population, this isn’t a fantasy. A small portion of people can naturally sleep with their eyes open. There are some long-term dangers and potential side effects of this practice, which we will discuss later.
But for now, let’s relish in the idea of being able to catch a cat nap while our spouse complains about their tedious job or a teacher drones on and on about something equally tedious.
In this article, we’ll share a technique that will teach you how can you sleep with open eyes. It takes practice, though, so we’ll also give you some helpful tips on how to take a nap in public without anyone noticing.
Can Humans Sleep with Their Eyes Open?
Most of our sources say no, with a few exceptions. People with a disorder called Nocturnal Lagophthalmos are able to sleep without closing their eyes, but this condition isn’t as glamorous as it sounds. Side effects include calcium deposits on the cornea, painfully dry eyes, signs of sleep deprivation.
Other people may also be able to demonstrate this phenomenon. Those individuals could be suffering from one or more of the following conditions:
- Skin disorders
- Botched cosmetic surgery
- Damage to facial nerves
Despite these involuntary causes, there are some ways to train yourself to get some shuteye without actually shutting them. We’ll get to those techniques in a moment.
Why Might We Do It?
Most people would say they don’t get enough sleep. Life is hectic, and we’re all extra busy these days. Who wouldn’t want to catch up on rest during the world’s most boring after-lunch logistics meeting?
There’s been a lot of interest in the field of bio-hacking over the past several years. We all want to figure out how to push our bodies to the max to perform better, live longer, look younger, etc. Napping with our eyes open is another type of bio-hack that allows us to be present and seemingly involved in our daily obligations while also catching up on rest. It’s like multi-tasking at its finest.
How to Sleep with Your Eyes Open
Sit in the Back Row
The farther away from prying eyeballs, the better. Sitting in the back row allows you to stay out of the line of sight of whoever is leading a classroom or meeting discussion.
Relax Over All
Keep your eyes open but relax every other muscle in your body. Begin with your feet and toes, and slowly work your way up to your head and neck.
Focus on your breath. Take deep and measured inhales in and out of your nose. Try counting to give at one-second intervals to get the full effect of deep breathing. You’ll begin to relax without the need to close your eyes.
Focus Eyes on One Spot
Fix your gaze at one spot in the room or in the distance if you’re outdoors. It should be still. That way you can focus your stare without having to constantly follow it around to keep it in your field of vision. Avoid choosing something bright like the sun or a light because that will affect your ability to concentrate.
Let Your Thoughts Wander
The overall goal is to clear your mind, but if you start by trying to think of nothing, you’ll most certainly get distracted and have a flood of images come to mind. Instead, allow yourself to daydream about something pleasant, like an upcoming or past vacation. Then, gradually begin to think of nothing instead.
Off to Sleep
By now you should be relaxed, and since you’re staring at an object, it will still look like you’re awake. Continue looking at the object, thinking of nothing, and you may end up asleep without anyone knowing!
Napping without Being Noticed
If you don’t have time to master the art of sleeping without closing your eyes, or the side effects freaked you out, you could try to take a nap in public and avoid detection.
Here’s what to do:
- Find a discreet place to nap. It could be in your office, car, a closet or a bathroom. If you can’t escape to a private area, sit in the back of a populated room.
- Wear sunglasses to disguise closed lids. They also have the benefit of creating darkness, which can help facilitate sleep.
- Avoid slouching. Sit up straight, preferably at a table or desk. Rest your elbow on the surface and bend it 90 degrees so that your hand props up your chin. You’ll look active and attentive.
- Enlist a friend or colleague for help. Have someone serve as a lookout to nudge you if you’re about to get caught or someone calls your name.
Meditating with Your Eyes Open
Common practice is to meditate with closed eyes, but if you like the idea of accomplishing this task during a train or bus ride to work, you may want to try this technique instead. It’ll take some practice before you can do it openly in public, so follow these steps to hone your skills:
- Start in a dark, quiet room.
- Find a comfortable, seated position. It could be on a chair or on the floor but avoid lying down.
- Focus on two objects at once. With your left eye look at something on the left side of the room, and then use your right one to look at something on the right side. This exercise is challenging but becomes easier with practice.
- Breathe deeply. Concentrate on deep and even breaths. Breathe in for five seconds, and then exhale for five. With practice, you’ll time your breathing perfectly and will no longer have to count.
- Go out into the wild. Once you feel comfortable with open-eye meditation, try it outside. Be patient and realize that you might not be successful your first time, but practice makes perfect.
While meditating isn’t a substitute for sleeping, the brainwaves during a meditative state are in alpha, which is the state of pre-sleep and light sleep. Therefore, you’ll find that a meditation session will help you feel relaxed, rejuvenated, and needing less sleep overall.
Practicing Lucid Dreaming
Lucid dreaming is when you are fully aware that you’re in a dream. This awareness doesn’t often happen to the average person, and it’s a fun and magical experience. You can do or say anything you want in a lucid dream. And, if it’s a nightmare, you can immediately change the situation and control the outcome.
There’s no surefire way to plan a lucid dream but following these steps can increase both your chances of having one. Once you learn these techniques, you may end up having them on a regular basis.
- Plant the seed. It turns out that just reading about lucid dreaming can encourage one to happen. Before bed, read a few pages from a book that discusses the topic.
- Make sure you get enough sleep. Lucid dreaming occurs during REM sleep. The body needs plenty of rest to enter this state.
- Keep a dream journal. As soon as you wake up, write down everything you remember about your dreams. Don’t go to the bathroom, get a drink of water or fumble for a pen. Have the journal next to your bed and ready to write in immediately upon waking. You’d be surprised how quickly your dreams will fade if you don’t write them down.
- Set an intention. Tell yourself that you want to have a lucid dream.
- Try a lucid dreaming app. There are smartphone apps that you can download that will alert with you a ding or a buzz when you’re entering a dream state. Over time, your subconscious mind will begin to associate that sound with dreaming, and it could potentially alert you to the fact that you’re in a dream!
Benefits of Keeping Your Eyes Open
In addition to surviving long meetings and boring lectures, you could also potentially fool your kids and pets with this trick. If young babies or animals see you with opened eyes, they may think you’re awake. For babies and pets, this could be comforting as they’ll know they can gain access to you if they need anything.
Possible Side Effects
The problem with this type of sleeping is that it prevents blinking. Blinking is necessary to keep the eyes lubricated and prevent them from damaging external factors like dust, irritants, and excess light.
Along with irritated eyes, you could potentially experience dryness, redness, blurred vision, and poor bedtime.
People who can’t control whether their lids are up or down often need treatments like putting tape or weight over their eyelids. In extreme cases, surgery may be required.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is sleeping with your eyes wide open safe?
Over the long term, it can wreak havoc on the health of your eyes and quality of your bedtime. However, in emergency situations, it could be an essential survival mechanism. It probably won’t harm you if done occasionally, but we suggested checking with an optometrist or ophthalmologist before making a lifestyle change.
Can you achieve a deep sleep while doing it?
Though you may be able to fall asleep with your eyes open, achieving a deep stage of sleep is unlikely. There’s too much outside light and stimuli that your mind is taking in. We have eyelids for a reason, after all!
One thing we never discussed in this article is whether you can sleep with one eye open as people advise their enemies to do. Although the idea sounds interesting, it could look like you’re winking at someone, which could end up being more awkward than helpful.
Sources and References:
- Can You Really Sleep With Your Eyes Open? – sleep.org
- Sleeping with Your Eyes Open: What You Should Know – healthline.com
Author: Sarah Cummings
I think we’re all nerds, but I’m probably the biggest nerd in the group. Put me nose deep in a spreadsheet and I'll start smiling.
I love to travel, hang out with positive people, and love cycling when I find the time!
My hope is that everyone who visits our site will walk away with a fresh perspective. I think too many people in society downplay the importance of sleep. In my opinion, it’s the difference between an average life and an amazing one.