A revolutionary game changer in sport?
Night lenses | A revolutionary game changer in sport?
“THE BIG QUESTION: Why would anyone with short sight under -5.00D who competes in sport at the highest level use glasses or contact lenses to see, as opposed to having complete freedom from both by switching to night lenses?”
If the answer is “There is no logical reason”, and the outcome of doing so is undisputed better performance at the highest level, then maybe night lenses are indeed a game changer in sports?
What are night lenses? Night lenses are custom-fit contact lenses that are worn while you sleep. Overnight they correct the eye harmlessly using a process called Orthokeratology (the lenses are also known by their medical name ‘Ortho-K lenses). When removed in the morning the wearer has perfect sight, and so has no need for glasses or daytime lenses during the day. The effect wears off naturally after 24 hours and so wearers simply repeat as part of their daily routine as they would with daytime lenses. Worn by many sportspeople who never again had to deal with mud in the lens or a dislodged/lost lens on the pitch, night lenses have been around for around 20 years, but with recent advances and more Optometrists fitting them in the UK, they are the new exciting eyecare innovation that everyone is talking about.
So, are night lenses a revolutionary game changer in sports?
We asked a couple of wearers their views:
Night lens wearer, Catriona Morrison, is a multi world champion at Duathlon, bronze medal at the World’s at long distance Triathlon and an Ironman champion …
“Overall, yes. Any sport where you sweat, you rub your face and your eyes. If you’re a contact lens wearer you risk dislodging the lens and so you think about that. Sports glasses feel sweaty and can steam or smear, so you think about them too. To put a top performance together you need to dot all the ‘I’s and cross all the ‘T’s. It would have been a very different story if I had all that background worry about goggles coming off during the swim or dislodging a lens during a race. All I do now is put one lens in and take one lens out. All done. Nothing in my eyes for the rest of the day and the race. Why wouldn’t you want to control the uncontrollable? So many things are uncontrollable in a race – why not control it?”
“What difference have night lenses made to your sporting life?”
“It’s revolutionary. All the hassle stopped. You don’t realise how useful it is to have normal vision until you have it! I wake up in the morning and have nothing to worry about. I don’t even consider myself to have any kind of sight problem now. It’s weird.”
Dr Euan Speirits is an Elite 4X and Downhill Mountain Bike Racer. He is also a night lens wearer …
“No ‘could’ about it. They ‘will’ absolutely revolutionise sports, and life, for glasses and day lens wearers who are able to use them. The bottom line is that my life would not be in the position it would be if I had continue wearing contact lenses. I would never have achieved so much in mountain biking without the freedom that night lenses give me. I couldn’t recommend them enough. Everyone at some point wearing daytime lenses has had them move in their eye and felt the ‘grate’. The knowledge that you don’t have that in high performance sport is a huge difference. No difference between what you can see and what you interpret. No compromise. Your vision is your own. I’m surprised more people don’t wear them.”
“What difference have night lenses made to your sporting life?”
“It has genuinely revolutionised it. It means I can go for a day of competition with zero distraction of contact lens dry eye and have a normal life with no need to consider using contacts or wondering whether they will dry out. Recreationally I do a lot of paddleboarding and don’t have to worry about the option of seeing or falling in and losing my contact lens! They have completely normalised life for me.”
With the difference between gold and silver medals, goals scored or missed, points won or lost and world records being measured in fractions of seconds or millimetres, top level sports performance requires everything to work perfectly and precisely on the day. Catriona and Euan, and indeed other night lens wearers who compete at a professional or high amateur level, agree that to achieve peak performance and results at the highest level, having ‘perfect sight’ achieved with nothing in your eyes or on your face is a no brainer logical decision.
Can night lenses help our pipeline of future champions?
It’s incredible how many stories we hear from adults who gave up on their dream of making it in sports because of their short sight. At the point where they needed glasses or contact lenses, they gave up. We spoke to 17 year old Oisin McVeigh (Osh), a rugby union player determined to progress in a sport he loves, who is at that point right now:
“All sport is a lot easier now. With rugby I have to be observant, to see what’s happening on the pitch, which was really difficult when I couldn’t see across the pitch or who the players were! It’s really useful to be able to see and will improve my game massively. To improve I needed lenses or sports glasses but didn’t like the idea of the hassle of them, losing a lens or getting dirt in my lens during a match. Night lenses are perfect.”
As always, behind every talented young sportsperson, there are supportive parents who ultimately are the influencers and decision makers on whether their child progresses. We chatted to Osh’s mum, Grainne, and asked her:
“So, mum, how did Osh end up with night lenses?”
“Osh is a good rugby player, but he wasn’t wearing glasses or lenses on the pitch and we couldn’t understand how he could play without seeing properly. To improve it was clear that he needed something to help his vision, so we looked at the options. He wasn’t keen on wearing lenses for sport as he was worried about them falling out or getting mud in his eye during the game. And he didn’t want sports glasses. Randomly we heard about night lenses and thought they sounded weird, crazy even, a lens that changes your eyesight while you sleep? We looked into them and here we are!”
“Why is putting Osh into night lenses important to you as a parent?”
“Two things are important to me as a parent. The first is stabilising his eyesight [Ed note: night lenses can stabilise myopia in children]. My eyesight is -13. I know how debilitating it is to have very bad eyesight. When I was young I was a great swimmer, but I gave it up and don’t swim anymore. I tried goggles but they just didn’t do it for me. I loved all watersports, water-skiing, but gave it all up. The second is to give him choice and opportunity. All of this has now opened up to Osh, and that’s fantastic, to give him choice and opportunity. He never has to give things up because of poor sight or because day lenses or glasses hold him back. Hopefully, for his rugby, this will be the best thing we could have given him as a parent.”
If we can decrease the number of talented youngsters who give up sport because they are held back by glasses or daytime lenses, or indeed enable more youngsters with Myopia (short sight) to progress faster and further in their sport with better sight at this crucial stage, our UK talent pool and pipeline must surely benefit as a result. Are night lenses a revolutionary game changer that will enable some of our elite youngsters to break through, whilst helping a percentage of the ~1.5million short sighted 8-18 year olds in the UK perform professional or amateur sport to a higher level? Undoubtedly.
If you compete at any sport at a professional level or at a high amateur level and you find this article interesting enough to want to find out more, please ask your optician about night lenses. If your optician doesn’t fit night lenses you can find your nearest fitter here: CLICK HERE to insert your postcode into our interactive google map
CLICK HERE if you are a sports coach/body/association or media interested in contacting Tom
CLICK HERE to see Tom’s inspiration – his 16 year old son, a surfer (impossible without night lenses) – hear his family’s story