Why night lenses are safer than day contact lenses for police officers (p2)

Night lenses are contact lenses you put in when you go to sleep, wake up and pop out for perfect sight – no need for glasses or day lenses during the day, or permanent laser eye surgery. Your eyes are corrected while you sleep by a harmless and non-permanent process called orthokeratology (medically these are a.k.a ‘ortho-k lenses’). Complete freedom with nothing in your eye or on your face all day is a game changer for those in jobs like the police, where dusty loft searches, shift work, violent struggles, CS gas, CBRN equipment etc can be problematic with day lenses or glasses.

Part 1: We spoke to officer “John” (anonymous), aged 47, who spent 13 years on the front line with TSG in Northern Ireland. John has recently been fitted with night lenses and they have changed his life. He wishes he had had them earlier, for his work and home life. His observation is that he believes police work is better/safer with night lenses than with day lenses. Read / watch Johns’ interview HERE.

Part 2: We followed up John’s piece with a chat with night lens wearer “Jasmine” (also not her real name), a police officer who is in a specialist role in The Met. The transcript of her interview is below or you can watch the interview on youtube HERE.

Jasmine, thank you so much for agreeing to this, tell us, what’s your story? I think you said you went from glasses to contact lenses then to laser eye surgery and then to night lenses?

I was told that I needed glasses when I was a teenager, which I didn’t like and so from 16 I moved into contact lenses. At 18 I joined The Met and then at 21 I decided to get laser eye surgery. I probably had about 12 to 13 years of good vision. When my sight slowly deteriorated I realised I needed something else and found myself at a crossroads – do I go back to contact lenses or wearing glasses? That’s when I came across night lenses. To be honest I didn’t know what night lenses were and so I was a little apprehensive, but the more I looked into it, the more I thought it was a viable option for me. I liked the idea – it was idiot proof to be honest – all I had to do was just stick some lenses into my eyes when I went to bed, sleep and then by the morning my vision will be corrected. I found it hard to get my head around this, that it couldn’t be right, that it must be a typo or an error. I was pleasantly surprised when I tried it that by the morning my vision was perfect. My sight was like what it would be if I was wearing glasses or contact lenses, but I didn’t have anything in my eyes! It was great not to have either of those and still have perfect vision throughout the whole day.

You have shift work in your role – was there a concern about shift work with your night lenses?

No, it’s easy. If I’m on night duty and am going to sleep during the day, I just put my night lenses in. As soon as I wake up I take them out and then I’ve got perfect vision through the night. Whatever shift I work, as long as I wear them during my sleep – I only have to wear them for a minimum 4 hours to see the difference – that’s enough for a whole day’s worth of vision. I’ll probably get a day and half before I realise that I need to put them back in again. The difference is that every day I can go to work without being fearful that my contact lenses might drop out. Or if I’m wearing them for prolonged periods especially when, as most police will know, you think you’re going to be done and then you get that last minute call – or you’re doing an extended tour of duty – and before you know it you’ve done 20, 24 hours. You’re tired, your eyes are very dry, you’re constantly blinking – it’s nice not to have to worry about any of that or putting drops in. It’s a really good thing that I come across night lenses.

In our other police officer interview we spoke to someone we’ve called ‘John’ from TSG in Belfast who started night lenses in his late 40’s. He was in a very active operational role. He said the same thing – the shift goes on, he would find himself sitting in the back of a van in the middle of something that he can’t get out of – the problem is his lenses would get itchy and dry. Looking back he agreed that having perfect sight and nothing in his eyes, in those situations, would be bonus. Let’s talk about your operational role. You said there were two parts to your role, the operational side of the earlier days and then into the specialist role. Looking back at the operational side where CS gas might need to come out – if you had night lenses, as opposed to day lenses at the time, would things have been easier and better?

I would definitely recommend to anyone who is considering getting day contact lenses to go for night lenses. If we did have to deploy CS spray, or PAVA nowadays, you don’t have to worry about what the after-effects are going to be. Some people might be fine, but for me, it affected me equally as much as the person I was dealing with. So, it’s nice knowing that you don’t have anything in your eyes that can be an extra irritant. I would choose night lenses given a choice rather than wear day contact lenses, because you know that PAVA will affect your contact lens afterwards.

Many police officers are extremely active out of work to keep themselves fit and in peak shape. Let’s talk about non work life. I gather you’re into CrossFit and things like that? Do you find, in terms of that side of your life, that there’s benefits with night lenses?

Yes, I like to do things like HIIT training or circuit training which are quite high impact. So, for me, the best thing is knowing that I can do that without worrying about losing my contact lenses, that if it falls out that it will hit the floor. So, it’s good for high impact stuff. The other thing I like is when I go swimming. I’ve got a little girl, so when we go swimming I can stick my head underwater without worrying that I can’t see what’s happening or that my lens has come out. I don’t have to worry about things like looking at the clock. Everything is nice, clear and crisp, exactly as I would expect it to be but without having to wear contact lenses or glasses. I don’t have to worry about them getting steamed up or when I go running, or anything happening to them. I’ve had night lenses for about seven years now – I wouldn’t go back to day lenses and if had known about this before I had my laser eye surgery, I probably would have gone into night lenses first. I think most people think that laser will last 20 to 30 years so you don’t need to touch it until you’re in your 40s or 50s. To realise that I’m having to go back and look at alternatives less than 15 years later, knowing what know now, I would go back and do night lenses first.

It’s good to talk to someone who’s been through laser and, like you say, lots of people think laser surgery is permanent – that it will change their sight forever, but it doesn’t! There are loads of risks, people who up with floaters and other stressful things and so people are genuinely terrified of the concept. It’s really interesting that you’ve been through both laser and night lenses. So, what you’re saying is that for people who are considering laser that night lenses are a good way to get used to having a life free from glasses and contact lenses, see how it goes – and you could go into laser later on?

Exactly! There’s always an option to do laser later on. One thing I also like is that my prescription hasn’t changed over the years, I’ve been consistent for the last seven years. Night lenses have kept my eye steady. With my lasik I was slowly deteriorating. So I would say that if you don’t like operations, or if you think laser surgery is a big commitment, then try night lenses as they are a good alternative and I wish I’d known about them earlier.

Previous to this interview we talked about the term ‘myopia’ and I think it’s quite interesting that I announced to you … that you have myopia! [Jasmine laughs] For people listening to this who don’t know what myopia is – what you call ‘short sight’ is actually a medical condition called ‘myopia’ which is directly linked to eye disease, detached retinas and so on. First up, do you think your colleagues who have short sight need to learn that term and understand what it is? Secondly, as a parent, if you have myopia (short sight) or your parents have myopia, the chances are your child might have myopia. Is this something now you should consider and learn about for your child as well?

Yes, definitely! I’ll be honest, at the bigger branded places in the hight street, it’s ‘short sight’ and ‘long sight’. Nobody talks about it as myopia. I didn’t know about myopia. I do now. Short sight is made out like it’s nothing too serious and you don’t need to worry about it, that it can be fixed with contact lenses or glasses. When you realise that it gets worse over time and can lead to eye disease, I realise that I was naïve or didn’t think about if I’m honest. Now that I’m more aware I’m more cautious, that it’s better to be on top of this rather than just be very relaxed. There might be an underlying health issue that needs to be addressed. I’ve found with night lenses that it’s been good because I’ve been going to my independent optometrist every year who gives me extra check-ups and which will tell if there’s anything changing or what’s happening in the back of my eyes. You wouldn’t always get that having been to some of the big high street multiples – I know that I didn’t get those same check-ups there, but I have here. It’s nice to be able to do a comparison and say well, actually, no this is consistent for me, or no, there is something here that I need to go get further medical attention on.

On that note we’ll do a quick shout out to Jaimin Patel, your optometrist at Vision Eyecare who I know, because he’s a good example of a fantastic independent optometrist who really spends the time on this. Jasmine, you and I are a similar age, so we need basic info to understand what our options are and to understand what’s happening to our eyes as we age. This is why I would encourage all short-sighted people to ask for a MyopiaChat next time their visit their optician.

The final question is in 2 parts – first up, would you recommend night lenses? [I think we know the answer!]. Secondly, having spoken to ‘John’ from TSG I asked him the big question, so I’ll ask you the same – is it safer for police officers who are able to be fitted with night lenses (less than -6D) to use night lenses rather day lenses, in terms of their role?

I would say it is safer for officers to have night lenses, and I’ll give you reasons and examples why having spent 13 years doing operational or frontline policing. For example, confrontational situations – you’re involved in fight and you’re not thinking “if I get punched in the face is my contact lens going to fly out?”. If you’re using your PAVA or deploying one of your other options, again if you know that you’re going to react to it, how badly is that going to affect you? If you’re doing extended tour duties, if you’re wearing daily lenses, I know they’ve come a long way, but after 18 – 20 hours you slowly start to feel the effects of wearing contact lenses – you notice your eyes are dry and you’re thinking “I need to put drops in” – but I don’t have to worry about that. It’s actually quite nice not having to stress about feeling my eyes drying, or becoming itchy, or I just feel really really tired and all you do is just constantly keep blinking just to keep my eyes lubricated. For those reasons I would definitely say give night lenses a try. Jaimin, my optometrist, was very good. It’s a time-consuming thing for him to get it right for me because they are individual to every person [NB all night lenses are custom made to your eyes, no 2 lenses are the same, they are not mass produced]. But once he got them right for me, I’m glad I did it because I’ve had years of perfect vision and I can go about my business not having to worry about any glasses. I can go and do anything. I can go from here to the sauna / steam room and I don’t need to worry about taking my glasses off – because I can see – or a contact lens being infected. It doesn’t impact my personal life, social life or work life. It’s a good balance for me.

Absolutely! I mentioned to you before this interview that the reason I’m here, doing this, is that my teenage son’s life was completely changed by night lenses, which is why I spend my time doing these interviews and spreading the word. He’s 17 now, he’s a surfer! If we hadn’t got his myopia stabilised with night lenses he might have gone up to – 6 or -7 and progress from there. With no glasses or contact lenses he wouldn’t be able to see the waves. But now he surfs, has confidence, so I agree that night lenses really are great things!

Thank you so much for your time and telling your story, we really appreciate it.

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