Burning Eyes at Night

Editor: Dr. Russel Lazarus, Published February 6, 2021

If your eyes are burning at night, you may be suffering from dry eye syndrome. 

Dry eye syndrome can put a damper on your day but even worse, can make your nights intolerable.

The burning, itching and pain you are experiencing can be distracting during the day and even affect your productivity— but as day turns to night, your symptoms can get even worse and even keep you from getting the shut eye your body needs.

Experiencing dry eyes at night can significantly affect your ability to drive, your enjoyment of leisure activities and even impact your quality of sleep.

Fortunately, dry eye syndrome can be treated and the burning sensation you are feeling does not have to be something you learn to live with.

What causes dry eye?

Dry eye syndrome occurs when your eyes do not produce enough tears to properly lubricate your eyes, or when the tears are of poor quality and evaporate too quickly.

Every time you blink, your eyelids spread the tears over your cornea to provide essential nutrients that keep your eyes healthy and hydrated. If the quality or quantity of your tears is diminished, your cornea will become irritated and dry.

Why do dry eyes get worse at night?

As the day progresses, exposure to a variety of environmental factors, such as dry heat and wind, can cause your tears to evaporate more quickly.

Also, if you wear soft contact lenses, by the end of the day, your eyes can feel dry and irritated, as the contact lenses absorb the moisture from your eyes to remain hydrated and soft.

Additionally, blood circulation typically slows down at night to help your body prepare for sleep. This prevents nutrients from reaching the eyes, and decreases tear production.

Nocturnal lagophthalmos is another cause of nighttime dry eyes. This condition is defined as the inability to close the eyelids completely while sleeping. Nocturnal lagophthalmos is generally caused by an eyelid deformity, facial palsy, or incomplete healing from eyelid surgery.

When the surface of the eye is exposed at night, dry eye symptoms will occur— leading to an uncomfortable burning sensation.

What can you do to relieve the burning sensation?

There are many treatments to relieve burning eyes at night. The key is to treat the underlying cause of the burning sensation.

If your eyes are burning at night and you can’t seem to get any relief, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor for an eye exam.

Your eye doctor will evaluate your condition to determine the cause of your dry eyes and provide an effective treatment plan to alleviate your symptoms.

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your eye doctor will prescribe an over-the-counter or prescription eye drop, gel or ointment to help replenish your tears, as well as coat your tears to prevent them from evaporating too quickly.

Your eye doctor may also recommend applying a cool compress over your eyelids and placing a humidifier near your bed at night. These tips can help soothe your sore eyes and provide additional moisture at night.

If burning eyes are affecting your nighttime routine and preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor for an effective solution to relieve your dry eye symptoms.