Why is Dry Eye Worse in the Mornings?

Dr. Russel Lazarus, July 25, 2021

Over 50% of adults suffer with dry eyes.

It’s difficult enough to get out of bed in the morning, but waking up with stinging, burning eyes is even more challenging!

What causes dry eyes?

Dry eye syndrome may be to blame if your eyes are itchy and scratchy in the morning. 

It’s possible that your tear glands are clogged or producing insufficient tears and oils to keep moisture in your eyes.

If the meibomian glands in your eyelids don’t generate enough oil to protect your tears from evaporating, or if you don’t produce enough water for healthy tears, it can cause dry eye symptoms.

Whatever is causing your dry eye, it’s critical that your eye doctor identify and treat the condition as soon as possible to safeguard your eyesight and maintain excellent eye health.

What causes red, itchy or painful eyes upon waking?

Why do some people’s dry eye symptoms get worse in the mornings? Some of the reasons are listed below.

1. Nocturnal lagophthalmos

The inability to completely close one’s eyelids while sleeping is called nocturnal lagophthalmos.

The surface of the eye becomes dry at night because it is exposed to the air. The condition may damage your cornea if left untreated.

2. Blepharitis

Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids that causes them to become red, inflamed, and itchy, and for dandruff-like scales to appear on the eyelashes. Blepharitis is a frequent eye condition that’s caused by bacteria infection on the edges of your eye lids..

SEE RELATED: Dry Eye Syndrome

If you’ve experienced dry eye in the morning, contact an eye doctor near you.

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3. Environment

The environment can also induce a gritty sensation in your eyes.

Sleeping directly in front of or under an air vent, a heating unit or ceiling fan, for example, can cause your eyes to dry out.

Additionally, susceptibility to allergens such as dust that accumulate in the bedroom might cause dryness and eye irritation.

4. Medications

Some types of prescription and over-the-counter medication can dehydrate the eyes:

  • Antidepressants
  • Antipsychotic Medications
  • Chemotherapy Medications
  • Decongestants and Antihistamines
  • Drugs for Gastrointestinal Problems
  • Hypertension Drugs
  • Hormones
  • Pain Relievers
  • Skin Medications

In most cases, dry eye symptoms caused by medication will resolveonce the medication is discontinued. However, it may take several weeks or months for symptoms to completely disappear.

5. Age

As we get older, our tear production decreases and becomes less efficient. Dry eye is also common among menopausal women due to hormonal changes.

How to treat morning dry eye

Morning dry eye can be treated with sleeping masks, lubricating eye drops, and ointment applied right before bed, depending on the cause.

Consider using a humidifier to ensure that you sleep in a moist environment. Eyelid surgery may be required in severe cases of nocturnal lagophthalmos.

LEARN MORE: Guide to Dry Eyes

If you are tired of waking up to red, burning eyes, schedule an appointment with an eye doctor near you who can determine the cause of your morning dry eye and discuss the most effective treatment plan.