Why do you wake up with dry eyes?


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What causes you to wake up with dry eyes?

Do you feel your eyes dry and irritated when you wake up in the morning?

Wake up with dry eyes causing you to feel irritated and painful right after your first sight in the morning. Isn’t it terrible?

Many people are suffering from dry eyes. This is a common condition. The main reasons are, either

  •  your eyes not producing enough tears
  •  your tears evaporate very quickly.

According to the data of dry-eye statistics around 16-49 million Americans have dry eye disease.

Why do I always wake up with dry eyes?

If you feel a scratching, burning sensation when you wake up in the morning in your eyes, you may have dry eyes. Why do we say so?

Here are some of the reasons for you to always wake up with dry eyes.

  • Your eyelids do not tightly close during your sleep
  • Your eyes do not produce high-quality tears
  • Your eyes do not produce tears enough to lubricate the eyes.


How do you feel after you wake up with dry eyes?

You may feel a certain discomfort with dry eyes. See whether you can feel these symptoms.

  • Burning sensation of the eyes
  • Scratching your eyes
  • Redness of the eyes
  • Difficult to open the eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Excessive watering of the eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Stinging
  • Stringy mucus near the eye

What are the main causes of dry, itchy eyes?

  • Nocturnal lagophthalmos
  • Insufficient tear production during the night
  • Poor tear quality
  • Thyroid gland related diseases
  • Using digital screens for a long time
  • Seasonal allergies

What is nocturnal lagophthalmos?

Nocturnal lagophthalmos occurs when you do not completely close your eyelids during sleep. Lagophthalmos means incomplete or abnormal closure of the eyelids. Normally, you should be able to completely close your eyelids with a blink. If you are unable to do this it causes lagophthalmos.

Improper closure leads to quick evaporation of the tear layer, unusual corneal (the outermost layer of the front eye) exposure. Further exposures may lead to keratopathy. If the condition further progresses and it leads to perforation and corneal ulceration. Hence early identification of lagophthalmos is important.

In summary, quick evaporation of tears and not having enough lubrication cause many problems.  As a result, in the morning, you wake up with dry eyes.

What are the causes of nocturnal lagophthalmos?

There are different types of lagophthalmos.

  • Paralytic lagophthalmos
  • Nocturnal lagophthalmos
  • Cicatricial lagophthalmos
  • Incomplete blink and lagophthalmos

One of the primary causes of nocturnal lagophthalmos is damages to the facial nerve or the seventh cranial nerve. In addition, weaknesses of muscles of the face also lead to this problem.

In addition, there are some reasons for cranial nerve weakness.

  • Serious injury or surgical procedures
  • Bell’s palsy
  • Stroke
  • Neuromuscular disease
  • Tumor or tumor removing surgeries
  • Autoimmune diseases such as Guillain-Barré syndrome
  • Moebius syndrome
  • Infections such as Lyme disease, chickenpox, measles, mumps, leprosy, diphtheria

Some people have problems with their eyelids from birth. In other words, they cannot completely close the eyelids during sleep.

Other than that, external physical damages to the eyelids also lead to poor closure of eyelids. During surgical corrections of eyelids which are damaged by injuries or corrections of scars from burns or injuries can cause some damage to the eyelids. Hence these damages reduce the ability of eyelids to fully close.

Exophthalmos or protruding eyes is a result of the grave’s disease. People who have increased levels of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism) have this disease condition. These people also experience difficulty in closing eyelids properly.

Together with these, there is a rare reason for nocturnal lagophthalmos. If you wake up with dry eyes you don’t even realize that you have an inherent reason. Surprisingly people who have long and thick eyelashes also might have some difficulties in closing eyelids completely.

How to cure nocturnal lagophthalmos?

Researchers say that doctors should focus on the cause of nocturnal lagophthalmos.

They have shown two main causes of this condition and appropriate symptoms. According to research published in the International Journal of Gerontology, in 2009, if the cause is known and it is proptosis or palpebral insufficiency surgical or medically.

It reduces further exposure of the cornea to the outside.

If the cause is unknown or idiopathic or the patient cannot have surgery, your doctor may use more natural methods to treat nocturnal lagophthalmos.

To treat nocturnal lagophthalmos, your doctor may prescribe eye drops or ointments for you. These medications will prevent your eyes from drying out and keep them lubricated and moisturized.

In addition, applying small weights to the upper eyelid helps to pull them down. This will close your eyelids properly. However, you need to take medical advice before using these. Also, your doctor may prescribe medical tapes to shut your eyes during sleep.

 If none of these treatments won’t work, you can go for surgery. In surgeries, your doctor will implant weight into your eyelid to properly close them during sleep.

Tear quality connected to wake up with dry eyes?

As you already know, this is another main cause to wake up with dry eyes. The tears are the lubrication liquid in the eye to keep them moist.

Tears are produced by tear glands or lacrimal glands in the eyes. Each teardrop has three layers.

  • Water – hydrates the eye surface and other parts
  • Mucus – spreads the tears all over the eye surface evenly
  • Oil – prevent the evaporation of water

When any substance of these three layers sufficiently not produced the quality downs. All of these compartments should be in considerable amounts in quality tears.

Poor quality tears cannot provide enough lubrication to the eyes. Hence eyes easily dry out.

Inadequate tear production leads you to wake up with dry eyes

Not having enough production is another cause for you to wake up with dry eyes. According to the American Optometric Association, those are the reasons for this problem.

  • Age

According to a research paper published in HHS public access in 2018, aging is a significant factor of reduced tear production.

It further shows that large epidemiological researches have shown that this condition is more popular in women than in men. Women’s Health Study and Physician’s Health data indicate dry eye condition increases in men and women by every five years after the age of 50.

According to the results of this research, lacrimal glands are highly affected by age. Changes in the cells of the main tear glands present with age. Moreover, some of these severe changes lead to poor function of the gland.

There are age-related eyelid disorders. They decrease tear volume and increase tear break-up time. Hence causes dry eyes. For instance,

  • lid laxity
  • Meibomian gland atrophy
  • Orifice metaplasia

Another age-related eyelid disorder is conjunctivochalasis. In this case, the conjunctiva folds and becomes redundant. This causes discomfort in the eyes.

  • Certain medical conditions

Blepharitis, diabetes, thyroid gland problems, rheumatoid arthritis.

Those diseases can cause less tear production.

  • Some medicines

Antidepressants, antihistamines, anti-hypertensives, and decongestants lead to less tear production.

  • Environmental factors

In extreme dry and wind climates, exposure to smoke can cause quick evaporation of tears. Increased time with digital screens also causes a reduction in continuous blinking. Ultimately this causes dry eyes.

What is dry eye syndrome?

Dry eye disease is a condition when your eyes do not produce enough lubrication to the eye surface. As a result, you feel really dry eyes. Also, it is painful sometimes. There are several reasons for this condition. However, naturally, in some situations, you may feel dry eyes. For instance, inside an air-conditioned room, inside an aeroplane, hot wind, very cold weather, when bicycle riding, etc.

In contrast to regular dryness of eyes even in normal conditions, you may need to get advice from an ophthalmologist.

Figure: Dry eye syndrome

What are the symptoms of dry eye syndrome?

  • Stinging and scratching of the eyes
  • Burning sensation
  • Redness of eyes
  • Difficult to open eyes
  • Difficulty to wear contact lens
  • Difficulty in nighttime driving
  • A feeling of having some object in the eyes

You need to identify that most of the symptoms of dry eye syndrome are similar to the symptoms when you wake up with dry eyes.

What are the risk factors of dry eyes?

Non-modifiable risk factors

  • Age
  • Asian race
  • Female sex
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Meibomian gland dysfunction

 Modifiable risk factors

  • Regular computer and digital screen usage
  • Contact lens wear
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Hematopoietic stem cell therapy or transplantation
  • Androgen deficiency
  • Certain medications
  • Environmental factors

Why do my eyes hurt after I wake up in the morning?

The most common cause for hurting eyes in the morning is dry eyes. Dry eyes lead to feeling irritated and discomfort. You may even find it difficult to see bright lights and pain. Moreover, you may find it difficult to open your eyes.

In addition to the dry eyes, you may find your eyes get swollen, itchy, or have red spots. All of these are the results of dry eyes.

Moreover, there are some other causes of eye pain. For example,

  • Pink eye
  • Some allergies
  • Increased screen time
  • Blepharitis
  • Foreign particles or objects in the eye

What is pink eye?

Pink eye is the condition of “conjunctivitis”. In other words an inflammation of the conjunctiva of the eye.

What is this conjunctiva?

wake up with dry eyes

Well, the conjunctiva is the thin filmy membrane or covering of the white part of the eye (sclera). This membrane produces a secretion to lubricate the eye tissue, keeping them moist and free from infections. Moreover, it is a protective coat of the eye surface. Hence it has fine and thin blood vessels to provide blood to the layer. The blood provides the necessary oxygen and nutrients to the eye tissues and removes any unwanted waste substances.

 Then what is happening to the conjunctiva in the pink eye?

As previously said, pink eyes may be the main cause if you wake up with dry eyes regularly. If the conjunctiva gets an infection, it becomes irritated, and the blood vessels associated with the conjunctiva swells. Hence these blood vessels become more prominent and clearly, we can see them in the naked eye. Ultimately this causes red or pink eyes.

What are the symptoms of pink eye?

  • Itchy eyes
  • Swollen eye
  • A discharge like water or maybe pus.
  • Burning  sensation of the eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Light sensitivity

What causes pink eyes?

Among different sources of threats to the eye, you may get pink eyes if you get certain conditions.

● Eye infection

Certain types of bacterias such as Staphylococcus, Streptococcus cause eye infections. These infections lead to excess secretion of pus and other discharges from the eyes. If you suddenly experience this you may need to go for an eye consultant for advice. This is more likely an acute eye infection.

If you have a chronic eye infection, you may not even notice any changes or such symptoms in your eyes. Instead, you may have very little or no eye discharges. However, some of you feel mild crusting of the eyelashes.  

Except for bacteria, certain viruses also can cause eye infections. Viral eye infections most commonly come up with common colds. If you have a runny nose, pink or red eyes, sore throat it can be a common viral eye infection. Instead of those common conditions, viruses can only attack a single eye. It is a viral eye infection and it is quite contagious. This leads to excess watery discharges from the infected eye and can last up to two weeks. You must consult an eye specialist for this condition.

In addition, you need to practice several basic hygienic habits to prevent infection to others.

  • Regular washing hands
  • Remove all the handkerchief and face towels you have used and they may contact the discharges of the eye.
  • Wash those clothes regularly.
  • Use separate equipment for eating, drinking for yourself.

Practising these good habits prevents the spread of eye infections from you.

● Environmental irritant substances

Pollen, dust, and other environmental substances can cause inflammation of the eye tissue. Hence leads to red eyes. Some people find this condition during seasonal changes because the tears evaporate so quickly causing dry eyes.

● Allergies

Allergies cause various eye discharges. For instance, hay fever causes itchy eyes while others cause red eyes and chronic eye infections.

● Other diseases

If you find certain discomfort in your eyes it is important to have a medical checkup with an ophthalmologist. Some of them are,

  • Blurred vision
  • Extreme sensitivity to light
  • Regular eye pain
  • Different discharges from one eye or both eyes.

Important to mention, those symptoms do not associate with regular eye infections. These may be familiar with severe eye problems such as glaucoma, severe inflammation of the inside of the eye, or ulcers of the eye.

So it is important to have an immediate medical checkup for your sake.


What is Blepharitis?

Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids. Usually, this is not very serious and just by regular washing you can get rid of blepharitis. Also, there are some exceptions. This is very common among eye infections.

What are the symptoms of Blepharitis?

  • Soreness of the eyelids
  • The grittiness of the eyes
  • Itchy eyes
  • Red eyes or eyelids
  • Flakes or crusts at the eyelash roots
  • Sticking of the eyelids when you wake up in the morning
  • Wake up with dry eyes

Who can get Blepharitis?

In early childhood, Blepharitis is more common. However, it may appear in later adulthood also. When it occurs in children it causes gritty eyes.

What are the types of Blepharitis?

There are two main types of Blepharitis.

  • Seborrheic Blepharitis
  • Ulcerative Blepharitis
Seborrheic BlepharitisUlcerative Blepharitis
It causes dandruff-like skin scaling near the roots of the eyelids.There are matted, hard crusts on the eyelashes.
It produces soreness, crusts, and redness.Removal of eyelashes produces ulcers on that spot which causes bleeding or oozing.
 The white part of the eye (sclera) becomes red and in some cases, the front clear part (cornea) may be inflamed.

Other than those two types there are two more, namely,

  • Staphylococcal blepharitis
  • Meibomian blepharitis

How to treat Blepharitis?

Your ophthalmologist will define a suitable treatment for your condition. But this depends on the condition. However in most types keeping good hygiene around the eye area with lids clean and free of crusts.

In general, following simple practices will reduce Blepharitis.

  • Warm compression – this is useful in loosening and removal of crusts.
  • Gently scrub the eyelids with warm water and mild baby shampoo. If you are too sensitive to shampoo you can either use an over-the-counter lid cleanser.
  • Your eye consultant will prescribe antibiotics in the case of bacterial infection.
  • If your eye glands are blocked, gently massage your eyelids to loosen and release excess oil accumulated.
  • You can use artificial tear solutions or lubricating eye solutions only under the instructions of your ophthalmologist.

Why do I wake up with one dry eye?

Similarly, when you wake up with dry eyes, some patients may experience dry eye in just one eye. Eye experts say this should not be ignored. If you have such symptoms of dry eyes even in one eye, you should consult an eye specialist.

The possible reasons are,

● Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD)

Meibomian glands produce oil to lubricate the eye surface. The lower eyelid has around 20-30 meibomian glands and the upper eyelid has around 25-40 glands. The oil prevents quick evaporation of tears. Hence keeps the eye moist. Less production of the meibomian oils causes rapid evaporation of tears.

This is also known as meibomianitis. It is an inflammation of the eyelids. This is most common with dry eye syndrome and blepharitis. In other words, if you wake up with dry eyes it may be MGD a reason. Because MGD quickly evaporates tears.

● Certain medications and environmental factors

Some medicines can cause dry eyes. For instance,

  • ACE inhibitors
  • Anti-acne medicines
  • Decongestants
  • Birth control pills
  • Sleeping medicines
  • Diuretics
  • Antidepressants
  • Opiates
  • antihistamines

Environmental factors such as air, dust, heat, sun rays, and dry wind can cause sudden changes in the surface of the eye. Mostly these factors cause excess dryness of the eye.

● Aqueous tear-deficient dry eye

You may experience this condition in one or both eyes. This causes a lack of tear production. Fewer tears can cause eye pain, inflammation, and vision problems. Researches have shown that both ageing and Sjogren’s syndromes lead to aqueous tear-deficient dry eye.

How high screen time causes you to wake up with dry eyes?

Naturally, tears keep the eyes moist. When you continuously work with digital screens it leads to several changes in the tear layer.

One reason is when you are constantly looking at a screen you will not be blinking enough. Naturally, you blink your eyes every 10 seconds. Less blinking causes dry eyes.

Some research indicates high screen time causes changes in tear composition. For instance, it can change the balance of tears. In 2014, a Japanese study showed that high screen time leads to a reduction of mucus in tears.

How does blue light at night cause you to wake up with dry eyes in the morning?

Although blue light seems to be harmful, it is natural light. The sun is the natural source of blue light. It provides signals to the brain to keep you awake, and alert.

Computers, laptops, mobile phones, LED televisions, LED light bulbs are artificial sources of blue light.

Over-exposure to blue light causes over-stimulation of the brain to make you awake. In addition, it can cause dry eyes when you wake up in the morning. Also, it causes macular degeneration.

What are the medications for dry eyes?

If you are just having mild symptoms when you wake up with dry eyes, you can use over-the-counter eye drops or artificial tears. However, if your condition progresses and is more serious, you need to go to an ophthalmologist for further treatments.

  • Basically, some treatments treat for the cause of the dry eyes
  • Others mainly improve the tear quality and reduce the quick evaporation of tears.

Medications focus on the cause of dry eyes, eradicate that reason and prevent any side effects. For example, if some other medicine gives you dry eyes, your doctors will prescribe alternative medicine for that which does not lead to dry eyes.

What are the over-the-counter medicines I can get for dry eyes?

Most over-the-counter eye drops contain,

  • Humectants – to keep your eyes moist
  • Electrolytes (like potassium, sodium) – important for maintaining normal conjunctival goblet cell density
  • Lubricants – to keep the eye surface moist, prevent eye infections, and reduce symptoms of dry eyes

Ask your pharmacist or doctor for suitable eye medicine for dry eyes.

What medicines do doctors prescribe for dry and irritated eyes?

Doctors prescribe medicines for dry eyes based on various conditions.

  • Medicines prevent corneal inflammation – eye drops containing corticosteroids or cyclosporine can reduce and prevent the inflammation of the outermost front layer of your eye (cornea). However, corticosteroids produce a lot of side effects hence they are usually not for long-term use.
  • Medicines reduce eyelid inflammation – when your eyelids get inflammation it leads to excess oil production from the glands. Doctors prescribe antibiotics for this condition. Most of them should be taken by mouth while some are coming as drops and eye ointments.
  • Tear-stimulating medicines drugs that increase tear production (cholinergic) like pilocarpine. They are available as eye gels, pills, and eye drops.
  • Eye inserts – if you have moderate to severe dry eyes, artificial tears may not be helpful enough. In this case, you can have small eye inserts. They look like a grain of rice. You can place this tiny insert between your lower eyelid and the eyeball. It works like artificial tears. To clarify, the insert slowly dissolves and lubricates the eye.
  • Eye Drops from your own blood serum – if you have a severe dry eye condition and do not respond to any treatment, this will be an ideal treatment. These eye drops are known as autologous blood serum eye drops.

What are the alternative medicines for dry eyes?

There are some alternative medicines for dry eyes. But these therapies are under study and further evaluation is needed to confirm their benefits over risks. Some of them are,

  • Omega-3 fatty acids – researches have shown this fatty acid can reduce dry eye signs and symptoms. Moreover, it can help your eyes health.
  • Castor oil eye drops – help to reduce tear evaporation
  • Acupuncture – some people have experienced a reduction of dry eye symptoms after acupuncture therapy.

How to prevent waking up with dry eyes naturally?

If you wake up with dry eyes and are you looking for natural ways to cope with it? There are effective methods.

  • Using sleep masks and seals

 Using sleeping masks and eye seals may help to shut your eyelids properly during sleep.

  • Check the humidity of your bedroom

 If your bedroom’s humidity is low, try to improve it using a suitable humidifier. It will reduce the dry environment.

  • Warm compression

Warm compression around the eye area helps the oil glands to unclog them. Use a soaked soft cloth with warm water and keep it gently around the eyelids. You can gently press this cloth against your eyelids. You can do this process to your eye area for one or two times a week.

  • Drink a lot of water

Staying hydrated will keep your body healthy. This is true for eye health also. Drink at least 8 to 10 full glasses of pure water.

  • Washing eyelids

You can use mild soap with warm water to wash your eyelids. This will help to cope with eye inflammation. Gently wash and scrub the roots of the eyelashes. Important to mention do not use harsh movements.

  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule

Take a 20 second to break for every 20 minutes you are viewing a computer or any digital screen. And look at something 20 feet away.

  • Use an air filter

Using an air filter prevents the entry of dust and airborne irritants for your side.

What should I eat for dry eyes?

wake up with dry eyes for food

You can easily beat with dry eyes using good foods. It will definitely be easy for you rather than taking several medications. Getting enough nutrients from foods will nourish the tear glands to produce quality and enough tears.

  • Fish

Fish contains omega-3 and other essential fatty acids that help reduce inflammation in tear ducts. Healthy tear ducts produce high-quality and sufficient tears to your eyes.

Salmon, Tuna, Mackerel are the best sources of vitamin D. They prevent macular degeneration of the eyes.

  • Nuts

Nuts are containers of both omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E. more importantly, vitamin E is an anti-oxidants. These are powerful attackers of aging-related eye damage. It keeps eye cells healthy.

  • Seeds

Chia seeds and flax seeds are the best alternatives for fish and meat. It provides omega-3 fatty acids. These are recommended for vegans and vegetarians. You can have these as a vegetarian substitute for fish oil and fish oil-based supplements.

  • Meat

Meat liver which contains vitamin A and zinc is good for eye health. For instance, Turkey, lean beef, and ostrich meat are good sources of zinc.

Which fruits are good for dry eyes?

Citrus family fruits like oranges, lemon, and lime contain a lot of vitamin C. It is an antioxidant to prevent eye damage from free radicals. In addition, blueberries contain the antioxidant anthocyanin which prevents eye cell damage and even improves vision.

Other than that apples, bananas are good sources of vitamin C.

What are good vegetables for dry eyes?

  • Green Leafy vegetables

Green leafy vegetables contain loads of essential vitamins and other nutrients. Especially they contain vitamin C which is an antioxidant. These can help you to prevent aging-related eye damage. Furthermore, it contains folate which helps to reduce vision loss.

  • Beans

All types of beans contain high amounts of nutrients. They are a part of a healthy, well-balanced meal. Most people use beans instead of meat. Beans contain high protein and several micronutrients. For instance folic acid, and zinc. These nutrients will keep your eyes healthy. It promotes melanin production. Melanin is a natural pigment in the eyes that prevents sun damage. Furthermore, it will keep away from dry eyes.

In addition, broccoli, Brussels sprouts are good sources of nutrients beneficial for dry eyes. Also, vegetables containing Vitamin A, such as Carrots and sweet potatoes are best for eye health.

What is a good vitamin for dry eyes?

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E

These are the best vitamins for your eye health. You can add all those vitamins to your diet by simply mixing the sources of these vitamins as mentioned before.

Why do you wake up with dry eyes? I think this article has answered your question. This is a problem for many people. If you are struggling with that, you can try several methods both natural and medical treatments. However, following a good routine is the best way to keep your eyes healthy.

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