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Why Do I Have Dry Eyes in the Morning?

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A person rubbing their eyes after working on their laptop.

Dry eyes in the morning can cause significant discomfort, yet this is an ongoing issue for many people. The ocular surface disease affects millions, causing a gritty, sandpaper sensation in the eyes. But what causes dry eyes upon waking?

Common reasons for dry eyes in the morning include insufficient tears, poor tear quality and partially open eyelids while you sleep. An eye exam can help your eye doctor determine the root cause of your dry eye symptoms and provide treatment and strategies for relief. 

What Is Dry Eye?

Dry eye is an ocular surface disease where your eyes either produce low-quality tears or fail to produce enough tears to lubricate the eye adequately. Dry eye can lead to a range of symptoms from mild to moderate and severe. If you experience dry eyes, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Blurred vision 
  • Persistent gritty feeling eyes Eye redness
  • Stinging or burning sensation
  • Scratchiness
  • A feeling of something foreign in the eye
  • Excessive tearing 

Causes of Morning Dry Eyes

Despite having a good night’s sleep, many individuals have dry eye symptoms when they first wake up. Understanding the causes of morning dry eyes can help you seek relief with dry eye therapy. 

Insufficient Tear Production

Several causes can prevent tear glands from making enough tears. These can include:

  • Age: As we age, it’s normal for our bodies to produce fewer tears, leading to an increased likelihood of experiencing dry eyes in the morning.
  • Medical conditions: Blepharitis or eyelid inflammation can lead to decreased tear production. Other conditions, such as diabetes and autoimmune disorders, can cause low tear production as well. 
  • Medication side effects: Decongestants, antihistamines and antidepressants can affect tear production. 

Eyelid Problems

Some individuals may have problems that prevent their eyelids from closing properly at night. Nocturnal lagophthalmos is a condition where the eyelids remain partially open when you sleep due to weakened facial nerves. This can lead to increased tear evaporation, resulting in dry eyes when you wake up.

Tear Quality

Tears lubricate your eyes and help you see clearly by focusing light. Each time you blink, a layer of tears called the tear film coats your eye. The tear film that coats the eye has 3 components or layers: 

  1. Oil layer: The outer oil layer prevents tear evaporation.
  2. Water layer: The middle water layer lubricates and nourishes the eyes, 
  3. Mucous layer: The inner mucous layer helps tears stick to the eye’s surface. 

If tears lack any component or the component is produced in insufficient quantities, it results in poor quality tears or an unstable tear film and can lead to dry eyes. 

Other Factors That Contribute to Morning Dry Eyes

Many different factors can lead to dry eye, most of which are caused by lifestyle or environment.

Digital Device Usage

Digital screen usage can contribute to dry eye symptoms and many of us are guilty of late-night screen time that can interfere with our body’s natural tear production.

Contact Lens Wear

People who wear contact lenses are at a higher risk for developing dry eyes, especially if they wear them for extended periods or sleep in them.

Environmental Factors

Sometimes it’s not just your body that affects tear production. Your environment can also lead to dry eyes. If the air in your bedroom is dry, perhaps due to air conditioning or heating, this can lead to increased evaporation of tears and morning dryness. 

Diagnosing Dry Eyes

Your eye doctor can assess the health of your eyes and guide you in managing dry eyes, including prescribing eye drops or other treatments.

Tips to Alleviate Dry Eyes in the Morning

While you can’t turn back time or change the course of aging, you can get treatment for the underlying causes and adopt the following tips that help mitigate dry morning eyes.

Avoid or Change Medications 

Some medications can contribute to dry eyes. If they make you suffer in the morning, it might be time to speak to your healthcare provider about alternatives.

A woman applying eye drops on her left eye.

Artificial Tears

Preservative-free artificial tears and prescription eye drops can hydrate and lubricate the eyes for long-lasting relief from dryness.

Use a Humidifier 

Using a humidifier in your bedroom can counteract dry air by adding moisture and help keep your environment more eye-friendly.

Home Remedies

Morning dry eye home remedies can include:

  • Staying hydrated by drinking 8 to 10 glasses of water each day.
  • Using a warm compress to unclog blocked tear glands.
  • Washing the eyelids with warm water and mild soap to help with eyelid inflammation.

Personalized Dry Eye Treatment & Management in Winnipeg

Dry eyes in the morning are a common complaint, but they don’t have to be a constant annoyance. Whether you have morning dry eyes or experience dry eye symptoms during the day, visiting your eye doctor can help determine the root cause. 

With a proper diagnosis of the underlying cause, your eye doctor can provide treatment and effective in-office and at-home management strategies so you can start your day feeling comfortable and ready to face the world. Book an appointment with See Eye Clinic to explore personalized treatment for your dry eyes.

Written by See Eye Clinic

Dr. Smith-Bodiroga established See Eye Clinic in the summer of 2015 with a big vision: to offer thorough patient care using optometric expertise and diagnostic medical technologies.

See Eye Clinic built a stunning eyewear section to ensure everyone has access to a wide selection of glasses to fit their face, style and mood. Every pair of frames in our boutique are hand-picked from premium and independent brands to offer you a look that’s as unique as you.

Book your next eye exam with See Eye Clinic in Winnipeg today!

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