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10 Common Reasons You Have Dry Eyes in the Morning

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A woman with long, straight, brown hair wearing a gray button-up sweater is sitting in an office with a laptop off to the side, rubbing her eyes with both hands.

Dry eyes are a common condition that affects people of all ages, and there are many different reasons why your eyes might be dry and uncomfortable—there’s not much worse than waking up with them. 

When your dry eyes are more than a symptom of being overtired, an eye exam can identify what the underlying problem may be. 

There are many reasons for dry eyes in the morning, including: 

  • Dry eye disease
  • Lack of sleep
  • Allergies
  • Contact lenses
  • Aging
  • Dehydration
  • Medications
  • Environmental factors
  • Blepharitis
  • Underlying medical conditions

Dry Eye Disease

Dry eye disease occurs when your eyes don’t make enough tears or produce poor-quality tears that don’t provide the hydration, comfort, or nourishment they need to stay healthy. 

It’s usually a long-term issue that can lead to redness, irritation, dryness, and a gritty or burning feeling in the eyes. These symptoms can be worse in the morning because while you’re sleeping, your normal tear production and blink reflex decrease, and when your eyelids are closed for a long time, your tears can evaporate more.

Lack of Sleep

One of the most common reasons for dry eyes in the morning is simply not getting enough sleep. When you don’t get enough rest, your eyes have to work harder to stay lubricated, which can lead to dryness and discomfort. To combat this problem, try to get at least 7–8 hours of sleep each night.

Nocturnal Lagophthalmos

20% of individuals experience nocturnal lagophthalmos, a condition where you sleep with your eyes partially or fully open. This can happen due to nerve and muscle problems, eyelid damage, or thyroid-related eye symptoms. 

Normally, we close our eyes while sleeping to block out light, protect them, and keep them hydrated. However, those with nocturnal lagophthalmos face eye dehydration, exposure to outside stimuli, and restless sleep. 

If left untreated, nocturnal lagophthalmos can lead to light sensitivity, eye infection, and corneal damage, although not in every case. 

Allergies

Another common cause of dry eyes in the morning is allergies. If you’re allergic to pollen, dust, or other irritants, your eyes can become inflamed and dry, making them feel uncomfortable when you wake up. To prevent this problem, try to reduce your exposure to allergens wherever possible, and consider using allergy eye drops or antihistamines if required.

Contact Lenses

If you wear contact lenses, they might be causing your eyes to dry out in the morning. Contact lenses can reduce the amount of oxygen that reaches your eyes, making them more likely to become dry and uncomfortable. 

Consider using eye drops designed for contact lens wearers or switching to glasses before bed or even for a few days to give your eyes a break.

Aging

As we age, we produce fewer tears, leading to dry and irritated eyes. Hormonal changes during menopause can also affect tear production. 

To counteract this problem, try using eye drops designed for dry eyes or incorporating omega-3 fatty acids into your diet.

Dehydration

Dehydration can also cause dry eyes in the morning. If you’re not drinking enough water, your body won’t be able to produce enough tears to keep your eyes lubricated. 

To prevent dehydration, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water throughout the day and consider limiting your intake of caffeine and alcohol.

Young female patient having an eye exam done at Aurora Eye Care.

Medications

Certain medications, such as antihistamines and antidepressants, can cause dry eyes as a side effect. If you’re experiencing dryness in the morning and taking medication, speak to your doctor to see if these medications can be the cause and discuss possible alternatives or ways to reduce the dryness without switching the medication.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors, such as air conditioning, wind, and dry air, can also cause dry eyes in the morning. 

To prevent this problem, use a humidifier in your bedroom at night or keep a bowl of water in the room to add moisture to the air. You can also wear goggles or sunglasses when outside to shield your eyes from windy or dry conditions.

Blepharitis

Blepharitis is a common condition that causes inflammation of the eyelids, leading to dry, red, and swollen eyes, particularly in the morning. If you suspect you have blepharitis, consult your eye doctor for a diagnosis and treatment.

Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions, such as Sjögren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus, can cause dry eyes as a symptom. If you have one of these conditions, it’s essential to talk to your doctor about managing it to help keep your symptoms under control.

Find Relief for Your Morning Dry Eye

Dry eyes can be a frustrating and uncomfortable condition, but treatment options are available to help you find relief. Book an appointment with your eye doctor at Aurora Eye Care to help keep your eyes comfortable and lubricated, even when you wake up in the morning.

Written by Luis Marquez

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