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Why Am I Waking Up With Dry Eyes?

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Why Am I Waking Up With Dry Eyes?

A man rubbing his eyes after waking up.

Waking up to a world of discomfort, with gritty, sore, red, or just plain irritated eyes, is an experience many people share. The sensation of waking up with dry eyes makes for a rough start to the day, and you’ll be looking for short-term relief and a long-term solution.   

Nighttime factors like bedroom environment, medical conditions, and many other factors can cause dry eyes first thing in the morning. But there are several possible treatments to get you going in the morning and keep you comfortable throughout the day.  

Understanding Dry Eye

Dry eye syndrome occurs when the eyes do not produce enough tears or when tears evaporate too quickly. The function of the tear fluid is crucial to maintaining clear vision and keeping the front surface of the eye smooth and free of any irritants.  

Causes of Dry Eye

There are various reasons why an individual might have chronically dry eyes, including:  

  • Age: Tear production tends to diminish with age, especially after age 50.  
  • Gender: A higher prevalence of dry eye has been recorded in women, often due to hormonal changes such as those experienced during pregnancy and menopause.  
  • Medical conditions: Certain health factors like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or Sjogren’s syndrome can contribute to dry eyes.  
  • Environmental factors: Dry, windy climates, digital devices, and using air conditioning and heating can increase tear evaporation.

Nighttime Factors

The nighttime environment can play a significant role in your eye health and waking up with dry eye. Let’s explore how.

Environmental Impact  

Humidity levels in your bedroom can affect tear evaporation rates. The drier the air, the more quickly your tears can evaporate, leaving your eyes feeling unpleasantly dry. Rooms with low humidity levels, especially during colder months, are a common culprit in Canada.

Sleep Condition

The way you sleep can also influence your eye hydration. For instance, sleeping with your eyes partially open—nocturnal lagophthalmos—can accelerate tear evaporation, leading to dry eyes upon waking. 

If you wear makeup, ensure that it is fully removed with an appropriate cleaner before going to sleep.

Sleep apnea and the sleep apnea devices can direct air into the eyes resulting in drier eyes.  

Medical Conditions & Medications  

Certain health conditions and medications may directly lead to dry eye. It’s crucial to be aware of these factors and discuss them with your healthcare provider.  

Health Conditions

  • Dermatological conditions, such as ocular rosacea, can affect the glands around the eyes that secrete tear film.  
  • Autoimmune disorders may damage tear glands or other structures of the eye.  
  • Hormonal changes and imbalances can have a significant impact. 


  • Antihistamines, decongestants, and other medications can decrease tear production.  
  • Birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy can affect tear composition. 

Tips for Relieving Dry Eye in the Morning  

The good news is that there are practical steps you can take to alleviate that morning discomfort.  

Hydration & Nutrition

A woman drinking water on her couch.

Staying well-hydrated throughout the day is critical. Consuming a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can promote the production of tears and contribute to eye health and comfort. Other vitamins essential for healthy eyes include:  

  • Vitamin A  
  • Vitamin D  
  • Vitamin B12 

Eye Drops & Lubricants  

Using suitable eye drops before bed can help maintain moisture levels and protect your eyes overnight. You can find dry eye lubricants in several forms:  

  • Liquid drops  
  • Ointment  
  • Prescription formulations 

Sleep Hygiene

Practicing good sleep hygiene, such as regular sleep schedules, maintaining a properly humidified room, and avoiding screens during the time before bed, can make a significant difference to your rest.

Addressing Underlying Issues

The best way to manage dry eye long term is to prevent it from becoming a regular issue.  

Manage Your Health

Managing conditions that contribute to dry eye, like diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis, can help improve overall eye health. Talk to your optometrist about your overall health and medications to manage any potential side effects that can affect your eyes.   

Professional Care  

Regular eye exams and professional advice can help identify and manage other issues causing dry eye. Your optometrist can provide in-office and take-home treatments that offer lasting relief from your symptoms.  

  • BlephEx: An in-office eyelid and eyelash cleaner to remove bacteria buildup, makeup, and debris can improve healthy tear production.  
  • Meibomian gland expression and debridement: Your meibomian glands—the oil-producing glands—are critical for healthy tear evaporation. When the glands are blocked by hardened oil and debris, it causes dry eye. Gland expression and debridement can remove blockages to encourage fresh oil production.  
  • Warm compress masks, lid cleansers, nutritional supplements, and eye drops: You can find quality product recommendations from your optometrist to add to your daily eye care routine, like specialized cleansers and physician-grade supplements.  
  • Prescriptions: In severe dry eye and inflammation cases, your optometrist may prescribe eye drops or ointment when over-the-counter products aren’t enough.   
  • Inmode Intense Pulse Light and Radiofrequency: These in-office procedures can rejuvenate the meibomian glands and minimize inflammation that can be the causes of dry eye.

Find Dry Eye Treatment in Burlington

Dry eye upon waking can significantly impact your morning routine and daily comfort. By understanding the multifaceted issues leading to this discomfort and implementing the suggested solutions, you can enjoy clearer, more comfortable eyes throughout your day.  

While waking up with dry eye may be familiar, it’s not something you have to endure without seeking relief from the optometrists at MEye Health.  Schedule an appointment and take proactive steps to awaken to a fresh new day free from dryness.  

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