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5 Reasons Why You’re Waking Up With Dry Eye

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A young man lying in bed rubbing his eyes with his hands.

Waking up with dry, irritated eyes is one of the worst ways to start the day. Several dry eye relief options are available, but finding peace from your symptoms is difficult if you don’t know the underlying cause. Understanding the root cause of your dry eye symptoms is the key to finding an effective treatment.

Experiencing dry eye symptoms when you wake up can be caused by sleeping with your eyes partially open, your bedroom environment, eyelid issues, hormonal changes, and digital device use. When you visit your optometrist for an eye exam, they can assess your ocular surface, discuss your symptoms, and identify the reasons for your eye irritation.

Waking Up With Dry Eye

Various causes, from behavioural to medical, can cause you to wake up with dry eyes.

Sleeping With Your Eyes Partially Open

Believe it or not, many people sleep with their eyes partially open. Medically known as nocturnal lagophthalmos, it’s typically caused by a problem related to weakness or paralysis in the muscles or nerves in the face. This can result from:

  • Bell’s palsy
  • Stroke
  • Trauma
  • Neuromuscular diseases
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Infections

When your eyes are not fully closed, you are more likely to experience dry eye because your tears evaporate too quickly—sleeping with your eyes partially open leaves your eye’s surface vulnerable to damage or scratches.

Your Bedroom Environment

The environment in your bedroom can also play a significant role in causing dry eye. Air conditioning, ceiling fans, and heaters can cause the air to become dry and pull the moisture out of your eyes while you sleep.

A humidifier restores moisture to the air, reduces dryness, and improves tear film health.

Eyelid Issues

Another common cause of dry eye is eyelid issues. When your eyelids do not function properly, you may experience a decrease in tear production, contributing to dry eye.

Some eyelid issues that may lead to dry eye include blepharitis, which is the inflammation of the eyelids, and meibomian gland dysfunction, which prevents the gland in your eyelids from producing enough oil to prevent your tears from evaporating too quickly.

Hormonal Changes

People may experience dry eye during pregnancy, breastfeeding, menopause, and hormone replacement therapy due to hormonal fluctuations in the body. These changes can decrease tear quality and production.

Additionally, hormonal birth control and other medications may also cause dry eye as a side effect.

Digital Devices

Computers, tablets, and smartphones can contribute to dry eye symptoms. People tend to blink less when using digital devices, which can cause tears to evaporate quickly. Eye strain and fatigue that come from screen use habits can worsen dry eye symptoms.

Limit leisure time on your phone, tablet, or computer to promote healthy screen use. Maintain proper posture, take frequent breaks from your screens, and spend time outdoors.

Dry Eye Treatments & Remedies

You can find relief from dry eye with at-home remedies or in-office treatments for long-term results.

Eye Drops & Ointments

Lubricating eye drops are a versatile and simple method to relieve dry eye symptoms quickly. Ointments and gels are slightly thicker formulations, making them an ideal product to use overnight to wake up with refreshed eyes.

Eyelid Cleaners

Hygiene is critical in eye care, but it’s not just about washing your hands. Proper eyelid hygiene can prevent and treat blepharitis, which is closely linked to dry eye.

Omega-3 Supplements

Omega-3 fatty acids can help soothe inflammation and support healthy oil production. Many people don’t eat enough fish to get the recommended intake of omega-3, but not all supplements are the same. PRN omega-3 is a purified form of the supplement that provides the benefits without the synthetics for easy absorption.

Eye Masks

Warm compress masks can provide moist heat to relieve discomfort, support oil gland dysfunction, and stabilize the tear film. They also ease irritation from eye fatigue, digital eye strain, or contact lens discomfort.


LipiFlow is an in-office treatment that uses gentle heat and pressure to treat dry eye caused by meibomian gland dysfunction. It stimulates healthy tear production and removes oil blockages to relieve dry eye symptoms.

Intense Pulsed Light Therapy

Intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy is an in-office treatment that uses precise light wavelengths to warm the meibomian glands, melt away oil blockages, and reduce inflammation. Once the glands are free to produce healthy, fresh oil, you’ll experience improved lubrication.

IPL is also an effective treatment for aesthetic skin concerns, including ocular rosacea and spider veins.

A male optometrist using a medical device to examine the eyes of a female patient and look for potential eye problems.

Achieve Long-Lasting Dry Eye Relief

Dry eye may be common, but you don’t have to suffer through the symptoms. The team at See & Be Seen Eyecare can offer guidance on treatments to manage or eliminate your symptoms. Whether you’re seeking at-home remedies or long-term solutions, schedule an eye exam for an assessment and treatment.

Written by Dr. Ritesh Patel

Some people grow up wanting to be a famous athlete, an astronaut, or even the Prime Minister of Canada. Dr. Patel’s childhood ambition was to be an Optometrist. His dream leads him to live and practice all over the world, but his heart has always been in Toronto.

Dr. Patel was born in Toronto and grew up in the Markham area. After completing his Bachelor of Science in 2003 from the University of Waterloo, he went on to study at the prestigious New England College of Optometry in Boston, MA.

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