Dry eyes at night may be caused by too much screen time, taking certain medications, and some health conditions, among others. Treatments may include natural remedies or medications.

Nighttime dry eye can cause significant discomfort, including burning, itching, and blurry vision.

It’s estimated that nearly 16 million people in the United States are affected with dry eye.

Keep reading to learn more about the causes and treatment methods for dry eye.

The eye has three layers of tear film: fatty oils, aqueous fluid, and mucus. Together, these help protect, lubricate, and preserve the health of your eye.

Dry eye may be caused by tear film instability or tear deficiency, which is when there aren’t enough tears to moisturize the eye. This may happen due to:

  • reduced tear production
  • poor quality of tears
  • tears evaporating too quickly

Here are some common risk factors for why you might be experiencing dry eyes at night:

  • Age: Most people over the age of 65 years experience some symptoms of dry eye.
  • Hormonal changes: Pregnancy, contraception use, and menopause can make it harder for your body to produce tears.
  • Health conditions: Some conditions may cause dry eyes, such as Sjögren’s syndrome, glaucoma, diabetes, and thyroid issues.
  • Nocturnal lagophthalmos: People with this condition don’t fully close their eyelids at night. This prevents a seal from forming to hold in moisture.
  • Medication: Certain medications may cause dry eyes as a side effect. These may include some antihistamines and antidepressants.
  • Screen time: Spending lots of time in front of your computer or smartphone reduces your blink rate. This may cause eye strain and dry eye.
  • Contact lens use: Wearing lenses for too long during the day can make dry eye more pronounced at night.
  • Vitamin deficiencies: Some nutritional deficiencies in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A, D, and B12 may also lead to dry eyes.

Speak with a healthcare professional if you have nighttime or early morning dry eye symptoms. They’ll assess the cause of your dry eyes and help develop a treatment plan that’s right for you.

They may recommend over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription remedies, such as:

  • Artificial tears: These eye drops are the most common first-line treatment for dry eyes. They work by moisturizing your eye.
  • Ointment or artificial tear gels: These help promote eye moisture and can offer longer relief than drops, but they may cause blurry vision. Use only a small amount of ointment at night to minimize this blurry effect.
  • Prescription medications: Some medications may help reduce inflammation or increase tear production, including cyclosporine (Restasis), lifitegrast (Xiidra), perfluorohexyloctane (Miebo), and varenicline (Tyrvaya).
  • Plugging your tear ducts: Dry eye may be caused by tear ducts draining moisture too quickly. In this case, a doctor may recommend blocking your tear ducts with plugs to retain your natural tears.
  • Surgery: You may require surgery if your natural tears are draining too quickly due to loose eyelids.

Some home remedies and lifestyle changes may help relieve your symptoms of dry eyes at night.

  • Avoid environmental irritants: Wear sunglasses outside to protect your eyes from smoke, wind, and dry air.
  • Use a humidifier: Adding moisture to the air in your bedroom may help with nighttime dry eye.
  • Reduce screen time: Take frequent breaks and blink often. Place your screen slightly below your line of vision.
  • Change your eyewear: If you wear contacts, try switching to glasses.
  • Stay hydrated: This helps your body have enough water to function properly and promote tear film.
  • Clean the eyelids: Apply a small amount of eyelid cleanser to your fingertips and wash around the base of your eyelashes while your eyes are closed. Or, apply a warm washcloth to your eyes.
  • Consume vitamins and minerals: Ensuring you get enough vitamins A, D, and B12 and omega-3 fatty acids may help ease dry eye symptoms. You can also speak with a healthcare professional about supplements.
  • Try acupuncture therapy: Some people have found that acupuncture helps reduce dry eye symptoms.

Experiencing dry eyes at night from time to time is common. However, persistent nighttime dry eye can signal a more serious health condition.

Speak with a doctor if you regularly experience dry eye and lifestyle changes and artificial tears don’t help.

They may suggest further testing or refer you to an optometrist for a more in-depth assessment.

Why do my eyes get dry and blurry at night?

You may experience dry eyes and blurry vision at night for a number of reasons, including:

  • wearing contact lenses for too long
  • spending too much time in front of a screen
  • being exposed to allergens and environmental irritants
  • side effects of taking certain medications

What is the best way to sleep with dry eyes?

A 2017 study found that sleeping on your back alongside other treatments may help reduce your symptoms of dry eye.

Nighttime dry eye has many causes. A doctor can help find the reason behind your symptoms. Taking breaks from your screen, wearing glasses instead of contacts, and using artificial tears may help reduce dry eye symptoms.

If you continue to have dry eyes after making these lifestyle changes, talk with a doctor. Medications may be necessary to provide long-term relief.

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