Willoughby Doctors of Optometry
130, 20728 Willoughby Town Centre Dr Langley Twp BC V2Y 0P3 (604) 371-1214
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(604) 256-7681

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Langley, BC

What Causes Dry Eyes While Sleeping?

A little boy sleeping with his eyes half open can cause a dry eyes.

Do you have dry, tired, or gritty eyes when you wake up? If this sounds familiar, you may have dry eye.

Having dry eyes in the morning can ruin a good night’s sleep and leave you feeling tired even after a full 8 hours. Fortunately, understanding what’s causing your symptoms is one of the first steps toward relieving your dry eye.

Dry eyes while sleeping at night can be caused by medical conditions, lack of tear production, medications, and low humidity in your room. If you’re waking up with dry eyes, make sure you get an eye exam so your optometrist can determine why you experience dry eye at night.

Dry Eye Disease

Dry eye disease affects 1 out of every 5 people. It can happen when tears are insufficiently produced or evaporate too quickly, and one or both eyes can be affected. Healthy tears are composed of 3 components:

  • Water
  • Oil
  • Mucus

An issue with any of these layers may lead to dry eye disease, but treatments are available. More severe cases may call for prescription medication, whereas milder cases may be treated with over-the-counter medications like artificial tears.

There are 2 main types of dry eye disease that can affect you separately or simultaneously.

Aqueous Deficiency

Aqueous deficiency happens when the lacrimal glands produce less of the aqueous, or water, layer of tears. It is responsible for one-tenth of dry eye disease.

Evaporative Dry Eye

Evaporative dry eye happens when there is a blockage of the meibomian glands, reducing the quality of the oil layer of the tears. This lack of oil causes the tears to evaporate too quickly to properly moisturize the eyes.

Many factors can cause the meibomian glands to become clogged. If you don’t blink often enough, debris can build up on the edge of your eyelids, clogging the meibomian glands. Concentrating hard on a computer screen, driving, or reading can all cause you to blink less frequently.

Depending on the type and severity of your dry eye, you may experience a variety of symptoms. Some of the most common dry eye symptoms are:

  • Burning, or aching eyes
  • A gritty feeling or feeling like something is in your eye 
  • Blurred vision
  • Mucus in or around the eyes
  • Abnormally watery eyes
  • Discomfort when wearing contact lenses
  • Fatigued eyes

Dry Eyes When Sleeping

Why do some people’s dry eye symptoms get worse at night? Several factors can cause your eyes to feel sandy, dry, or as if they’re burning in the morning, including:

  • Nocturnal lagophthalmos
  • Insufficient tear production at night
  • Medications
  • Low humidity in your room

Nocturnal Lagophthalmos

Nocturnal lagophthalmos is an inability to fully close your eyelids while sleeping. The eyelids may appear to close, but they don’t form a seal that keeps moisture in. It can be brought on by:

Insufficient Tear Production at Night

If you don’t produce enough tears at night, you won’t be able to flush the substances that can cause inflammation from your eyes while sleeping.

Tear production can decrease with age, due to certain medical conditions, or as a side effect of certain medications.


Certain prescriptions and over-the-counter medications can cause dry eyes while you sleep. These are some examples:

A young women is drinking a glass of water before sleeping.

Low Humidity in Your Room

If you’ve never seemed to have dry eyes before, it could be due to a lack of humidity in the air. In many parts of Canada, during the winter, the air becomes much drier, magnifying the symptoms of dry eye disease.

How to Prevent Dry Eye During Sleep

Tips and tricks for preventing dry eye while you sleep are determined by the cause of your symptoms. To receive personalized advice, you should discuss your dry eye symptoms during your routine eye exam or at a separate visit. However, you can begin with these tips to avoid waking up with dry eyes:

  • Stay hydrated, drink lots of water
  • Use a humidifier to put moisture back into the air
  • Clean your eyelids to remove excess bacteria
  • Use eye drops during the day and at night to keep your eyes moist
  • Remove contact lenses before sleep, if you wear them
  • Use a warm compress on your eyes before bed to promote healthy tears
  • Use ointments or artificial tear gels, as recommended by your eye doctor

Ask Your Optometrist for Help with Dry Eyes

Waking up with dry eyes can diminish the refreshing feeling of a good night’s sleep. Thankfully, there are some home remedies for dry eye discomfort, such as applying a warm compress and washing your eyelids, as well as staying hydrated, and putting moisture back into the air in your room with a humidifier.

Make an appointment with Willoughby Doctors of Optometry if your discomfort lasts more than a few days. We can perform a thorough assessment and make treatment recommendations that may be more effective than home remedies.

Our Practice

We would love to meet you in person.

Drop by our office and say hello. We require 24 hrs notice for cancelled appointments or a reasonable $50 no show fee will apply.

Willoughby Doctors of Optometry

130 - 20728 Willoughby Town Centre
Langley, BC V2Y 0P3

Contact Information

Phone: 604-371-1214
Fax: 604-371-1215
Email: [email protected]

Clinic Hours

Monday 9:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Tuesday 9:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Wednesday 9:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Thursday 9:00 AM - 7:30 PM
Friday 9:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Saturday 9:00 AM - 3:00 PM
Sundays Closed

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