LifestyleWhat Causes Dry Eyes at Night?

What Causes Dry Eyes at Night?

If you’ve ever laid awake at night, plagued by irritating sensations in your eyes, you’ve probably asked yourself, “why do I get dry eyes at night?” 

In this comprehensive article, we’ll delve into the possible causes of this discomfort. We will uncover how itchy, watery, red, and painful eyes might disrupt your evening sleep. 

But don’t worry – we’ll also guide you through ways to alleviate these symptoms and reclaim your peaceful nights. Keep reading as we unravel the mystery behind dry eyes at night.

The Underlying Mechanism of Dry Eyes

Before we delve into what causes dry eyes at night, we must understand the eye’s physiology. Your eyes naturally produce tears to remain moist. 

Tear production helps maintain vision and comfort. When your eyes don’t make enough tears or if the tears evaporate too quickly, it results in a condition known as dry eye syndrome.

Dry eye syndrome can manifest in various symptoms. Among the most common are itchy eyes. It’s a symptom associated with allergies but is also prevalent in dry eye syndrome. 

Another symptom is watery eyes, which may seem counterintuitive. But it is a common response to eye dryness. This is because your eyes may produce excessive tears to compensate for the underlying dryness.

Other symptoms of dry eye syndrome include red eyes, often caused by inflammation from dryness. Also, painful eyes are a direct consequence of the dryness itself. 

In some cases, dry eye syndrome can present itself as white, stringy mucus in eye. This can result from an imbalance in the composition of your tears.

Causes of Dry Eyes at Night

You may wonder why these symptoms, particularly dry eyes, worsen at night. Several reasons can explain this.

Reduced Blinking Rate

Our natural blinking rate decreases when relaxed or ready to sleep. Blinking is critical in spreading tears evenly across our eyes. 

So, a reduced blinking rate at night can lead to more prolonged exposure of the tear film to air. That causes faster evaporation and, thus, dry eyes.

Nocturnal lagophthalmos (Eye Condition)

A prevalent sleep-related condition called nocturnal lagophthalmos can cause dry eyes. This condition is where the eyes don’t fully close during sleep.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors also play a role. Spending the day in a dry, air-conditioned environment or exposure to screen light can dry out your eyes. This dryness can become more noticeable once you wind down and pay more attention to your bodily sensations.

Hormonal Changes

Another factor that might cause dry eyes, particularly noticeable at night, is hormonal changes. Hormones are crucial in producing tears. Any imbalance can affect their function. 

For instance, changes in estrogen and progesterone levels during menopause often result in dry eyes among women. Similarly, conditions like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), which impact hormone levels, can cause dry eyes.


As we age, the lacrimal glands’ ability to produce tears decreases, leading to a common condition called age-related dry eye. By the time individuals reach their 60s, tear production can be so reduced that dry eyes become a chronic issue. This problem can be pronounced when the body’s natural hydration processes slow down at night.

Side Effects of Medications

The side effects of certain medications can also cause dry eyes. Antihistamines, often used to manage allergies, are known to reduce tear production and can cause dry eyes. Certain blood pressure medications, antidepressants, and acne medications can have the same effect.

If you are using any of these medications and experiencing dry eyes at night, discussing this with your healthcare provider is essential. They can suggest alternative treatments or strategies to manage this side effect, such as using artificial tears or adjusting your medication regimen.

Remember, never stop taking prescribed medication without first consulting your healthcare provider.

The Link Between Dry Eyes and Eye Diseases

While dry eyes at night might seem trivial, it can indicate underlying eye diseases. Chronic dry eyes have been linked to various conditions. One is Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disorder where your immune system attacks the glands that make tears and saliva, leading to severe dry eyes.

Blepharitis, an inflammation of the eyelids, can also cause dry eyes. The inflammation disrupts the normal functioning of the Meibomian glands (glands on the eyelids that secrete the oily part of tears), affecting the tear film’s quality.

Dry eyes can also be a symptom of keratoconjunctivitis sicca. The eyes do not produce enough tears in this severe dry eye syndrome. That can lead to inflammation and possible damage to the eye’s surface.

Managing and Treating Dry Eyes at Night

If dry eyes at night disrupt your life, several approaches exist to manage and treat this condition. Over-the-counter artificial tears can provide immediate, though temporary, relief. Prescription medications like anti-inflammatory drugs can also help by addressing the root cause of the dryness.

For environmental causes, using a humidifier at night can help maintain moisture in the air and thus reduce eye dryness. If screen exposure is the issue, follow the 20-20-20 rule; every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

If you suspect an underlying condition or symptoms persist despite these measures, seek professional medical advice. An ophthalmologist can conduct an in-depth evaluation. They can also provide more specific treatment, such as punctual plugs, therapies, or surgery.

Your Eyes Deserve Care

Understanding the root causes behind your dry eyes at night, from hormonal changes to medication side effects, is the first step in finding effective remedies. If you’ve tried various self-care measures and still suffer, it might be time to consult an eye care professional.

Thank you for taking the time to inform yourself about this common but disruptive issue. We hope this article has shed some light on the subject. We encourage you to continue exploring our other blog posts for valuable health insights.

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