Why Do My Dry Eyes Feel Worse in the Morning?

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If you suffer from dry eye syndrome, you may notice that your eyes feel much worse in the morning after sleeping all night. You’d think they’d feel better after resting, but that’s not the case. At Brill Eye Center, we study dry eyes and we’re here to clear up that mystery.

What Happens at Night

A lack of adequate tears, tear evaporation, poor eyelid function, or an imbalance in tear composition can all be causes of Dry Eye. The Meibomian glands in our eyelids provide the oily layer that prevents rapid tear evaporation. If these glands are not functioning properly or are obstructed, the quality of our tears can be compromised. Aging, medical conditions like diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid disorders, certain medications, and tear gland damage are also contributors to this uncomfortable condition.

Related Read: Do You Have Dry Eye Syndrome? Signs to Look For

Nocturnal Lagophthalmos

Many patients don’t know it, but they sleep with their eyelids partially open. If you wake up with pain, scratchiness, the sensation there is something in your eye or mucous discharge, it could be caused by Nocturnal Lagophthalmos. Because the eyelid does not close completely, it allows the tears in your eyes to dry out, making them feel uncomfortable. It’s tricky to diagnose because you can’t watch yourself as you are sleeping to see if your lids are partially open. We can perform tests to see if this is the cause of your irritation. Thyroid disease, Graves’ disease, facial palsies, Bell’s Palsy, and tumors can all be possible contributors to this condition, so it’s important to get it properly diagnosed.

Related Read: Dry Eye Syndrome – The Sneakiest Eye Disease We Know

Your Body Changes While You Sleep

Typically when we sleep our eyes close and form a seal giving the ocular surface time to recover. But for some who already suffer from problems with tear production, the way the body functions during sleep can make a bad problem even worse. As we sleep, our metabolism slows down. This, and the fact that we don’t blink while we sleep can lead to a decrease in tear production in an already irritated eye.

Environmental Things to Avoid at Night

Our indoor environment can also be a factor for waking up with dry, itchy eyes. Allergens in the bedroom or specifically in the bedding and around the bed can dry out your eyes and cause redness. Sleeping directly in front of a fan or under a heating or air vent can also exacerbate the condition.

A Diagnostic Evaluation Will Determine What’s Causing Your Dry Eyes

Over-the-counter eye drops may help alleviate symptoms by temporarily lubricating eyes. But for ongoing conditions (which many sufferers experience), proper diagnosis and treatment will give you better relief of dry eyes by treating the root cause rather than just the symptoms. We can perform an evaluation called LipiView. LipiView is a diagnostic procedure that uses a high-tech ophthalmic imaging device to capture and store digital images of the tear film lipid layer, Meibomian oil glands, ocular surface, and eyelid seal.

If you need dry eye care or a professional and experienced eye doctor in Overland Park, KS or the Kansas City metro area, Brill Eye Center is here for you.


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