Tips for Dry Eyes at Night: Info and Strategies for Relief

03 Mar 2024, by

Dr. Lusine Badalian

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Dry eyes at night affect countless individuals, disrupting sleep and compromising eye health. This condition arises from various factors, such as environmental influences, screen use before bedtime, and certain health conditions. 

Remarkably, the National Eye Institute reports that nearly 16 million Americans suffer from dry eye, highlighting the widespread nature of this issue. Effective management and prevention strategies are essential for those seeking relief. By understanding the underlying causes, implementing practical treatments, and adopting preventive measures, individuals can significantly improve their quality of life and eye comfort during nighttime hours.

Dry eyes at night

Causes of Dry Eyes at Night

Understanding what causes dry eyes at night is crucial for finding effective relief. Various factors contribute to this uncomfortable condition, each affecting the eyes differently.

Environmental Factors

One of the primary culprits behind dry eyes at night involves environmental conditions. Dry air, especially in winter months or in air-conditioned rooms, can significantly reduce the moisture level in your eyes. This is particularly relevant for those who experience dry eyes at night only, as these conditions are often more pronounced when indoor heating or cooling systems are used extensively during sleeping hours.

Tip: Use a humidifier in your bedroom to add moisture to the air, helping to keep your eyes lubricated throughout the night.

Screen Use Before Bed

In today's digital age, the use of screens before bedtime is almost inevitable. Extended screen time leads to reduced blink rates, which can exacerbate eye dryness. This is a common reason for waking up with dry eyes, as the effects of reduced blinking can continue into the night.

Tip: Implement a digital curfew an hour before bed to minimize screen exposure and give your eyes a rest.

Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions, such as autoimmune diseases or hormonal changes, can also lead to dry eyes. These conditions affect the body's ability to produce tears, leading to dryness not only at night but potentially throughout the day as well.

Tip: Regular check-ups with a healthcare provider can help manage underlying conditions that contribute to dry eyes.


Some medications have side effects that include dry eyes. Antihistamines, decongestants, and some blood pressure medications are common culprits.

Tip: If you suspect your medication is causing dry eyes, consult with your doctor for possible alternatives or adjustments.

Risk Factors for Dry Eyes at Night

Certain individuals may be more prone to experiencing dry eyes at night, due to various risk factors. Understanding these can help in adopting preventive measures effectively.

  • Age: Older adults are more likely to suffer from dry eyes due to natural decreases in tear production with age.
  • Gender: Women are at higher risk, especially due to hormonal changes related to pregnancy, use of oral contraceptives, and menopause.
  • Diet: A diet lacking in essential fatty acids can impair tear production. Including omega-3 fatty acids in your diet can help improve eye health.
  • Lifestyle Choices: Smokers and those frequently exposed to smoke are more likely to experience eye dryness.
  • Health Conditions: People with diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid disorders are at increased risk.
  • Contact Lens Use: Long-term use of contact lenses can contribute to eye dryness, particularly when worn overnight.


By understanding the causes and risk factors for dry eyes at night, you can take proactive steps to mitigate this condition. Implementing small changes in your daily routine, such as reducing screen time before bed and using a humidifier, can make a significant difference in improving eye comfort and health.

Next, we will explore the complications that can arise from untreated dry eyes and the treatment options available to manage this condition effectively.

Complications of Dry Eyes at Night

Neglecting symptoms of dry eyes, especially when they occur predominantly at night, can lead to several complications, impacting both eye health and overall quality of life.

  • Increased Risk of Infections: The tear film protects the eyes from infections. Dry eyes compromise this defense, increasing the risk of eye infections.
  • Damage to the Eye Surface: Persistent dryness can lead to inflammation, abrasion of the corneal surface, and even ulcers, which could result in scarring.
  • Vision Problems: Severe dry eyes can affect the quality of vision, making it difficult to perform daily tasks, such as reading or driving, particularly if waking up with dry eyes.


Understanding these potential complications underscores the importance of addressing dry eye symptoms promptly.

Treatment for Dry Eyes at Night

Effective management of dry eyes at night involves a combination of treatments tailored to the severity of the condition and the underlying causes.

Over-the-Counter Solutions

  • Artificial Tears: For mild cases of dry eyes, over-the-counter artificial tear solutions can provide immediate relief.
  • Eye Ointments: Thicker lubricants can be used at night to help maintain moisture during sleep.

Prescription Medications

For more severe cases, prescription eye drops that increase tear production or reduce inflammation may be recommended by your healthcare provider.

Specialized Treatments

  • Punctal Plugs: A minor procedure to block tear ducts, preventing tear loss.
  • Light Therapy and Eyelid Massage: A combination therapy that helps to relieve dry eye symptoms by unclogging oil glands in the eyelids.

Lifestyle Adjustments and Home Remedies

  • Blink Regularly: When using digital devices, remember to take frequent breaks and blink often to refresh your eyes.
  • Stay Hydrated: Increasing water intake helps maintain overall hydration and supports eye moisture.


For those unsure about their symptoms or seeking to understand more about potential underlying causes, an online tool like Symptom Checker offers a valuable resource. It can guide you toward identifying your condition and deciding when to seek professional advice.

Prevention of Dry Eyes at Night

Preventing dry eyes, particularly at night, involves both lifestyle changes and environmental adjustments.

  • Reduce Screen Time Before Bed: Limit exposure to digital screens to prevent eye strain and dryness.
  • Humidify Your Environment: Use a humidifier in your bedroom to add moisture to the air, helping keep your eyes lubricated.
  • Dietary Adjustments: Incorporate foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help increase tear production and improve eye health.
  • Proper Eyecare Hygiene: Regularly clean your eyelids to remove any debris or bacteria that could contribute to dryness.
  • Protect Your Eyes: Wear sunglasses on sunny or windy days to protect your eyes from harsh conditions.


By adopting these preventative measures, you can significantly reduce the risk of developing dry eyes at night and ensure your eyes remain healthy and comfortable.

Key Takeaways

  • Dry eyes at night can be caused by environmental factors, screen use before bed, certain medical conditions, and medications.
  • Risk factors include age, gender, diet, lifestyle choices, health conditions, and contact lens use.
  • Untreated dry eyes can lead to complications such as increased risk of infections, damage to the eye surface, and vision problems.
  • Treatment options range from over-the-counter solutions and prescription medications to specialized treatments and lifestyle adjustments.
  • Preventative measures include reducing screen time before bed, using a humidifier, dietary adjustments, proper eyecare hygiene, and protecting your eyes from harsh environments.
  • Utilizing resources like the Docus AI Symptom Checker can help identify symptoms and guide when to seek professional advice.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I do to prevent waking up with dry eyes?

Ensuring your bedroom's air is moist with a humidifier, using eye ointments prescribed by your healthcare provider before bed, and managing any underlying health issues can help prevent this condition. Additionally, if you use digital devices before bed, limiting screen time can also reduce the risk.

How to stop dry eyes at night?

To stop dry eyes at night, consider implementing several strategies:

1. Use artificial tears or eye ointments before bedtime to keep your eyes lubricated.

2. Install a humidifier in your bedroom to increase moisture in the air.

3. Practice good eyelid hygiene to remove irritants and reduce inflammation.

4. Make dietary changes to include more omega-3 fatty acids, which can improve tear quality.

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