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Why Are My Eyes Dry When I Wake Up?

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A woman lying in bed rubbing her eyes with her hands.

Waking up with dry eyes can be frustrating. You deserve to start your day feeling refreshed and ready for anything, so feeling that irritating burning sensation can make things more difficult than they need to be. If you have ever wondered what may be causing your dry eyes, you are not alone.

Dry eyes in the morning can be caused by several potential factors, like allergies, environmental factors, or a reaction to certain medications. It can also be caused by underlying medical conditions, so if you constantly wake up with dry eyes, visit your optometrist to receive a proper diagnosis.

What Is Dry Eye?

When your eyes are healthy, all the individual parts work closely together to create your visual system. One important part of this system is your tear film. It helps to keep your eyes hydrated while being able to flush away debris and dust, and it does this all without changing how light enters your eye.

This tear film is made of three layers. There is the mucus, or mucin, layer that makes up the inner part of the tear film and keeps the tear securely attached to the surface of the eye. Then the water layer, which makes up most of the tear, helps flush away dust, dirt, and contaminants. Finally, there is the oil film, the outer layer that prevents the tear from evaporating while providing a smooth surface for light to travel through.

When the tear film is properly balanced, it lets the rest of your eye do its job. But when there is a problem with one of these three layers, something goes wrong. Suddenly, the eye is vulnerable, and the entire system becomes impacted. Inflammation, irritation, blurry vision—it all starts to develop because your tears are not doing their job. When this occurs, you have dry eye.

Dry Eye Symptoms

Dry eye is an extremely common eye condition. It often causes the tell-tale dryness that helped it earn its name. But it also often causes:

  • Stinging and burning sensation
  • Gritty feeling in the eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Light sensitivity
  • Excess tearing, as the eye tries to flood itself with tears that do not properly work
  • Redness and irritation

Many people find that these symptoms are often worse in the morning—typically when they wake up. So why does this happen?

What Can Cause Dry Eyes in the Morning?

Several factors can contribute to morning dry eyes. These include:

  • Allergies
  • Environmental factors
  • Medication
  • Underlying medical conditions


When your body has an allergic reaction, it can go into an overdrive state. Many different systems work hard to flush the allergen or contaminant away, which can cause a wide range of side effects.

The human eye is no exception. When you react to an allergen, you likely will experience irritation and inflammation around your eyes. This often causes dry eye to develop.

Environmental Factors

A dry and arid bedroom environment can worsen dry eyes in the morning. When you sleep, your eyes need to rest, regenerate, and prepare for the next day. But this process can be affected by:

  • Low humidity
  • Excessive air conditioning
  • Too much movement in the air (caused by a fan or other device)

It can help to make some environmental adjustments to try and reduce morning dry eye sensations. Try to use a humidifier where possible, and aim any air conditioners or fans away from your face.


Several medications can affect the production of your tear film. These include:

  • Antihistamines
  • Decongestants
  • Antidepressants
  • Some sleeping pills
  • Acne medication

If you take any medications and experience dry eyes in the morning, speak with your healthcare provider to see if there are any alternatives.

Underlying Medical Conditions

Sometimes, morning dry eye can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition. Remember: your eyes are an extremely sensitive part of your body, so when a condition is causing inflammation or strain, it can often cause dry eye to develop.

Common conditions known to cause dry eye include:

There is even a condition called nocturnal lagophthalmos, where your eyes do not fully close when you sleep. If you constantly experience dry eye and have any of these conditions—or believe you may—seek the advice of a healthcare professional.

Close-up of a woman undergoing a slit-lamp exam.

Dry Eye Treatment at Alcona Eye Care

At Alcona Eye Care Centre, we know how frustrating dry eye can be in the morning. Because of this, we offer various treatments and support to help manage symptoms and find you relief. Typically, our team will recommend:

  • Meibomian gland expression, which can help restore the function of your tear film by restoring the oils to prevent evaporation
  • Artificial tears and eye drops to provide temporary relief
  • Making environmental changes, like eye protection and adjusting your sleeping environment to be more comfortable on your eyes
  • Lid hygiene treatment, where we teach you to properly clean your eyelids to prevent inflammation and bacterial infections
  • Taking supplements to promote healthy tear production

With a combination of these strategies, we can help you manage your dry eyes and find the relief you deserve.

Get Help for Your Dry Eyes

If you struggle with dry eyes in the morning, our team is here to help. At Alcona Eye Care Centre, our dedicated eye care professionals will work with you to find appropriate treatment for your specific needs. Don’t let dry eyes disrupt your daily life—schedule an appointment with us today, and let us work together to find you relief.

Written by Alex Nwadozi

Dr. Alexander Nwadozi holds a medical and specialist degree in Ophthalmology from the University of Havana, Cuba. He went on to work as a consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon at the Anguilla Vision Centre in Anguilla, British West Indies.

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