Dry Eyes at Night Symptoms, Causes & Treatments
What are Dry Eyes?
Dry eye syndrome, also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, is a condition that occurs when the eyes do not produce enough tears or when the quality of tears is poor.
Tears are essential for the eyes’ health as they lubricate and nourish the eye’s surface, protect against infections, and provide clear vision. When there is a deficiency in tear production or quality, the eyes can become dry, itchy, and irritated.
Symptoms of Dry Eyes at Night
Dry eyes can cause various symptoms at night, including:
- A gritty, scratchy, itchy or burning sensation in the eyes
- Redness of the eyes
- Blurry vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Watery eyes (paradoxically, dry eyes can also cause excessive tearing)
- Difficulty wearing contact lenses
- Eye fatigue
- Discomfort at night, particularly when trying to fall asleep.
“Tears are essential for the eyes’ health as they lubricate and nourish the eye’s surface, protect against infections, and provide clear vision”
Causes of Dry Eyes at Night
As we age, our eyes produce fewer tears and become less effective at lubricating the eyes. This can lead to dryness, itchiness, and discomfort.
Exposure to dry air, wind, or air conditioning can dry out the eyes and cause irritation. Similarly, exposure to smoke, dust or other irritants can lead to dryness and discomfort.
Certain medications, such as antihistamines, antidepressants, and blood pressure medications, can cause dryness of the eyes as a side effect.
Several conditions can cause dry eyes at night, including rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren's syndrome, Thyroid disorders, Lupus, Diabetes, Vitamin A deficiency, Rosacea, Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), Stevens-Johnson syndrome, Bell's palsy, Parkinson's disease, HIV/AIDS, Multiple sclerosis, Chronic fatigue syndrome, Sarcoidosis, Scleroderma, Amyloidosis, Lymphoma, Leukemia.
Hormonal changes during menopause, perimenopause or pregnancy can cause changes in tear production and lead to dry eyes.
Contact lenses can reduce the amount of oxygen that reaches the eyes and cause dryness, especially if worn for an extended period.
People staring at computer screens for long periods tend to blink less frequently, leading to dry eyes.
Certain structural abnormalities of the eyelids, such as ectropion or entropion, can cause dryness of the eyes.
LASIK surgery can cause dryness of the eyes as a side effect. Still, the symptoms are usually temporary and resolve over time.
How to Prevent Dry Eyes at Night
Preventing dry eyes at night requires adopting healthy eye habits and environmental changes. Some of the strategies that can help prevent dry eyes include:
- Maintain good eye hygiene: Wash your eyes regularly with warm water and a gentle cleanser to remove debris and bacteria that can contribute to dry eyes.
- Blink regularly: Blinking helps spread tears across the eye’s surface, preventing dryness.
- Use lubricating drops & sprays: preservative-free and with a high viscosity - like the MTHK Eye Drops.
How to Prevent Dry Eyes at Night (cont.)
- Use a humidifier: Sleeping in a room with a humidifier can help to increase the humidity levels, reducing dryness.
- Take breaks from screen time: To prevent eye strain and dryness, take breaks from screen time every 20 minutes and look away from the screen.
- Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated can help to maintain moisture in the eyes.
- Avoid exposure to irritants: Smoke, dust, and other irritants can cause dry eyes. Use protective eyewear, such as goggles, when exposed to irritants.
“Hormonal changes during menopause, perimenopause or pregnancy can cause changes in tear production and lead to dry eyes”
Why is Dry Eye Worse at Night?
Blinking is essential for spreading tears across the surface of the eyes and keeping them moist. People blink less frequently when they sleep, leading to decreased tear production and increased dryness.
The body’s natural production of tears typically decreases at night, leading to increased dryness and discomfort.
Sleeping with your eyes partially open can cause tears to evaporate quickly, resulting in dryness. Also, sleeping on your side or stomach can cause fluids to accumulate around the eyes and lead to increased dryness.
The air in the bedroom may be drier than in other house areas because of central heating or air conditioning. Also, ceiling fans can create a draft that can dry out the eyes.
Some people may be exposed to irritants in their bedrooms, such as dust, pet dander, or allergens, which can trigger dry eye symptoms.
Certain medications can cause dry eyes as a side effect, and the symptoms can worsen at night.
“People usually blink about 18 times a minute. But they blink 6 times a minute on digital screens, increasing the chance of developing dry eyes.”
Home Remedies for Dry Eyes at Night
Applying a warm compress to the eyes can help to loosen clogged oil glands and promote tear production.
Increasing your intake of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish, flaxseed, and walnuts, can help to reduce inflammation and improve tear quality.
Over-the-counter, preservative-free artificial tears (eye sprays and drops) can help to lubricate the eyes and alleviate dryness. Some artificial tears are designed for use at night and can provide longer-lasting relief - like the MTHK Eye Drops (they have a higher viscosity than other drops).
Massaging the eyelids can help to promote the secretion of natural oils that help to lubricate the eyes.
Keep fans and air conditioners pointed away from the face to prevent dryness.
Treatments for Dry Eyes at Night
If home remedies do not provide relief, several treatments are available to manage dry eyes at night, including:
- Prescription eye drops: Your doctor may prescribe eye drops that contain medications such as cyclosporine, which can help to increase tear production.
- Punctal plugs: These tiny devices are inserted into the tear ducts to block drainage, helping to keep the eyes moist.
Treatments for Dry Eyes at Night (cont.)
- Steroid eye drops: In cases of severe inflammation, your doctor may prescribe steroid eye drops to reduce inflammation and promote tear production.
- Meibomian gland expression: This procedure involves applying pressure to the eyelids to express the natural oils that lubricate the eyes.
- Scleral lenses: These special contact lenses cover a larger area of the eye, providing prolonged relief from dryness.
- LipiFlow: This non-invasive procedure uses heat and gentle pressure to unblock clogged oil glands, restoring natural tear production.
“When there is a deficiency in tear production or quality, the eyes can become dry, itchy, and irritated”
Dry eyes at night can be frustrating and uncomfortable, but several treatments and lifestyle changes can help alleviate symptoms. You can manage dry eyes at home by adopting healthy eye habits, increasing omega-3 intake, and using Eye Drops and Eye Sprays.
However, if symptoms persist or worsen, seeking medical attention from an ophthalmologist or eye specialist is essential to determine the underlying cause and get appropriate treatment.