What causes dry eyes at night?

Having dry eyes at night can be a real pain, particularly when it stops you from getting a good night’s rest. But knowing what can cause late night dry eyes can help you to prevent it, and get the sleep you need for the day ahead.

Keep reading to learn more.

Why do my eyes itch at night?

There are lots of reasons why your eyes can feel itchy and irritated at night, but it is most commonly down to one of two causes: either an irritant is present, or you have dry eyes.[1]

When we say irritant, this can refer to a number of things. Hay fever is a common cause of itchy eyes, where pollen gets into your eyes and makes them feel painful and watery.[2] You might also get itchy eyes from things like cleaning products, make up, skin creams and hair products getting into your eyes. On top of that, if you’ve been swimming in a pool or in the sea, the chlorine or salt could act as an irritant as well.

If you suspect this is the case, it’s a good idea to try rinsing your eyes with an eye bath and sterile water. This might shift the irritants to give you relief from the pain and discomfort, allowing you to get to sleep. If you don’t have an eye shower or eye bath to hand, you could try having a shower or washing your face with clean, non-soapy water. Using cold water can at least give you relief from the warm, inflamed skin that often comes with itchy eyes. Additionally, if you’ve got any chemicals in your eyes and washing them doesn’t provide relief, then you should seek medical attention.[3]

If dry eyes are your problem, then there is an even simpler solution. TheraTears® Overnight Eye Drops are made with hyaluronic acid to restore the moisture in your eyes as you sleep, helping to rejuvenate you ready for the morning. Just apply the eye drops as part of your regular bedtime routine and let them get to work. And while your eye drops soothe the problem in the short term, it’s a good idea to find out what’s causing your night-time dry eyes.

Can lack of sleep cause dry eyes?

One thing that can cause dry eyes at night is not getting enough sleep, which can be very frustrating if dry eyes are what’s keeping you awake. Perhaps you had one night of poor sleep due to worrying about a presentation at work, for example, and ever since you’ve been plagued by dry eyes and sleepless nights. It’s annoying, but fortunately you can do something about it.

The overall goal, of course, is to get more or better sleep. Do whatever you need to in order to relax before bed – make sure the room is dark, at a comfortable temperature and quiet enough to let you drop off. You might benefit from a relaxing bedtime routine that involves lavender oils or whale music – whatever works for you. And don’t forget to use eye drops to hydrate your eyes and make it easier to get some restful sleep. By breaking the cycle of insomnia, you should hopefully start to see a reduction in dry eye symptoms soon.[4]

Can a fan dry your eyes out while sleeping?

Sometimes, though, it’s the conditions of your bedroom that are causing your dry eyes. You might not realise it, but fans (whether they’re the smaller, plug-in types or full-size ceiling fans) can dry out your eyes while you sleep, leaving your eyes feeling tired and itchy. Unfortunately, the same effects can be felt with air conditioning and natural breezes from an open window, so what can you do?

Well, if you can stand to sleep in an unventilated room, that’s one option. Just remember to open the windows when you wake up to get some fresh air in. But if you need that breeze or cool air to help you sleep, then don’t forego it. Consider alternative solutions such as angling your face away from the draught, or wearing an eye mask to keep your eyes protected while you sleep.[5]

As we’ve mentioned, irritants and dry eyes are the two most common reasons why you might have itchy eyes at night, but there are other potential causes that may need addressing. If your itchy eyes continue for a week or two without letting up, it’s a good idea to consult your optometrist who can help you to find out if there’s an underlying condition causing your symptoms.


[1] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dry-eyes/

[2] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hay-fever/

[3] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/eye-injuries/

[4] https://www.guidedogs.org.uk/getting-support/information-and-advice/eye-health/tired-eyes/

[5] Gauba, Vinod, and Zoe J Curtis. “Sleep position and the ocular surface in a high airflow environment.” Saudi journal of ophthalmology : official journal of the Saudi Ophthalmological Society vol. 28,1 (2014): 66-8. doi:10.1016/j.sjopt.2013.12.002 Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3923194/



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Dr Simon Cooper

Dr Simon Cooper

Working with the TheraTears marketing team, as well as with a number of other Prestige Brands, Dr Simon Cooper brings extensive knowledge and experience in a number of key areas. With a PhD in biochemistry from the University of Cambridge, and before that a BA in biological sciences from the University of Oxford, he brings immense technical expertise.

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