Have you ever woken up in the morning with your eyelids stuck together? Some people get dry eyes at night; in this article, we explain why.
Why do our eyes become dry at night?
Some people unknowingly sleep with their eyes not fully closed. This means that the air can dry out the surface of the eyes and cause dry eye.
In addition, we don’t blink at night. Have you ever wondered why we blink? Blinking helps to hydrate the cornea by spreading out the tear film. It also stimulates the meibomian glands. These glands, which are located in the eyelids, produce the oil found in tears and maintain their lipid content. They therefore play an essential role in limiting tear evaporation.
Does tear production slow down at night?
When we sleep, our body goes through various cycles, including phases of deep and light sleep. During these phases, the body slows down its functions, including tear production. Tear production naturally decreases at night when the eyes are closed and at rest.
It is therefore a good idea to prevent dry eye in order to minimise the symptoms it can cause.
Why are our eyes crusty when we wake up?
We don’t blink when we are asleep, so the meibomian glands produce fewer lipids, whereas enzymes and mucus—which is secreted by the cells of the conjunctiva—remain active. These secretions are normally removed by blinking, but at night they do not drain away and instead harden, creating crusts at the corners of the eyes and sometimes on the eyelashes.
Tips to reduce dry eye at night
- Increase the humidity in the room by using an air humidifier. If you use heating or air conditioning, this can increase the risk of dry eye. If the humidity level is less than 30%, this can lead to an increase in dry eye. The ideal humidity level to limit the symptoms of dry eye is between 40% and 60%.
- Use a sleep mask. This will help prevent air from reaching your eyes if they are not completely closed. This can prevent your eyes drying out and stop your eyelids sticking together when you wake up. Using a sleep mask can help keep the eye surface moist by reducing the evaporation of natural tears.
- Use eye gels at night. These can help limit dry eye symptoms by providing prolonged hydration. They contain moisturising ingredients that adhere to the surface of the eye and keep the eyes hydrated for a longer period than traditional artificial tears.
- Remember to remove your contact lenses before sleeping. Sleeping with contact lenses is not recommended as this may increase the risk of eye infections and irritation. Contact lenses reduce the oxygen available to the eyes and use tears to remain hydrated. To avoid any risk, it is essential to remove them before going to bed and clean them properly.
- Don’t forget to remove all make-up before going to bed. This is an essential step in preventing dry eye, because make-up can cause irritation and clog up the glands that produce tears. If these glands are blocked, tear production will be even lower and you will be at greater risk of dry eye.
- Clean your eyelids daily. Secretions, oils/creams and bacteria can build up on the eyelids throughout the day, which can lead to eye problems such as infection, inflammation and dry eye. Any build-up on the eyelids can block the glands that produce tears, leading to dry eye.
You can find more tips in our article “Dry eye and preventative care”.
IF THE PROBLEM PERSISTS, SEE AN OPHTHALMOLOGIST.