If you have dry eye syndrome, you might assume that nighttime offers a reprieve from your uncomfortable symptoms because you are finally able to rest. In fact, many patients with dry eye experience the opposite: their eyes feel even drier and more irritated at night. Read on as Dr. Sandra Belmont, who treats cases of dry eye in New York City, addresses why this may be.
There are a few reasons why your dry eye symptoms may be worse at night. First, your eyes are fatigued from the day. Also, the body’s metabolism slows down during sleep, circulation slows and we don’t blink. As a result, tear production decreases.
Environmental elements can factor into nighttime dry eyes as well. Sleeping under a fan or in front of an air conditioner or heating vent can exacerbate dry eye symptoms. Some people’s eyes dry out due to allergic reactions to bedding or other things in their bedroom.
It should also be mentioned that some patients have a disorder called nocturnal lagophthalmos, which is the inability to completely close the eyelids during sleep. Because the eyelids are partially open all night, it exposes the surface of the eye and the tears in the eyes dry out.
If you’re seeking relief from dry, itchy eyes, a good place to start is with over-the-counter lubricating ointments or artificial tears. Although it’s difficult to know for sure, if you suspect your eyelids are not closing completely during sleep, you can wear an eye mask to help retain moisture on the surface of your eyes. You might also want to rearrange your bedroom furniture or sleeping position so that you aren’t directly in front of a fan or heating/air conditioning vent.
Ideally, you should work with an ophthalmologist who can identify and treat the root cause of your dry eyes. Perhaps you have an imbalance in your tear composition that is causing tears to evaporate prematurely; or maybe you simply aren’t producing enough tears to lubricate your eyes. Dr. Belmont encourages you to schedule an appointment with her to discuss your symptoms and undergo a complete evaluation. Once she identifies what is causing your uncomfortable symptoms, she can recommend a treatment plan to address them.