Why do my eyes feel gritty when I wake up?
Waking up to find your eyelids glued together certainly isn't the best way to start the day. To reduce the problem, it can help to get an understanding of what's causing it in the first place. There are many reasons why dry eyes occur in the morning, including:
- Dry Eye Syndrome (DES)
- Your environment
- Certain medications and conditions
Here, I take a look at these issues in detail and offer some top tips for dealing with dry, gritty eyes in the morning.
1. Dry Eye Syndrome
Experiencing dry eyes upon waking could be a sign of Keratoconjunctivitis sicca, otherwise known as Dry Eye Syndrome (DES).
DES is a common eye disease which is caused by an abnormality in tear production that can lead to chronic lack of moisture on the surface of the eye. Tears are essential for good eye health as they contain many different essential elements, including oils, which prevent the evaporation of tears.
Symptoms of DES include itching, burning and a gritty feeling in the eye which gets increasingly worse as the day wears on.
Using eye drops can relieve dry, irritated or tired eyes.
2. Your environment
Your environment could be the reason you are waking up with dry eyes.
Windy climates, for example, can dry out the eyes. Also, those who live in a city tend to develop dry eyes more than those who live in rural areas, due to higher levels of air pollution.
Allergens like dust mites and mould spores also lurk in the bedroom. These can irritate the eyes and lead to dry eyes come morning.
Top tip - You could try using a humidifier in your bedroom at night to help moisten the air. Over time, this can help to reduce dryness in your eyes upon waking.
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3. Certain medications and conditions
Your dry eyes in the morning can also be a side effect of certain medications. In particular, taking medication at bedtime may dry out your eyes.
Certain underlying medical conditions, such as blepharitis, can also cause dry eyes in the morning. Blepharitis is inflammation of the eyelids.
Signs of blepharitis can include itchy and sore eyelids, eyelids that stick together (particularly when you wake up) and eyelashes that become crusty or greasy.
Top tip - If you believe that you are suffering from blepharitis, don't worry This can easily be confirmed by your doctor, and can be cared for with simple cleaning measures.
5 fun facts about the eyes
- The average blink lasts for about 1/10th of a second.
- Whilst it takes some time for most parts of your body to warm up fully, your eyes are on their "A-game" 24/7.
- Eyes heal quickly. With proper care, it only takes about 48 hours for the eye to repair a corneal scratch.
- Seeing is a big part of everyday life, so much so that it requires about half of the brain to get involved.
- Newborns don't produce tears. They make crying sounds, but the tears don't start flowing until they are 4-13 weeks old.
What can I eat to help dry eyes?
It is said that the eyes are the window to the soul. This is a great sentiment, but sadly, can any of us truly say that we give our eyes the care they deserve? Proper eye care is essential for people of all ages.
In particular, dry eyes in the morning can be an indication that you need to start making some healthy lifestyle changes to protect your eyes. So, what can you do?
Oxidative damage is associated with most degenerative eye diseases but, fortunately, dietary antioxidants can bring some protection against this.
Blackcurrants are essential. These contain powerful antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory properties. Blackcurrants also help to strengthen blood vessels and improve blood flow, which is essential to maintain good eye health. Plus, they are extremely high in vitamin C - four times higher than oranges!
Another great fruit to incorporate into your diet is blueberries as they too contain a lot of vitamin C. This is thought to increase the rate at which the eyes adapt to darkness.
Dry eyes require omega-3 fatty acids to help ease symptoms. Our bodies cannot produce these fatty oils on their own so you'll have to get them in your diet. Foods high in omega-3 include salmon, chia seeds, walnuts and sardines.
For more advice on how diet can help eye health, check out our blog 'The best foods for healthy eyes and eyesight'.
Your eyes can become dehydrated if you're not drinking enough water, and this can exacerbate discomfort. Drinking at least 1.5 litres of water every day can help to keep your eyes in tip top condition.
Do you have dry eyes in the morning? Try out the tips above and let us know if any worked for you in the comment section below.
Originally published on 2 October 2015 (updated on 20 November 2019)