Waking up with blurry vision? It could be a sign of dry eyes and other eye conditions that may require treatment.
Blurry vision in the morning typically goes away on its own. But even if it’s only mild and passes quickly, it’s good to identify what causes it.
Read on to discover all the potential causes of blurry vision after waking up and what you should pay attention to.
Dry eyes can cause blurry vision in the morning. Your tear glands constantly produce a tear film that coats the surface of your eye, lubricating and protecting it, even at night.
But if your tear glands don’t produce enough tears, your eyes may feel dry and sandy in the morning. This may also occur because of an imbalance in the watery, mucin, and oily layers in the tear film.
You may also wake with dry eyes in the morning if your eyelids don’t form a tight seal over your eyes. The tears may dry as a result. After waking, you will start blinking, and that will coat the surface of the eye with tears.
The cornea is a clear outer layer that covers the iris and pupil in front of the eye. It lets light enter the eye and helps focus it. We explained this process in more depth in our post on how the human eyes work.
Fuchs’ corneal dystrophy causes the cornea to swell while you’re asleep. It damages cells that normally move fluid from the cornea, leading to a buildup of fluid which in turn leads to blurriness.
The condition affects more women than men. It often appears during middle age, but symptoms may not become obvious until later in life.
Another common answer to “Why do I wake up with blurry vision?” is eye allergies. If your eyes also feel dry, swollen, and itchy, an allergy may be to blame.
Common culprits include pet dander or dust mites. Detergent may also be to blame if you’re sleeping in newly washed bedclothes or on newly washed pillowcases.
However, eye allergy triggers can vary from person to person. If you suspect eye allergies are causing blurry vision in the morning, try to pay attention to potential triggers.
Tip: We've dedicated a post to the differences between dry eyes and allergies.
Taking anti-allergy medication (antihistamines), blood pressure medication, or sleeping aids before going to bed may cause dry eyes. Dry eyes in turn may lead to temporary blurriness upon waking.
Other medications may be responsible for blurry eyes. If you suspect medication is causing your dry eyes, discuss alternatives with your doctor.
Drinking Alcohol the Night Before
Had a drink or two before going to bed? Blurry vision in the morning may be caused by alcohol, which can dehydrate your body and dry your eyes. As we’ve seen, dry eyes may make your vision blurry.
Heavy drinkers have a higher risk of developing age-related macular degeneration and suffering permanent vision loss. So, keep count of your glasses!
Sleeping with Your Contacts On
Forgot to take off your contact lenses before going to bed? You may experience blurry vision and dry eyes after waking.
Sleeping with your contacts on can interfere with the oxygen supply your eyes normally receive, leading to blurriness in the morning.
You don't want to fall sleep wearing your contact lenses. It significantly increases your risk of eye infection.
Tip: Learn more about how to manage dry eye while wearing contact lenses.
Sleeping Face Down
If you sleep on your face—even if you use a pillow—your upper eyelid(s) may become less elastic, a condition called floppy eyelid syndrome (FES). Typically, the eye on the side of the face you sleep on will be the most affected.
FES can cause burning in your eye, tearing, and blurry vision upon waking. It may also cause redness, eye discharge, and irritation. People with FES have loose, rubbery eyelids.
Blood Sugar Levels
When blurry vision in the morning is accompanied by weakness, dizziness, and headache, it may be caused by blood sugar levels that are too high or too low.
High blood sugar levels in the morning can be a sign of diabetes. Low blood sugar levels at waking can have many different causes beyond diabetes including hormone disorders, low-carb diets, or a sudden increase in physical activity.
Air Conditioning, Fans, or Heaters
Sleeping right under an air conditioning system or fan or next to a heater may dry your eyes and make them blurry.
This can happen even if you sleep with your eyelids tightly shut and have drunk enough water during the day.
When to See a Doctor
If your morning blurriness is occasional and goes away once you start blinking, you shouldn’t worry. However, if it’s accompanied by dizziness, headache, slurred speech, tingling, or numbness in your body, it may be a sign of a medical emergency such as a stroke or a head injury.
You should also see a doctor if blurry vision keeps returning in the morning or doesn’t go away right away. It may be a sign of a condition that requires medical treatment, such as Fuchs’ corneal dystrophy or floppy eyelid syndrome. The exact treatment for blurry vision upon waking depends on what causes it.
In many cases, it's due to dry eyes. Working up late on your computer, not eating healthy, regular meals, or not getting enough sleep may all contribute to dry eyes disease.
Dry eyes is also more likely to occur as we age and the tear glands produce fewer tears.
Dry eyes disease can come with mild and subtle symptoms at first that are easy to disregard. But if you don’t address its underlying causes, symptoms may worsen with time.
Take the Dry Eye Test now to find out whether you may have dry eyes disease.