I Can’t Sleep Because My Eyes Hurt – A Guide to Improve

Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Ayesha Jamal, MBBS, RMP

Dr. Afaque Ali, MBBS, RMP

August 10, 2020

If your eyes hurt when you are going to sleep, it is undoubtedly an annoying feeling. I know this very well from my own experience. There are luckily secure solutions for this kind of problem.

What kind of reasons there usually are if your eyes hurt when you want to sleep?

The most common reason why you can’t sleep when your eyes hurt is that your eyes are too dry. Therefore, finding a good solution for your dry eyes helps you to stop the eye pain and sleep well. There are also several other reasons which may cause pain in your eye, and you can find an easy solution for them.

But at first, it is crucial to find out what is the reason behind your hurting eyes:

  • Is it because your eyes are dry?
  • Is it because your eyes have a medical problem requiring medical attention?
  • Is there any other grave reason?
  • How can you find out what is the reason for your hurting eyes?

Luckily, numerous tips can help you to make the eyes feel better and then sleep without pain in the eyes. I have found a good solution, and you can also find the solution for hurting eyes following these tips:

Why Your Eyes Hurt When You Want to Sleep? – Solutions

“When I close my eyes to sleep my eyes hurt.”

If You Have Dry Eyes – Lubricate Your Eyes

Eye pain when you are going to sleep may be because of several reasons.
Dry eyes is the most common. The reason for dry eyes is most likely due to lack of moisture and lubrication. The eye lubrication system on the eye surface won’t work correctly. A burning sensation and red eyes are often accompany the eye pain problems.

Opening eyes in the morning may be hard, maybe because eyelids aren’t closing when you go to sleep.

Lubricate your eyes before you go to sleep. Try dry eye drops (over-the-counter eye drops) to prevent eyes pain. Use preservative-free drops to get the maximum benefit.

These kinds of eye drops are designed to remove all the redness and itchiness in your eyes. Furthermore, the eye drops should help you to relieve dryness in the eyes because the drops replace the layer of tear film which allows eyes to keep them moist.

If you don’t get any help with lubrication, contact your optometrist for advice. If you are spending a lot of time in front of the computer screen, you more likely to experience eye pain, even sometime after the end of the use, which may make it harder to fall asleep.

Makeup – Remove Makeup Before Bed!Remove makeup before bed

After a long day outside, you may feel so tired that it would be good to go to sleep straight away, and not remove your makeup.

However, if you use makeup, you should remove the makeup properly every night before bed.

Especially, if you use mascara, it is highly recommended to remove it, before you fall asleep, even though you may be exhausted.

What could happen if you don’t remove your makeup before bed?

What dangers there are when sleeping with Makeup?

There are reported several cases when someone who use makeup, don’t remove it before bed, with serious consequences.

For example, in one case there was told a woman, aged 50 years, who hasn’t removed her mascara before going to bed for almost 25 years.

She began feeling very uncomfortable underneath her eyelids. Her eyelids were swollen and felt heavy because she left the mascara for so long.

She was found to have “dark pigments”, fragments of mascara, which were building up in her eye. Those lumps “were embedded so deep that particles were building up on top of each other”.

Because those pieces of mascara had embedded into her eyelids, blinking caused them to continuously rub the cover of her eye. If any of the fragments has caused scratches on the surface of the eye and therefore caused infection in the eye, the risk of going totally blind was very notable.

It feels the same as someone “throwing a handful of sand in your eye”. It is irritating all the time.

The eye is the thinnest skin in our body, and therefore it is susceptible. Using any makeup near eye – and not removing them by the night – may cause acute infections, which can precede broken blood vessels or micro-tears.

“Sleeping in eye makeup repeatedly may result in the clogging of the tiny hair follicles and oil glands on your eyelids. When these areas become clogged, bacteria can build up and cause inflammation”

– Dr. Eric Schweiger

This is because many times eyes are rubbed to the pillow during the night, and such makeup products like eyeliner or mascara may go inside the eyes.

It is highly recommendable to remove makeup before going go to bed:

  • Use makeup remover with a wet cotton pad to remove makeup from your eyelashes. Hold the cotton pad on your eyelash long enough so that the makeup removes properly.
  • You may place some makeup remover pads beside your bed so that you can easily clean your makeup close to your bed when you are extremely tired or don’t have time..
  • Avoid using the same makeup product for different parts of the face.
  • Don’t share eye makeup products with your friends, because of the bacteria transfer risk.

Source: Medical Daily

The Eye Area Is Dirty – Flush Eyes

If your eyes hurt after a long day when you are going to sleep, one issue might be dirt that gathers onto your eyes during the day.

Therefore, to stop your eyes from hurting, you need to clean your eyes properly.

How should you do it?

Flush your eyes with eyewash product or warm water. Use only water or the solution with a temperature of at least 60 °F (15.6 °C), but also not too hot.

If you notice that there is a lot of dirt in your eyes or you had to use soap too, you should rinse your eyes at least for five minutes.

Usually washing eyes so long may make them dry, so it would be good to use some moisture after eyewash.

Can Lack of Sleep Make My Eyes Hurt?

Yes. Lack of sleep usually means that you have been awake for a very long time, and your eyes have been open as long as you were awake. Then as a result, your eyes may dry easier and faster which more likely causes hurt in your eyes.

That is why you need to:

Sleep enough

When you sleep too little, your eyes are more likely to hurt, because your eyes won’t get the rest that they need. Fluid circulation which is necessary to keep your eyes moist lacks if there is not enough amount of sleep.

Furthermore, if you don’t get enough sleep, your eyes may start twitching and, it is more likely distracting and uncomfortable. This symptom is called myokymia, which is noted as eye spasms.

So it is necessary to sleep enough to prevent eye pain.


Don’t sleep too much

If you sleep too much, it may be difficult to open your eyes when you wake up.

Especially, when you have been extremely tired during the day, and maybe the previous night you didn’t sleep well, you may feel it is necessary to sleep more next night.

Then your sleep is more likely very deep (which is not bad itself) and when you wake up your eyes hurt because of eyes been closed for a very long time.

Why Do I Wake Up Eye Pain?Why do I wake up eye pain

The reason more likely is that your eyelids aren’t closed properly. Use lubricating eye drop before bed.


Make sure your eyes are fully closed during the sleep

If you sleep eyes open, even a little bit, it may hurt your eyes. This is mostly logically because eyes may get dry during the sleep.

How do you know if you sleep with your eyes open?

If your eyes aren’t fully closed when sleeping, your eyes are more likely dry and red. In some cases also blurred vision or poor sleep quality are signs of sleeping with your eyes open.

To know for sure if you sleep your eyes open you can do the following:

  • You can ask your spouse or family member to watch if you sleep with your eyes open during the night (or during the day if you take a nap).
  • You may take a video during your sleep to see if you sleep your eyes open. Just set your camera or mobile phone on the steady stand, close enough to you.
  • If you wake up with dry eyes, the reason may be just that you sleep eyes open.

You should find out if you sleep with your eyes open in order to find the right solution to the problem. Sleep mask may help you with this issue. With sleep mask your eyes are well protected by the effect of dry air.

But if sleeping with eyes open bothers you, you should go to see your doctor at your earliest convenience.

Source: vereywellhealth.com

Use Sleep Mask

When your eye hurts, the reason may also be that your eyes are being used excessively hard. Nowadays there are screens everywhere that we need to look at all day. This only may cause pain in your eyes when you go to bed.

Avoid looking at your computer monitor or mobile phone screen for too long.

Let your eyes rest during the day many times, so your eyes feel better at the end of the day. Also, bright lights can make your eyes tired and hurt. Try to keep your eyes covered from most of the bright lights.

Use an eye mask when it is reasonable.

Also, using a gel eye mask after a long day relieve your eyes from pain. You may use the cold gel eye mask even during the whole night when you sleep.

If you don’t have the gel eye mask, you can use a clean towel too. You can put ice in a towel and then place it gently on to your eyes. After five minutes take some break, and if you feel so repeat treatment.

Best sleep mask for dry eyes

You can find here some of the best sleep masks which can help you to reduce pain in your eyes.

Keep a Break Using Contact Lenses

If you often use contact lenses, they may cause pain in the eyes. It is highly recommended to take a break from using contact lenses always when your eyes hurt.

If contact lenses are not lubricated well, they may cause dryness or itchiness. Therefore, use the right kind of lubrication for your eyes.

Check your contact lenses, if there is any dirt on the cover of them.

You may consider getting contact lenses which are meant to be used with dry eyes, and then, should help you to keep your eyes in the right level of lubrication.

Check Your Medication and Treat Allergies

Some medicines may cause dry eyes or make your eyes hurt. Then, if you suspect that your problems with burning eyes are related to your medications, you have to contact your doctor and describe your eye pain to your doctor.

If you have any allergies, your problems with hurting eyes may be found from allergies.

Why Do My Eyes Hurt After Sleeping?

If your eyes hurt right after you open your eyes in the morning, the problem might be one of those described before. Again, the most likely reason would be dry eyes.

If you only suffer from eye pain in the morning, it is probably more likely because your eyelids are not completely closed when you sleep.


  • Use lubricating eye drops before going to sleep.
  • If the problem persists, you should go to see an ophthalmologist.

Other causes for eye pain in the morning:

There are also other, rare causes for eye pain in the morning. Some of these problems are serious, which is why you should seek professional help if you suffer from severe eye pain or other symptoms, such as vision changes.

Angle-closure glaucoma

This is a very rare, quickly developing problem. The cause of angle-closure glaucoma is a blockage in the drainage canals in the eye. Typical signs are blurred vision, severe eye and head pain, as well as vomiting and nausea. This condition requires immediate medical treatment, so you should go to see your doctor if you suffer from severe eye pain and other symptoms.

A corneal abrasion

A corneal abrasion means that there is a scratch on the cornea. If anything gets trapped under your eyelid, it may cause the cornea to become scratched. That may cause a lot of pain or at least discomfort, and in the worst case scenario, causes some damage on your eye.

If there is something in your eye, try to flush it away with water. If it doesn’t help, go to see an ophthalmologist. It is better to let a professional to try to fix the problem than to cause yourself more damage by trying to rub your eye.

If you experience any vision changes or you become suddenly sensitive to light, you should seek professional help.

Can Sleeping with the Lights On Hurt Your Eyes?

Sleeping with the lights on most likely won’t cause pain in your eyes, but it can cause some other problems instead.

However, because sleeping with the lights on can cause sleeping problems, it is highly recommended to sleep in complete darkness. If you are sleep deprived, your eyes might hurt in the morning when you wake up. This way, sleeping with the lights on might be aggravating your problem.

The specific reason why you should sleep in complete darkness:

“These melanopsin-expressing neurons, also known as photosensitive retinal ganglion cells, found in the retina of the eye, are not involved in vision. Instead, they play a role in circadian rhythm synchronization and the suppression or release of melatonin.

These retinal cells are also linked to the hypothalamus and the limbic regions, including the amygdala. Other researchers have suggested dim light at night could have a direct influence on brain function via some process related to these photosensitive retinal ganglion cells.”

– Dr. Mercola

So sleeping with the lights off and in a completely dark bedroom is good for your health overall.

Can Sleep Apnea Make Your Eyes Hurt?

Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes breathing problems during the night. In some cases, it may be a serious or even life-threatening health problem. If you use a CPAP machine for the treatment of your sleep apnea, it might be a possible cause behind your eye pain.

When using the CPAP machine, the air flow might make your eyes too dry, even though some CPAP machines are designed in such a way that they humidify the air first.

“The mainstay of treatment for these symptoms has to be protecting the ocular surface. The most efficient way to do this is to instill thicker artificial tears just prior to bedtime. Gels and ointment artificial tears should be considered. Any thinner or less viscous teardrop will not make much difference,”

– Dr. Beach

If you need to use a CPAP machine, make sure that your eyes won’t get dry. Applying suitable eye drops or eye gel before going to sleep might be a good option. Talk with your doctor to find out what solution would be the best one in your case.

Source: aoa.org

If You Don’t Find the Solution

If none of these ideas work for you, and it seems like you can’t solve this problem by yourself soon, you should see your doctor or another professional to find the solution that works in your particular case. Don’t hesitate to seek help, if the problem persists!

Refrences  :

  1. Safety Tips To Follow When Wearing Makeup. (2020). Retrieved 9 August 2020, from https://www.medicaldaily.com/safety-tips-follow-when-wearing-makeup-430701
  2. Sleeping With Makeup On Could Potentially Cause Blindness. (2020). Retrieved 9 August 2020, from https://www.medicaldaily.com/dangers-sleeping-makeup-include-potential-blindness-424537
  3. (2020). Retrieved 9 August 2020, from https://answers.zocdoc.com/details/14239/can-sleep-deprivation-cause-dry-eyes
  4. Losing an Hour: How Lack of Sleep is Bad for Your Eye Health. (2020). Retrieved 9 August 2020, from https://yoursightmatters.com/losing-an-hour-how-lack-of-sleep-affects-your-eyescid20130313ysmtz1/
  5. Discover Whether or Not It’s Safe to Sleep With Your Eyes Open. (2020). Retrieved 9 August 2020, from https://www.verywellhealth.com/sleeping-with-your-eyes-open-3422018
  6. Sleep Masks | Sleep Well Tips. (2020). Retrieved 9 August 2020, from https://sleepwelltips.com/recommended-products/sleep-masks/
  7. Why Do I Wake Up With Eye Pain? | Specsavers Australia. (2020). Retrieved 9 August 2020, from https://www.specsavers.com.au/help-and-faqs/why-do-i-wake-up-with-eye-pain
  8. billydursens, V. (2020). Notes to Know About COPD/Asthma – Eye Problems from Sleep Apnea. Retrieved 9 August 2020, from https://wheezingaway.com/2017/04/26/notes-to-know-about-copdasthma-eye-problems-from-sleep-apnea/
  9. Sleep apnea’s effect on the eyes. (2020). Retrieved 9 August 2020, from https://www.aoa.org/news/clinical-eye-care/sleep-apneas-effect-on-the-eyes

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