Why do my eyes hurt when I wake up

Why do my eyes hurt when I wake up? It is hard enough to wake up in the morning, but it is unbearable to wake up with hurting eyes. Physical conditions and different infections can be responsible for such a case.

Reasonable care of eyes is mandatory to maintain a good vision and keep them healthy even if you are getting older. Don’t let your hurting eyes trouble you.

Learn if it is a time for a trip to a doctor or a new pair of glasses and what you can do to make your hurting eyes and painful mornings back to normal.

What are hurting eyes?

Hurting eyes refers to having irritated eyes accompanied by burning sensations or sometimes dryness. Eyes may turn red, become itchy and watery. But why does this terrible sensation happen? Is it an indication of a temporary condition or something alarming? 

Whatever the cause is, it needs to be checked right away as soon as possible. 

What causes my eyes to hurt when I wake up?

The causes are not always moderate; they could be mild sometimes. There could be several causes due to which eyes hurt when you wake up; check out if any of them applies to you:

  1. Dry Eyes

It is the most severe and common condition which makes your eyes hurt. Lacrimal glands of the eyes fail to produce enough tears resulting in the lack of lubrication and enough moisture making your eyes dry. This causes redness, grittiness, pain, and burning sensations in the eyes. It may be temporary or chronic.  

  • Chronic dry eyes

They occur due to dry eye syndrome, inadequate quality tears, and insufficient tears leading to corneal nerves’ irritation. Medical issues such as diabetes and the use of contact lenses for an extended period also cause chronic dry eyes. A proper and on-time checkup is required to treat this condition.

  • Temporary dry eyes

They result from the environment or low air quality. They could be treated using home remedies such as eye drops, proper sleep, and resting your eyes.


Corneal abrasions result due to several reasons:

  • Rubbing of eyes
  • foreign body present in the eye or being hit by any object
  • wearing contact lens for too long 

3.Seasonal allergens

Allergens are the common source of hurting eyes upon waking. Allergic reactions to the substances such as pollen, dust particles cause inflammation of the eye. Eyes become red, painful, and itchy. Your eyes trigger potent chemical histamine release to defend against the threat of irritants and fight off foreign invaders. This makes your eyes swell and hurt. 

When you don’t wash your eyes before sleeping with foreign invader pollen or dust present, these allergic reactions occur. 

Allergens present in your sleeping environment can also lead to these reactions. Eyes become irritated if there’s a pet in the room or dust somewhere, and you sleep with the window open. 

Corneal ulcers caused by the presence of large irritants such as sand particles also make your eyes hurt ad burn.

Also read: Why Do My Ribs Hurt When I Wake Up?

How can it be treated?

Home care

To reduce your exposure to allergens, you can take the following preventive measures at home:

  • your home should be dust-free
  • keep windows closed to avoid entry of pollen
  • minimize your exposure to dyes, perfumes, and chemicals.
  • Use an air purifier to protect yourself from low-quality air.


You might need to see a doctor in severe conditions. He may recommend you these medications:

  • to block the release of histamine, take antihistamines
  • eye drops to prevent inflammation and to shrink congested blood vessels


In this condition, the conjunctiva, which is the transparent membrane of your eye, gets infected and inflamed, resulting in pink eye when you wake up. 

The blood vessels become visible and swollen when it gets infected or inflamed, making your eyes look red when you wake up. The conjunctiva covers the white part of the eye, and it should be clear in a healthy eye. This condition may also cause a burning sensation.

The leading causes of this condition can be:

  • Allergies
  • Viruses and bacteria
  • Rough environment

This condition needs to be treated fast and avoid contact with others until you are completely healed.


Severe headaches and migraines can make your eyes hurt when you wake up. Pain occurs behind one eye or sometimes both eyes. Cluster headaches are excruciating and make your eyes even worse, red and painful. To prevent such conditions, take adequate sleep and avoid stress and anxiety. 


Eyestrain occurs from the prolonged time of screen usage—use of technology cause aching and sharp pains in your eyes. You might have a condition called Nocturnal Lagophthalmos if you are not taking part in eye-straining activities, but you are still feeling the symptoms. Due to the inability to full closure eyelids during sleep caused by nerve or bone damage.

Prolonged use of contact lenses also leaves your eyes strained and aching in the morning.


It is the inflammation of eyelids where the eyelash grows as a result of bacterial infections and irritants.

Eyes become dry, itchy, and burning sensations may occur with your eyelids being swollen. An oily discharge may occur in the form of oil flakes at the base of your eyes when you wake up.

Antibiotics, eyelid scrubs, eye drops, and the use of a warm compress to remove flakes will help you reduce this inflammation. Before it runs out of control, proper diagnosis is required,


  • Corneal infection

Infection of the cornea results from diseases caused by bacteria and viruses. Poor hygiene, rubbing of eyes, and leaving contacts overnight give rise to these infections. It makes your eyes red and hurting when you wake up.

  • Sinusitis

The inflammation and congestion sinus cavity creates pressure behind the eye, making the whole area painful and achy. Viruses, bacteria, and fungi get trapped in sinuses making the situation worse. It needs to be checked as soon as possible to avoid its spread to other areas of your face.

Ocular Rosacea

This problem of the eyes is related to the chronic skin disease of the face. Facial blood vessels become enlarged, and they often spread to the eyes, causing burning or itching red eyes.


It can be caused due to several factors:

  • Bacterial infections
  • genetic setup 
  • rough environment and eyelash mites

Recurrent Epithelial Erosion

This condition is excruciating, and your eyes hurt like crazy when you wake up. This disorder occurs when the attachment underlying the basement layer with the outermost layer of the cornea is not correct. You will feel the sensation of foreign bodies, ocular pain, and tearing when rubbing your eyes and waking up.

Pterygium or Pinguecula

The conjunctiva of the eyes shows growth over its surface in this condition. You will observe a small yellow spot on the eye towards the nose. It is caused due to exposure to light or UV radiation. It is not a mild condition and can be treated by wearing sunglasses and less exposure to sunlight. 

Rheumatoid arthritis

The immune system attacks the membranes on the joints, and among the dried-up membranes of the body, the conjunctiva of the eye also dries up. 

This is similar to the dry eyes condition when there is no enough moisture to keep the eyes lubricated. Due to increased friction, you feel burning sensations when you wake up.

Top ten ways to stop your eyes from hurting when you wake up

1. Eat a balanced diet

Eat a balanced diet and stay hydrated. Before going to sleep, drink a full glass of water to keep yourself hydrated. To keep your eyes lubricated, this step is crucial. 

2.Minimize the use of technology

Minimize the use of technology and cut down your screen time before going to sleep. The light from the screen is disruptive for both your sleep and eyes.

3. Use an eyelid cleanser

Use an eyelid cleanser to keep your eyelids clean before going to bed and waking up. It will prevent bacterial infection and conditions such as blepharitis and result in less dryness or itching.

4.Apply eye gel inside your lower eyelid

Apply an eye gel inside your lower eyelid and massage gently before going to bed. It will help heal your eyes and reduce the gritty feeling when you wake up better than artificial tears.

5. Adjust the angle of vents

The cause of dry or hurting eyes after waking up in the morning can be due to air blowing from the heater or air conditioner. This happens mostly with the people who sleep with their eyes partially open. Try to adjust the angle of vents if they are directed to your face to avoid this situation.

6. Use an eye mask

Use an eye mask to prevent your eyes from drying due to fans on and running air conditioners. An eye mask while sleeping will protect the surface of your eyes from becoming dry.

Stagnant oils are struck in your eyes if you have conditions such as meibomian gland dysfunction and blepharitis. To release these oils out of your eyes, you need to heat these oils, which could be possible by using warm compress eyes mask while sleeping. 

7.Get enough sleep

Get enough sleep because it is essential. Lack of sleep can result in dry eye, red and pink eyes, eye strain. At least 5 hours of rest are needed for your eyes to recover them from the day entirely.

8. Remove make up before sleep

If you are wearing makeup, don’t forget to remove it before going to sleep. Sleeping with makeup on is the root cause of bacterial infections, which cause you to wake up with irritated or hurting eyes.

9.Take off your contacts before going to sleep

Please take off your contacts before going to sleep and try to use high-quality connections that don’t make your eyes dry and help them retain moisture.

10. Drink enough water

It is recommended to drink water at least half of your body weight. Consuming 8 to 10 glasses of water is a must.

Do’s and Don’ts

l Don’t go in the sun for too long without wearing polarized sunglasses.

l Don’t rub your eyes if you have pain or feel any foreign particle in your eye or case of a corneal ulcer. You can make it more severe.

l Don’t use your medications without seeing the doctor or without his instructions.

l Don’t put any bandage to keep you from touching your eye. This will make your eyes swell and more painful.

L wash or rinse your eyes with saline water to wash off any irritants and contact the eyes if any chemical liquid comes in contact. 

l Do practice gratitude and yoga. You might be thinking about how it could keep your eyes from hurting. Yoga is a great tool to keep your body stretching and make you fall asleep, and it can remove stress away, which will make you feel better. By keeping a gratitude and focusing on positives, you will make yourself feel good.

l Do check if your medications have any side effects, as if they make your eyes dry.

l Do follow the 20-20-20 rule. Try to take 20 seconds to break for every 20 minutes you spend viewing a screen and look 20 at something 20 feet away.

Take Away:

For most people, the hurting eyes on waking up is because of environmental issues due to the presence of allergens, and for others, it is a signal that they are spending too long in front of a screen and not taking good care of their eye health. 

These conditions are the sign of a temporary or treatable disease. If you have taken reasonable care and controlled both these conditions, you could be suffering from infection or inflammation, and you need to see a doctor as soon as possible. By following all the tips, you can make it possible to turn your life back to normal.