Tiredness, eyestrain, and other factors can cause dry eye. Home treatments may help relieve symptoms.

Nearly 16 million Americans experience dry eye, which causes the eyes to feel dry and scratchy. It can also cause redness and blurry vision.

Focusing intensely for long periods and inadequate sleep may cause tiredness, leading to dry eye.

This article discusses how tiredness causes dry eye. It also outlines symptoms, treatment, prevention tips, and when to contact a doctor.

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Sleep helps restore the eyes. Without enough sleep, the eyes may not produce sufficient tears, which help lubricate the eye. This may cause the eyes to feel dry and scratchy.

Focusing intensely for long periods may also cause tiredness, eyestrain, and dry eye. Common activities include:

  • looking at a screen, such as a computer, smartphone, or games console, for a long time
  • reading, driving, or other activities requiring prolonged focus
  • using contact lenses for long periods

Other causes of eyestrain include:

  • using glasses or contact lenses with an incorrect prescription
  • focusing or working in a setting that is not bright enough or too bright

Certain health conditions cause fatigue, leading to dry eye, including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid disease.

Learn more about dry eye here.

People with tired eyes may have the following symptoms:

Symptoms of dry eye include:

The following tips may help prevent tired, dry eyes:

  • Use artificial tears to lubricate the eyes.
  • Place a humidifier in the room to add moisture to the air.
  • When using a computer, position the screen so the eyes are gazing slightly down at it.
  • Consider using specialized computer glasses, which may help if people have difficulty seeing the screen.
  • Every 20 minutes, when using a screen or focusing for long periods, shift the eyes to look at least 20 feet in the distance for 20 seconds.
  • If driving, alter air vents so hot or cold air is not blowing directly into the face.
  • Avoid smoke, wind, and air conditioning, which can be drying to the eyes.
  • Wear the correct prescription glasses or contact lenses.
  • Take regular breaks from looking at a screen and reduce screen time.
  • Wear sunglasses to protect the eyes from the direct sun.
  • Stay well-hydrated and drink 8–10 glasses of water daily.

Getting enough quality sleep may also help prevent tired, dry eyes. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) recommends adults get at least 7 hours of sleep each night.

Learn more about the importance of sleep for health here.

The National Eye Institute gives the following treatment recommendations for dry eye:

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) eye drops: OTC artificial tears can treat mild dry eye symptoms. Moisturizing gels and ointments are also available.
  • Adjust existing medications: If people think a certain medication is causing dry eyes, they can talk with a doctor about changing the dosage or medication type.
  • Prescription eye drops: If dry eye does not improve with home treatments, a doctor may prescribe eye drop medications, such as cyclosporine or Lifitegrast.
  • Surgery: In rare cases, surgery may be necessary to treat the underlying cause of dry eye.
  • Tear duct plugs: Sometimes, dry eye may be due to a tear duct problem. Doctors may recommend surgery to insert a tear duct plug, or punctal plug. This small device blocks tear duct drainage and prevents tears draining from the eyes.

Learn about natural remedies for dry eye here.

If people have dry eyes when they are tired, making adjustments to prevent eyestrain, getting enough quality sleep, and using artificial tears may help resolve symptoms.

People can contact a doctor if dry eyes do not improve with lifestyle adjustments. A doctor can examine the eyes to find the underlying cause and suggest a treatment plan.

A lack of sleep or focusing for long periods of time may cause dry eye and eyestrain. The eyes may burn or itch, feel scratchy, and look red.

Making adjustments when using a screen, reading, or driving, may help prevent the condition and reduce symptoms. Getting enough sleep, using artificial tears, and staying well-hydrated may also help.

People can contact a doctor to determine the underlying cause if their dry eye symptoms do not improve with home treatments.