A person wearing a sleeping mask with a graphic printed on it of one eye closed and one opened.

Keeping My Eyelids Closed At Night

Last updated: December 2022

If you have dry eye disease, chances are you have some days when you wake up with your eyes feeling worse, and some days when they feel better, and there seems to be no rhyme or reason to it.

Today is one of those days when mine feel worse. I’m sitting at my desk at work with that sticky, gritty feeling every time I blink, along with blurred vision. It always makes me wonder why it’s worse and if it will get better as the day wears on.

How I try to keep my eyes shut at night

I know that one of my problems is my eyelids don’t stay completely closed while I sleep at night. There’s actually a term for this: nocturnal lagophthalmos. It’s as fun to try to spell as it is to experience – that is, not at all. Waking up with eyes dried out from exposure to air feels like the morning after pulling an all-nighter for a test. It’s not what your eyes need to be ready for the day ahead.

Avoiding this problem starts the night before. I’m currently using Optase Hylo Night Eye Ointment at the recommendation of my dry eye doctor. I also add a drop of GenTeal Lubricant Eye Gel, which feels soothing and helps me get to sleep when my eyes feel irritated.

The other absolute must for me is a sleep mask to cover my eyes and help hold my eyelids closed. Right now I’m using two different layers, a silk cloth mask that feels good against my eyes, and a thicker cotton one that gently presses against my eyelids. It also has an adjustable elastic band so I can keep it snug but not too tight. I wash these weekly at a minimum.

What else my doctor recommended

All of this works pretty well for me, but it hasn’t been a perfect system. Sometimes the masks get loose or shift on my face as I move around during the night. Then I wake up feeling my eyes dried out or worse, they hurt when I fully open them.

My eye doctor has recommended a few other things for me to try next to see if they work better. The first one is a type of medical-grade sticker that sticks to the lids and holds them closed at night. These are single use only, so it sounds like it could get expensive over time (I have heard of some do-it-yourself methods involving plastic wrap though).

The other option is moisture chamber goggles. I’ve seen many dry eye sufferers mention these, so I’ve been researching and shopping, trying to decide which one to get. I’m a light sleeper so I know that if it fits uncomfortably in any way, it’s not going to work for me and I’ll be back to my trusty sleep mask.

Our eyes need rest

One thing I know is my eyes need rest as much as the rest of my body does. It makes for a really tough work day when you spend the first 2 hours blinking and adding eye drops until they finally start to feel closer to normal. So keeping my eyelids closed at night is something I’m going to make a priority.

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