Are yours crusty or wet? The truth behind eye boogers (ew)
Some of the evidence of a night’s sleep are visible when you lift your head off the pillow — bed head, morning breath, dried-up drool, and eye boogers.
And while the cause of most of these sleep remnants is fairly obvious, the reason behind those sometimes-sticky, sometimes-crusty gobs of crud that can dot the lashes or cling to the corners of the eye is less clear. Why do our peepers churn out this gunk at night and what’s in the stuff? For answers to these important questions, Body Odd turned to an eye expert.
“The general consensus is that this debris is the stuff leftover from dried out tears,” says Dr. Sherleen Chen, director of the cataract and comprehensive ophthalmology service at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston.
Tears are made up of water, protein, oils, and a mucous layer known as mucin, which typically coat the surface of the eye to moisten and protect it from viruses and bacteria.
But when your eyes are closed and your eyelids are not blinking, dirt and debris within the eye isn’t continually washed over by tears, which would help to dilute them. So at night, dryness causes the stuff in tears to precipitate out, explains Chen. Then the crud collects toward the inside corner of the eye, where tears usually end up.
Eye boogers can also accumulate on the outer corners of the eye or anywhere along the lash.
Throughout her years of medical training and specializing in ophthalmology, Chen says she’s yet to come across a technical term for “eye boogers,” so she simply refers to it as “mattering.” But in everyday conversation, it may go by the name “sleepy sand,” “eye goop,” “sleep,” or “sleep dust.”
There’s also the question of its consistency — sometimes “eye boogers” are wet and sticky and other times they’re dry and sandy. Does this depend on how long they’ve sat there or how much sleep you’ve gotten?
Chen says the texture is a function of a person’s tear film. The crud is crumbly in people whose eyes tend to be dry — their peepers have more solids and not enough liquid.
Folks who have more allergies, tend to have more mucous, which gives eye crud a wetter, gunkier quality to it.
People who wear contacts are prone to forming more “sleepy sand” because the lenses
irritate the surface of the eye, so it produces more mucous to protect itself. People who have allergies affecting their eyes or who rub them a lot, such as small children, may also have more eye crud.
If the indoor air is dry, you may also wake up with more “sleep dust.” Although not an attractive look first thing in the morning, the stuff is basically harmless.
Chen says the best way to clear eye boogers is to lay a hot washcloth on the lid and lashes for a minute or two, then gently clean them off.
What do you call “eye boogers?” Ever had a particularly bad case of ’em?
Are yours crusty or wet? The truth behind eye boogers (ew) Some of the evidence of a night’s sleep are visible when you lift your head off the pillow — bed head, morning breath, dried-up drool,
Why Do You Get Sleepy Dust In Your Eyes?
Finding rheum in your eyes in the morning is something that happens to everyone but why is this.
Did you know that rubbing your eyes is a natural reaction tied to feeling sleepy? Another reason is to rid our eyes of rheum, or ‘sleepy dust’, that has developed overnight. But what is this sleepy dust and why do we get it every night?
The origins of calling it sand come from the mythological character of Mr Sandman. We know him as a benevolent person who sprinkles sand in our eyes, so that we sleep well at night and have lovely dreams. However, his origins are a great deal more sinister.
Mr Sandman comes from the tale of ‘Der Sandmann’, a German folk legend. The tale goes that he is a wicked man who throws sand in the eyes of children who won’t sleep. He then puts their eyes in his bag before feeding them to his children! This legend was deemed necessary to encourage children to sleep, so that they would be well rested to help with chores.
Times change, however, and thankfully the story has taken a much less macabre twist!
What is rheum?
Spoiler alert: sleepy dust doesn’t come from Mr Sandman at all! Whatever you call it, we can all recognise this debris in our eyes. Resembling white-yellow gunk, this bodily product is composed of an array of different materials. This includes bacteria, oils, dust, discarded cells and mucus . If you wear eye makeup such as mascara it’s likely that the sleep in your eyes will absord the colour and appear darker.
How is sleepy dust made?
Our eyes close from the outside in, meaning debris on eyes surface is pushed into the inner corner. When we’re awake this debris is blinked away, meaning the surface of our eyes is kept fresh. However, when we’re asleep it all accumulates into the corner of our eyes.
If you wear contact lenses you may experience more of this debris , as your eyes will be driven to cleanse the surface of the eyes more often. If your contact lens hasn’t been fit particularly well to your eye, then you will almost certainly produce more mucus. This is because the gap between the lens and your eye will trap more materials such as pollen and dust. This extra accumulation of foreign objects in your eyes needs to be cleaned away. This means you may suffer from extra rheum in your eyes as a result.
Should you worry about sleepy dust?
The presence of rheum in your eyes is normal, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to it if it changes colour or consistency. Trouble opening your eyelashes in the morning , because your eyes have become matted and crusted together, is a sign of blepharitis. This inflammation of the eyelid is easy enough to treat but can be worrisome.
Green discharge from the eye, however, can be a sign of a sinus infection. Other strange types of sleep in your eye include a stringy discharge, which could be a sign of allergy, and excess rheum partnered with eye redness and/or pain or sensitivity to light. If you experience these types of symptoms, it’s recommended that you go and see a doctor. They can inform you of the best course of action to take.
What term have you always know sleepy dust by? Let us know in the comments section.
Finding sleepy dust in your eyes in the morning is something that happens to everyone but why is this, and how does it get there?