why do we have sleep in our eyes
The alarm blares in your ear, jolting you from some wonderful dream where you weren t working in a dead-end job, had a stunningly beautiful wife, and a shiny convertible in your driveway. Unfortunately, as the alarm clock reminds you, it had all been a dream, and now you re awake. However, something else happened while you were sleeping, even though you were knocked out for hours. Your vision isn t quite clear as you squint at the clock, so you instinctively rub at the corners of your eyes. When you pull your fingers away, you probably aren t surprised to findPsmall, gooey, crusty, yellow or green sleep crumbs. There are certain things our body does that we eventually get used to, but this bizarre phenomena of our eyes deserves a bit more attention! What the Heck Are Those Crusty Crumbs? Depending on how old you are, or what part of the world you live in, you may refer to those crumbs as eye boogers, sleep, eye crusties, sleepies, or
rheum, which is the formal scientific nameP for any type of discharge from the eyes, nose, mouth, or ears. While leaking mucus from these orifices doesn t sound particularly health, it s actually completely natural, and rather harmless. More specifically, rheum from the eye is called gound, and the trend of strangely named words continues! Gound is a combination of dust, skin cells, and blood cells that blend with mucus and and a material called meibum. The mucus comes from the cornea or conjuctiva, while the meibum is released from meibomian glands. Essentially, when we sleep, our eyes behave much differently than they do during the day. We always have rheum in our eyes, but ourPcontinuous blinking while we re awake clears away this mucus and eliminates it from our eyes via the nasolacrimal duct. However, when we re sleeping, the rheum begins to accumulate along the edges of the eyelids, and the corners of the eye. Our eyes have three layers, the glycocalyx layer (composed of mucus), which covers the cornea and provides a base for the second layer, which is our tear solution layer.
That second layer is crucial to our vision and eye health, as it keeps the eyes lubricated and eliminates foreign objects in the eye. The final layer is made of meibum, primarily composed of fatty acids and cholesterol. Essentially, rheum is a mixture of these layers (including normal tears) that blends when the muscles of the eye relax. The green, yellow, or whitish color of the sleep in your eye comes primarily from meibum, which is a clear fluid whenPa human s body temperature is normal. At night, when our muscles are relaxed, the meibum gland is less able to contain itself, so more of this materialPis released. Furthermore, as our blood flow diminishes and body temperature drops, that excess meibum can fall below its melting point (only a degree or two) and become a solid! Then voila! Eye boogers! Does it Serve Any Real Purpose? In the morning, it seems to do little more than annoy us, but is there any value to the sleep that we wake up with every morning? Does that rheum and goundP serve a real purpose for us? Ensuring that your eye remains moist is one of the most important functions of the tear ducts and the various layers covering your eye. At a very basic level, meibum prevents us from crying constantly, as it effectively preventsPthe tears from running down our cheeks by holding them in place. Not only does this keep us from looking like we re constantly upset, but it also maintains a hydrated surface of the eye. Every time we blink, a bit more meibum is spread across the eye surface (where meibum is already being secreted). There,Pit mixes with liquid tears to form the tear film. This protects the eye in a coating of liquid, but is very fragile. This coating can quickly break down if you consciously prevent yourself from blinking. When this tear film dissolves, it exposes the cornea to air, as well as any other particles that could scratch or tear that delicate tissue. Meibum, the primary ingredient in eye boogers, is a crucial part of our eye health, and something that is far too often overlooked.
We may think of the little crusties as annoying, or maybe even disgusting (particularly when they re still a bit gooey), but we wouldn t be able to see or experience the world nearly as well without it. Next time your eyes are dry, try blinking a few times to get that meibum mixture back in action, and never take the sleep in your eyes for granted again! Welcome to Ask Healthy Living -- in which and we do our best to ask the experts and get back to you. Have a question? and you could appear on Healthy Living! "Ask Healthy Living" is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice. Please consult a qualified health care professional for personalized medical advice. Why do we get "sleep" in our eyes? You may call it "sleep," others might call it "crust" or "sand. " Some doctors call it "mattering," and a less-commonly used term is "rheum. " But no matter the name you use, you know it when you see it -- that white-yellow crumbly gunk on your eyes after you've had some shut-eye. The crusty stuff is actually made up of a bunch of different materials, including discarded cells, mucus and debris (including bacteria, bits of oil from the eyelids, and dust), that are collected as the eyelids sweep across the eye, explains Dr. Ivan Schwab, M. D. , a professor of opthalmology at the University of California Davis School of Medicine and a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Our eyelids close similarly to a zipper, from the cheek side toward the nose. When they do that, they push the tears across the eye, picking up all these different materials along the way. This discharge ultimately collects in the corner of the eyes or the lower lid, and a bit may also collect on the upper lid, he says. "It may be a bit like using an exfoliant on your skin: You're cleaning off dead skin or any surface debris you don't want," Schwab explains to HuffPost. So is "sleep" clean? Schwab says that it's not sterile -- nothing on your body really is, including the surface of your eye, or even the surface of your skin.
That being said, if you use your hands to wipe away eye crust (which you shouldn't be doing in the first place, Schwab says -- a warm, wet washcloth is better for cleaning your eyes) -- it is probably a good idea to wash your hands afterward. Normal "sleep" has a slight cream-like tint to it, though it could appear darker if you wear makeup. An active bacterial or viral infection could also increase the amount of eye discharge, and make it more yellow- or green-tinted (at which point, you should see an eye doctor). Eye discharge that's on the drier side may be indicative of a drier environment, Schwab says. In addition, you might experience more eye discharge if you have an increase in mucus -- allergies are a big culprit. "The eye produces mucus in response to allergens in the air," according to Schwab. "Allergies like pollen, they get in the eye [and] they cause the eye to create mucus [that] surrounds the pollen and takes it to the corner" of the eye. In addition, contact lens-wearers may experience more eye discharge because they are technically walking around with a foreign body in their eyes all day. If a contact lens fits perfectly, you'll still experience a little excess mucus production -- and if the contact lens fits less than perfectly, or traps debris (such as pollen) beneath the lens, then the eye will produce even more mucus, he says. Changes to the amount of eye "sleep" your body is producing could be a sign of an eye infection or other problem. Meanwhile, if you have chronic discharge that hasn't changed (but there's a lot of it), that could reflect something else, such as irritation from dust, or even allergies. If you have so much eye crust along your lashes to the point where your eyes are stuck together in the morning, this could actually be a sign of blepharitis, a disorder where there is a low-grade inflammation of the eyelids. Have a question?
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