Sleep, eye boogers, gunk… whatever you call it. We’ve all woken up with crusty eyes in the morning at some point in our lives, but what exactly causes this eye gunk?
I’ve done the research to find out what exactly this sticky eye mucus is, what causes eye boogers, and how to clean our eyes the correct way.
Why Do You Wake Up with Sticky Eyes in the Morning?
Sleep, or ‘rheum’ as it’s medically known, is extremely common. It is a mucus-based discharge which builds up as you sleep and is part of normal eye function. Its job is to protect your eyes by removing any waste or debris from the tear film and front surface of your eyes.
However, if you wake up with more rheum than usual or inflamed eyes, this could be a sign of an infection, allergies, or dry eye and it may be worth visiting your local doctor or optometrist.
This is something you should be particularly aware of with young children. Pink eye is extremely common and contagious among kids. So, don’t delay calling your doctor if your child has itchy, red and painful eyes with discharge.
According to Healthline, about 10% of infants are born with at least one tear duct partially or completely blocked, something which could lead to an increased likelihood of rheum and eye disorders such as conjunctivitis.
What Causes Eye Boogers?
All About Vision explains this as follows:
‘Your eyes produce mucus throughout the day, but a continuous thin film of tears bathes your eyes when you blink, flushing out the rheum before it hardens in your eyes.
When you're asleep — and not blinking — eye discharge collects and crusts in the corners of your eyes and sometimes along the lash line, hence the term "sleep in your eyes.”’
Is There a Right Way to Clean Your Eyes and Get Rid of Rheum?
Let’s face it, most of us would simply stick our finger in our eye or rub at the gunk with our hands, however, this can do more harm than good. Your nails could scratch your eye and, if your hands aren’t clean, you could introduce bacteria which may lead to an eye infection.
The correct, and most effective, way of getting rid of sticky eyes in the morning is to dampen a washcloth with warm water and to press it gently to your eyes. This will soften the rheum boogers and make it easier to move. Gently rinse the area with water and your eyes should be cleared.
Removing make-up and contact lenses before you go to sleep at night, and good eye hygiene in general, should help keep your eyes clean and prevent quite as much eye rheum building up.
Make Your Mornings the Best They Can Be
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