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? boogers, donБt feel bad. ThereБs basically no way to wake up without those suckers. The sooner we all embrace that, the closer weБll be to true self-acceptance. Odds are, youБve been dealing with eye boogers your whole life and just wipe them away then keep it moving, but thereБs actually a lot more to them than youБd think. Eye doctors sometimes refer to these ocular boogers as Бrheum. Б Rheum is basically a mucus-based discharge that builds up in your eyes as you sleep, JP Maszczak, O. D. , assistant professor of clinical optometry at the Ohio State University College of Optometry, tells SELF. This happens as an extension of your normal eye function. Your eyes are constantly bathed in a tear film that helps them stay moisturized and allows you to see as best you can, according to the. This tear film is comprised of an oily layer on top to keep tears from evaporating too quickly, a watery layer in the middle to provide nutrients to your corneas (the dome-shaped surface on your eyesБ outer surface) and your conjunctiva (the mucus membrane that covers the front of your eyes and inside of your eyelids).
Finally, thereБs a mucus-based layer that binds to the watery one to help your eyes stay wet. Rheum is mostly made up of that mucus, though it also contains some water, oil, and skin cells, Sajeev Kathuria, M. D. , F. A. C. S. , an ophthalmologist with , tells SELF. YouБre producing the matter that makes up rheum all the time, but itБs more obvious after you sleep. When youБre awake, youБre constantly blinking. This washes excess tear fluid that would form into rheum away into your eyeБs tear drainage system, Dr. Kathuria explains. But when you sleep, this matter has a chance to collect in the corners of your eyes because youБre not blinking. When exposed to air for long periods of time, it will harden, forming little balls of crust. FYI, thereБs a right way to get rid of these eye boogers, and youБre probably not doing it. Most people tend to use their fingers to try to dig out eye boogers or scrape it away with their nailsБbut you shouldnБt. For starters, you can scratch your eye or accidentally put bacteria in there that can lead to an eye , and itБs also just not the most effective way to handle this. Instead, itБs best to take a washcloth, wet it with warm water, and then press it to your eyes to soften the crust, Dr. Kathuria says. Once itБs soft and easier to move, gently rinse the area with plain warm water or wipe the booger away with your washcloth. Noticing even more eye boogers than usual? There are a few possible reasons for that. to keep various parts of your body moisturized. But can also prompt extra mucus production in response to irritants, basically as a natural way of trying to get rid of something thatБs bothering you.
Given that rheum is largely made of mucus, you can end up making more than usual when youБre not feeling well, whether itБs due to something like or. БIn these scenarios, the discharge may actually seal the lids and lashes shut,Б Dr. Maszczak says. , a chronic condition that happens when your eyes arenБt moisturized enough, can cause more rheum than normal. Dry eye can make your eyes inflamed or even infected, so your eyes might release excess mucus in response, Dr. Kathuria says. If youБre dealing with a serious eye booger situation, it might be time to call your doctor. should be dealing with in the A. M. Much like snowflakes, everyoneБs eye booger situation is unique. But if you find that youБre seeing a lot more of it than normal and youБre not sick, itБs probably time to call your eye doctor. ThatБs especially true if you donБt have anything like a cold that would normally turn your mucus yellow or green, but your eye boogers still take on one of those hues. That can signal an eye infection. You should also sound the alarm if your increased eye boogers come along with pain, sensitivity to light, or eye rednessБthose are all signs that you may have some sort of infection or condition that needs treatment, Dr. Maszczak says. You might feel embarrassed to bring this up with your doctor, but you shouldnБt. More than anyone else, eye doctors have really seen it all. (Ba dum tish! Sorry. ) Related: