Why do we wake up with gloopy sleep goo in our eyes?

Why do we wake up with crusty bits in our eyes? [Photo: Unsplash via Pexels]

What’s the first thing you do in the morning? Chances are after you’ve done a quick scroll of social media, the next thing you do is wipe the crusty gunk out of the corner of your eye.

Sleep, eye bogies, or if you live in the US eye boogers. Whatever you call it, the crusty or gooey stuff that accumulates in the corners of your eye overnight is pretty darned gross *gags*

But what actually is it? And how does it get there?

According to Tej Johal, optometrist at Maverick and Wolf the icky stuff is actually made up of a bunch of different materials, including mucus and oils, that gather overnight.

Should you ever be worried about sleep in your eyes? [Photo: Unsplash via Pexels]

“Eye discharge is a combination of mucus and oils which gather in your eyes,” he explains. “This discharge gathers when we are sleeping because during the night the eyes are not producing tear film or blinking to wash the discharge away, hence the name ‘sleep’.”

Whether your eye discharge is gloopy or crusty is determined by the make up of your tear film. “Your eyes produce constant discharge throughout the day but your tears are always washing this away when you blink,” explains Tej.  “When this discharge gathers in the corners of your eyes it can be ‘gunky’. As you do not blink while asleep, this discharge can become ‘crusty’ overnight when the liquid in the discharge evaporates.”

So what do we do abut it? Tej says that sleep can be easily removed by washing the eyes with warm water. “If the sleep is particularly sticky and your eyelids feel ‘stuck together’ then the best method is to wet a cloth with hot water and place it over the eyelids for a few minutes before gently wiping the sleep away,” he says.

But another way to remove stubborn sleep from your eyes is to try using a daily eyelid wipe. “Eyelid wipes are great for eyelid hygiene and to help prevent eye infections,” suggests Francesca Marchetti, leading Optician to WINK. “Be sure to choose one, however, which is detergent free so that it does not disrupt the tear film, such as Biotrue Daily Eyelid Wipes. These specific eyelid wipes are also suitable from birth so good for babies as well as adults.”

Though most of the time crusty eyes are nothing to worry about, there are some changes you need to watch out for.

“Sleep in your eyes is quite common and not normally anything to worry about,” explains Tej. “However, if there is a significant change in the discharge colour, consistency or amount then this could be a sign of an infection. If you wake up with more discharge than normal and it is green or yellow in colour, accompanied by light sensitivity or blurred vision then you should contact your optician straight away.”

So there you have it people, that’s what’s in your eye bogies. Bet you wish you’d waited until after lunch to read this one eh?

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