The appearance of human eyes differs significantly among people and it is not just the shape and size. The eyelids and orbit also contribute to the overall look of the eyes. Some people have a natural “sleepy” appearance of the eyes and it is largely due to the the eyelids, particularly the upper eyelid. However, even the brightest doe-eyed person may have sleepy eyes at times especially when they are tired. This change in the normal appearance of a person’s eyes usually signals sleepiness, hence the term “sleepy eyes”. It is mainly due to the eyelids drooping as well as puffiness around the eyes, ‘bags’ under the eyes and eye redness.
Causes of Sleepy Eyes
Although that sleepy eye look may be normal for some people, there are other causes in people who otherwise do not have this appearance of their eyes. As mentioned, sleepy eyes are often due to droopy eyelids. The levator muscle is responsible for the opening of the eyelids and is controlled by the oculomotor nerve. When tired, the muscle will lead to droopy eyelids that we refer to as sleepy eyes but it is usually temporary in these instances. Pathological weakening of the levator muscle or damage to the oculomotor nerve is responsible for disease-related droopy eyelids that is known as ptosis. Puffiness and redness of the eyes are more likely due to inflammation.
Some of the causes of sleepy eyes include:
- Tiredness or sleepiness.
- Eye fatigue/eyestrain.
- Age-related drooping of the eyelids.
- Injury to the eye and eyelids, including the muscles and nerves.
- Orbital cellulitis
- Occulopharyngeal muscular dystrophy
- Myasthenia gravis
- Bell’ palsy
- Multiple sclerosis
- Tumor in the eye socket or of the eyelid
Remedies For Sleepy Eyes
If the sleepy look to your eyes is due to any injuries or diseases mentioned above then it needs medical attention. Simple remedies mentioned below will be of little help. Trying these measures and delaying medical treatment can make the situation even worse. However, if you experience temporary bouts of sleepy eyes and it is more often than not related to fatigue and eye strain, then these remedies can help you. Always speak to a doctor first and have a regular eye check up with an opthamologist or optometrist. Sometimes common eye problems like shortsightedness can contribute to eye fatigue and sleepy eyes if it is not corrected with spectacles, contact lens or surgery like LASIK.
Sleep And Power Naps
The best way to remedy sleepy eyes is to go to bed. A good night’s sleep can help but sometimes it may require a few nights before the sleepy look goes away. Remember that while having 7 to 10 hours a night is sufficient for your body’s needs, sleeping for longer can contribute to sleepy eyes as well. If you are tired and having a full 8 hours is not possible then a power nap may do. Power naps are usually for around 30 minutes and is quick and easy way of ‘recharging’ when you are feeling down and drained. However, power naps are a short term solution and cannot replace a good night’s sleep.
Cool And Moisten The Eyes
Applying a cool pack over your eyes can be helpful in reducing the puffiness and ease some of the eye fatigue. It is particularly helpful if you are suffering with eyestrain. While some may swear by a slice of cucumber over the eyelids, you can use a cloth soaked in cool water or a specially designed ice pack for the eyes. Never apply ice directly on the eyelids. The skin here is thin and the ice can do serious damage to the eyelids and eyeballs. Eye drops may be helpful in easing red, tired and burning eyes. It is particularly useful for dry eyes but even blinking more frequently can be helpful in stimulating the tear glands and moisten the eyes naturally.
Practice Eye Relaxation
One of the major causes of sleepy eyes is eyestrain. It is a common consequence of modern life – working long hours on a computer, watching TV and playing video games for hours or even reading throughout the night when studying for that big exam. Practicing eye relaxation techniques is important to reduce eyestrain and spare you the symptoms like puffiness and redness of the eyes. Remember to take a short ‘eye’ break every 30 to 40 minutes of staring at a fixed object. This simply means looking around the room and at objects at varying distances for at least 5 to 10 minutes. Close the eyes for a short period and then open it to look to the left for a few seconds, then to the right, up and then down.
Take A Walk Outdoors
Getting up and moving around can help get rid of that sleepy feeling as long as you had good night’s sleep earlier. Try to take a walk outdoors where there is fresh air and open spaces. It can perk you up and give allow you to catch your second wind. Taking short breaks like this is helpful but if you cannot step out of the building then try standing close to an open window for a few minutes or turning down the thermostat. Colder temperatures can help perk you as well. Apart from the fresh and crisp air outdoors, the sunlight may also do you some good in keeping the sleep at bay.
Drink Water Frequently
Sipping on water can also help. Apart from counteracting dehydration, especially mild dehydration which most people suffer with, it can also keep you up and perky by forcing you to go to the toilet more often. Most people find ice water more invigorating than water at room temperature. Adults should consume approximately 2 to 2.5 liters a day (about 65 to 85 fluid ounces). The key is to consume small amounts of water throughout the day. It may not entirely avoid the sleepy eyes but will at least help ease those heavy eyelids to some extent.
Have A Cup of Coffee
We often think of coffee in a negative light when it comes to our health. But coffee has health benefits and can be helpful when you are feeling tired and sleepy but cannot get to bed. Coffee should be used in moderation though. The odd one or two cups can be a great ‘pick me up’ for a short period but should not be used as a way to prevent going to bed eventually and getting adequate rest. But remember that even with the strongest cup of java, there is no way of entirely avoiding those sleepy eyes without a good night’s sleep.