What happens to eyelids when we feel sleepy?

What happens to eyelids when we feel sleepy?

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Why is that whenever we feel sleepy, our eyelids start to feel heavier.
It is not like we can any time close our eyes and will immediately fall asleep. But, when we feel sleepy our eyelids automatically become heavy.
What causes heaviness of eyelids? Is it because of sleep hormone or something?

Why do our eyelids get so heavy when we are tired?

Generally speaking, heaviness of the muscles around the eyes, including the levator muscles that open the upper eyelids, is similar to fatigue of any muscle of the body. Ocular and brow muscles are especially prone to fatigue because they are active for most of our waking hours. Over the course of the day, they gradually grow leaden with extended use, as our arms and legs do.

Such a feeling may be compounded by general fatigue, including a lack of sleep, or by specific muscle overuse related to long hours of focusing on, say, a computer monitor. Excess skin of the eyelid, or prolapsed fat pads underneath the eyes, makes an individual more prone to this sensation. Chronic allergies and sinus infections may also exacerbate the heaviness, and sun exposure may cause eyelid swelling and thereby increase the probability that the drooping will interfere with vision.

Although heavy eyelids do not typically indicate underlying medical issues, some conditions do cause drooping eyelids, or ptosis. A stroke or a muscular disorder such as myasthenia gravis or myotonic dystrophy can damage facial muscles or their nerves and cause ptosis, as can elective facial surgery or interventions such as Botox injections to the brow.

Editor's Note: This story was originally printed in the November 2008 issue of Scientific American.

Interesting facts about blinking

Human biology is interesting. The quick mechanism of blinking, although some may be aware of it, is often unconscious. The human brain has made the person unconscious of blinking that one is made unaware of the brief moment when the eyes close.

The risk of eye infection increases when one does not blink for an extended period. If you are now caught aware of your blinking and detects problems with it, there are ways to improve blinking. This includes one-minute sessions done five times in a day. In each session, you must close your eyes, gentle and not tightly shut, and direct your eyes up, down, left, right, and center. This should improve your eyes’ state and help give your eyes enough time to rest, get back its moisture, and sanitize it against irritants and bacteria.

Perhaps sleep is simply our version of such "adaptive inactivity", allowing us to be productive during the daylight hours while avoiding overexertion

If it played a role in memory consolidation or some other brain function, then you wouldn’t expect the big brown bat to get a whopping 20 hours a day, while the much larger and cognitively complex African elephant survives comfortably on just two.

Instead, Siegel wonders whether sleep may not be a biological requirement itself, but rather evolution's way of maximising productivity. As he wrote in Nature Reviews Neuroscience in 2009, perhaps sleep provides a means of "increas[ing] the efficiency of behavior by regulating its timing and by reducing energy use when activity is not beneficial."

Bears hibernate so that they don't expend energy at times when food is scarce (Credit: iStock)

It's a common trick in both the animal and plant kingdoms. Some trees shed their leaves in the autumn and cease photosynthesising, which could be thought as a kind of botanical slumber. Bears hibernate in the winter, in part to avoid fruitlessly expending energy hunting and foraging at a time when there is not much food to be found.

Other mammals, such as echidnas, enter a sleepy-state known as torpor, where their metabolism slows down to barely a whisper to help them get through hard times. Perhaps sleep is simply our version of such "adaptive inactivity", allowing us to be productive during the daylight hours while avoiding overexertion - and, historically, exposure to predators - at night, while still permitting us to awaken easily if necessary.

Symptoms Associated With Tired Eyes

Whatever the cause, the signs of eye fatigue are unmistakable. Other symptoms that may be associated with tired eyes include:

  • Redness or irritation
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Dry or watery eyes
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Pain in the neck, shoulders, or back

Sleep deprivation can intensify these symptoms and reduce your productivity. Getting enough sleep is essential for eye health. Sleep allows your eyes to fully rest, repair, and recover. Insufficient sleep may result in persistent eye irritation and weaken your vision.

5. Bone structure

Some people simply have a genetic predisposition to forming dark circles under the eyes, which are often present as early as childhood, explains Dr. Sanders. That may be a result of the contour of your skull and how your skin and the fat underneath it interact with it. A deep tear trough—a groove extending from the inner corner of the eye out along the cheek—can create a noticeable semicircle under the eye. Some people have eye sockets that are further sunken in, and the shadow of their bone structure makes it appear as though their dark circles are worse, adds Dr. Elliott.

ELI5: What Happens In Your Body The Exact Moment You Fall Asleep?

Wow Guys, thanks for all your answers. I learned so much today!

See, you don't actually fall asleep all at once. It's more of a well-defined process that everyone makes their way through in their own time. I'll attempt to explain it.

You start off moving into what's called Stage 1, from being completely awake.

When you first lay down to go to sleep, you pass from your awake state to what's called Alpha state. You've daydreamed before, right? That's basically Alpha state. You're still mostly conscious, but you start to see some little bouts of color behind your eyes (hypnogogic hallucinations) and you start to feel more relaxed.

After Alpha, you enter Theta state. Theta state is when you could technically be considered asleep. This is when you move completely into sleep paralysis (have you felt like you were falling then woken up with a start? that's sleep paralysis setting in and you not being completely unaware when it happened). You're still sleeping relatively lightly, but if you can get through this stage you move into deeper sleep.

The next major stage of sleep is called Stage 2.

Your brain starts to produce short periods of rapid brain waves that are called Sleep Spindles. This is the precursor to what comes next in sleep, deep sleep. Your body temperature begins to drop and your heart rate slows down, settling you in for the night.

When you enter stage 3, really slow brain waves called Delta waves start happening. This is the true transition between light and deep sleep.

Stage four is commonly referred to as Delta Sleep because of the brain waves associated with it. It's a deep sleep that lasts for about thirty minutes. You are the technically the most asleep in this stage.

Here's where it gets interesting. There is another stage of sleep unlike all the others. It's called Stage 5, or REM sleep.

REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement, your eyes literally start moving rapidly behind your eyelids. Your breathing rate increases, and your brain waves shoot up to almost as active as if you were awake. Your voluntary muscles become completely paralyzed, and you start dreaming. REM is also where most of the body's repairs happen. REM sleep is what makes you feel rested when you wake up, and where the body actually rests and restores itself (which is why you usually don't feel rested after a night of drinking or smoking weed, they both inhibit REM sleep).

These stages come in cycles. It takes roughly 90 minutes for you to go from awake into REM. The first cycle typically has a short REM period, but subsequent cycles increase the duration of REM.

When we actually fall asleep, we go from stage 1 into 2, then 3, then 4, but here's where something curious happens. We then go from 4 to 3, then 3 to 2, then into REM. After REM, we usually return to stage 2, then go back to 3, 4, then 3, 2, REM. We have as many cycles as we stay asleep for, when we wake up, feeling refreshed and ready or the day.

I don't know if that answered your question, but I hope it shed some light on the subject.

Edit 2: I'll be here if anyone has any other questions theyɽ like answered about this topic.

Edit 3: Holy crap! Thanks for popping my gold cherry anon! Much love! <3

Edit 4: Wow this blew up. Thanks for all the questions! I'm getting to them all, don't worry!


There are several treatments for a stye, ranging from home remedies to medical and surgical treatments.

When you have a stye, do not wear eye makeup or use contact lenses until it resolves.


Do not ever squeeze or pop a stye.

Self Care

Home remedies and self care include:

  • A warm compress: Place a clean, moist, hot washcloth over your eyelids for 10 to 15 minutes, three to five times a day. Reheat the washcloth as needed if it loses its heat.
  • Gently massage the area around the stye: This can help loosen clogged oil glands. Again, remember not to touch or squeeze the stye itself.
  • Wipe away drainage: If you have any drainage from the eye, use a baby shampoo or eyelid wipes to remove it.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers: These can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with the stye.

Medical Treatment

Medical treatments may include:

  • Antibiotics: A doctor may prescribe oral or topical antibiotics if you have a stye that is infected.
  • Steroid injection into the stye: This may be used to lessen the swelling, especially if a chalazion forms.
  • Drainage of the stye: An eye doctor would do a procedure if the stye does not go away and if it affects your vision. It is usually done in a doctor's office using local anesthesia.

What happens if you sleep with your eyes open?

People who sleep with their eyes open may wake up feeling their eyes are dry and grainy. Some may think this habit is odd, but it is quite common. A person who sleeps with their eyes open regularly could end up with severe eye problems, however.

The medical term for sleeping with the eyes open is nocturnal lagophthalmos. Up to 20 percent of people are affected. One reason that it happens is problems with the facial nerves or muscles that make it difficult to keep the eyes fully closed. It can also occur because of problems with the skin around the eyelids.

If people keep their eyes open while sleeping, their eyes can dry out. Without enough lubrication, the eyes are more susceptible to infections and can become scratched and damaged.

People may experience the following:

  • redness
  • blurred vision
  • irritation or a burning sensation
  • scratchiness
  • sensitivity to light
  • feeling as if something is in the eye or rubbing against it
  • poor sleep quality

Most people realize they have slept with their eyes open because another person tells them they have done so.

People usually sleep with their eyes open because of a problem with the facial muscles, nerves, or skin around the eyelids.

Paralysis or weakening of the muscle that closes the eyelids, known as the orbicularis oculi, can cause someone to sleep with their eyes open.

Conditions that can cause muscle weakness or paralysis of the facial nerves include:

Trauma, injury, or surgery can also result in damage and paralysis to facial muscles and nerves.

Infections can be less common causes, and these may include:

Graves’ ophthalmopathy, where the eyes bulge or protrude, can also make it difficult to close the eyes.

Very thick upper or lower eyelashes may also prevent the eyelid from closing completely, though this is rare.

There is not always a reason or underlying condition that causes nocturnal lagophthalmos. It may also be genetic.

There are several treatment options.

A doctor might also prescribe medications, including:

A person can also wear moisture goggles at night, which can help.

These work by moisturizing the eyes during sleep. Sleeping with a humidifier in the bedroom can also keep the surrounding air moist and less likely to dry out the eyes.

A doctor may recommend using an external eyelid weight. This is attached to the outside of the upper eyelids to keep them closed. Applying surgical tape to the eyelids also serves the same purpose.

Another option is surgery, though this is usually only recommended for severe cases.

Surgery for nocturnal lagophthalmus

There are multiple surgeries that can treat lagophthalmos.

In one type of surgery, a gold surgical implant is inserted into the eyelid that works like an eyelid weight to keep the eye closed while someone is sleeping.

This surgery involves making a small incision on the outside of the eyelid above the lashes. This creates a small pocket where the implant is inserted. The implant is held in place with stitches, which seal the pocket.

Antibiotic ointment is applied to the eyelid to help it heal. As a result of the surgery, a person may experience: