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What everyone ought to know about sleep in your eyes

We all know what sleep in your eyes is – it is those little crystalline, gritty piece of sleepy dust that get stuck at the corners of your eyes in the morning. They are usually at the medial corner towards the eye, where the tears drain down the duct, and occasionally can also be out at the lateral corner towards the ear, where it can be quite uncomfortable. The temptation is to pick at the sleepy dust. But you must not because you will only make it worse.
Sleepy dust is usually a natural consequence of tearing during the night. If your sleepy dust is quite hard and slightly yellow, transparent, it is completely normal. By removing it you will irritate the very delicate skin at the corner of the eye and also the conjunctiva, over what is called the caruncle and plica, and this can lead to more sleepy dust forming of a different nature.
By picking at sleepy dust, you can cause a mucous discharge to form, and it then becomes a vicious circle; as you pick at it once more the surface of the skin and eye at the medial canthus gets micro-damage and produces yet more mucous. Then you get into the realm of not having just sleepy dust, but developing a relatively common syndrome, which is known by various titles, such as:

  • Mucous mop/wipe syndrome
  • Mucous fishing syndrome

With the mucous mop/wipe syndrome or mucous fishing syndrome, typically people are picking at the corner of their eye with a fingernail, tissue, cotton bud, to remove what they believe is sleepy dust. But, in fact, it is a secretion caused by micro-damage, which then creates more goblet cells on your caruncle, which in turn produces more mucous.

How to deal with sleepy dust

The way to stop the occurrence of this unpleasant abnormal sleepy dust is to stop picking in any way at the medial canthus; so stop using the tissue, the corner of the handkerchief, the fingernail or the cotton bud, and instead ‘sit on your hands’.
By sitting on your hands, the urge to itch will subside. You can breathe quietly and then just put in some lubricant drops and wash away the sensation of the urge to remove sleepy dust.
Although sleepy dust can be innocuous, and usually is, don’t pick at it, leave it alone. If in doubt, put some lubricant drops in to wash it out and, possibly, gently clean around the eyelids and lashes with a preparatory eyelid wipe bought at the chemist to make sure that there is no debris on the lashes or the skin from pollution or blepharitis, which is irritating the eyes.


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