This Is Why Your Eyes Water When You're Tired

You might know the feeling of pushing through a late-night project. With every yawn there seems to be tears gathering in your eyes. Being tired comes with an array of physical and emotional symptoms: Irritability, memory trouble, and skin issues can all happen to your body when you don't sleep. For many, watery eyes are just one symptom of staying awake too long. If you're always tired, you may be used to teary eyes. But there are a couple of reasons why your eyes produce more tears when you're sleep-deprived, whether those tears build up when you get tired in the afternoon, morning, or evening.

Watery eyes when you're sleepy is normal, according to Dr. Priyanka Kanakamedala of Charlotte Eye, Ear, Nose & Throat Associates. "If you're tired and your eyes feel watery, don't worry," she wrote on the clinic's blog. "It's not because you're sad or have something caught in your eye." Your eyes are doing what they're supposed to do, according to Dr. Kanakamedala: They're staying moist and free of debris so you can see.

You produce more tears when you yawn

Yawning can cause watery eyes, according to Healthline. When you yawn, you "scrunch" the muscles near your eyes, creating pressure on the lacrimal glands. The lacrimal glands — aka tear glands — are located just above the eye and below the outside corner of your eyebrow. They're tasked with producing the fluid that becomes tears when you blink, yawn, or cry, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Besides yawning, another symptom of tiredness is dry eyes, says Dr. Kanakamedala of Charlotte Eye, Ear, Nose & Throat Associates. To combat dry eyes, your body creates "basal tears" that are made up of "protein, water, oil, and mucus," Dr. Kanakamedala wrote on the clinic's blog.

Gravity also plays a role in tear production when you lie down, according to Healthline. When you're sitting or standing upright, your tear drainage system can let extra tears pass through your tear ducts. But when you're horizontal, that extra water can't get to your tear ducts, instead building up in your eye. These natural responses to being sleepy plus the pressure that yawning puts on your lacrimal glands speed up tear production, making your eyes extra watery.

How to keep your eyes from watering

Listening to your body and paying attention to its cues are an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Per Dr. Kanakamedala, the best thing you can do when you're sleepy and your eyes are watery is to get some shut eye. "It just means it's time for you to get some sleep," she wrote on the Charlotte Eye, Ear, Nose & Throat Associates blog.

Experts have a couple of tips to teach you how to get rid of watery eyes. According to Vision Boutique, adding moisture to your space with a humidifier or using artificial teardrops can help alleviate watery eyes. If you're constantly on your phone, computer, or watching TV, take a break from screen time to give your eyes a break, Vision Boutique says. Reading a physical book, going outside while wearing sunglasses, or simply giving your eyes some time to rest with a short nap can make them less watery.