Why do we rub our eyes when we are tired?

Doing your daily morning workout or other physical activities will make you feel tired. This tiredness will often cause our sweat glands to produce more sweat in our body to help control body temperature. At the same time, we will feel a mild itch sensation in our eyes. We often cross with this question as to why do we feel the need to rub our eyes when we are tired.

Most of us experience this rather satisfying feeling of rubbing our eyes after a long run in the park or an intense workout. The moment we feel the weariness kicking in, the upper corner part of our eye will become itchy, and we tend to rub it gently to relieve the itch. A portion of the eye called the Lacrimal Gland is what causes this sensation, which we will discuss further in this article.

What is the Lacrimal Gland?

The lacrimal gland, commonly known as the tear duct, is an exocrine gland located in the upper corner of each eye. This gland is responsible for the production of tears in our eyes, mainly to keep our eyes moist. Dryness is what causes our eyes to have that irritation and itchy feeling.

With this said, tiredness makes our eyes not moist enough. It is because when we are tired, the eyes don’t produce enough moisture it needs, making it quite dry. This feeling gives a signal to the brain, which will lead us to rub our eyes. Rubbing the eyes will then stimulates the lacrimal glands, which will produce tears to keep our eyes moist and clean. That is why this gland is an essential part of our eyes for it to function correctly and to avoid irritation.

When we are tired, we may experience dry eyes because of the insufficient fluid coming out from the lacrimal glands. We can find this situation very unpleasing, as the dry eyes could cause irritation, as well as infection if not treated properly.

So it is essential to keep our eyes moist, and one way to do this is to stay hydrated. Make sure to drink ample amounts of water every day to keep our body functioning properly, mainly our eyes. If we do this, our lacrimal glands would have enough fluids to use for cleaning and washing our eyes.

The Importance of Tears

As mentioned earlier, the lacrimal gland is essential to our eyes because of its ability to keep its moisture and cleanliness. Meaning to say, it is not just the lacrimal gland that is important, rather more the tears itself.

Usually, our eyes blink roughly fifteen times a minute, and every blink coats the surface of the eyes with a film of tear fluid, which keeps moisture across the eye.

Besides providing moisture, tears have several other significant roles for maintaining a healthy eye.

Our tears also provide oxygen and nutrients to the surface cells of our eyes since it doesn’t have blood vessels on the surface. Also, tears act as the eye’s defense mechanism against foreign bodies, washing them out to prevent infections. Furthermore, our tears have a substance called Lysozyme, which has antibacterial properties to prevent infection by microbes. Lastly, our tears help lubricate our eyes to refract light properly for better vision.

Interestingly, our eyes have three types of tears. First is the basal tears, which is what we described as the defense mechanism. This type of tears is what serves as the lubricant for our eyes to prevent infections and irritations. Then we have reflex tears, which is present when triggered by irritants. The reflex tear is somehow similar to the basal tear since its primary purpose is to wash away irritants and helps to maintain the eyes clean. However, unlike the basal tear, reflex tears require a detectable irritant for it to come out of the lacrimal gland—foreign bodies such as smoke, dust particles, or onion fumes. It explains why our eyes produce tears whenever we are cutting onions or when we have dirt in our eyes. In such cases, the eyes release reflex tears in large amounts compared to the basal tears, which also contain antibodies to wash away dirt and prevent bacteria from spreading. Lastly, we have the Emotional tears, which is most common among three types since tears are usually present when we tend to be emotional. It is because of the extreme feeling of joy, sadness, and fear that stimulates the lacrimal glands to produce emotional tears.

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