Why do we get eye bags when we’re tired?

01 June 2022

Author: Kate Green

eye bags

Visual symptoms of a lack of sleep


We’ve all been there after a particularly short night’s sleep, when a glance in the mirror reveals a puffy eyed version of ourselves staring back. A lack of sleep can affect us in a number of ways, from feeling less alert and more irritable, to having itchy eyes that feel heavy. The most obvious sign, however, is the classic eye bag that appears below a tired eye, accompanied by general puffiness or redness. For these reasons, tiredness is particularly difficult to mask.


If you’ve ever wondered why exactly eye bags and redness occurs when you’re tired, then this is the blog post for you. We’re going to look into the science behind the appearance of eye bags, as well as home remedies you can try to lessen the severity of them.


What causes under eye bags?


The average adult needs a minimum 5 hours of sleep each night but, ideally, this number should be somewhere in the range of 7-9 hours. When you don’t get sufficient sleep, your blood vessels dilate. As the skin under our eyes is thinner, the blood vessels are closer to the surface. This means that, when they dilate, there is an increased volume of blood just under the skin, and it is therefore more noticeable under the eyes than it is on other parts of our bodies.


Unfortunately, sleep aside, some people are genetically more predisposed to having noticeable eye bags. People with paler skin might find that their under eye blood vessels are more obvious, and the same can also be said for people with thinner skin. This means that any blood and fluid pooling under the eyes is closer to the surface of the skin and is therefore more prominent.


You might also experience an itchy eye sensation as a result of feeling tired and, while rubbing your eyes provides momentary relief, it’s actually worse overall for the appearance of your under eye bags. This is because it stimulates the capillaries that are already prone to leaking, leading to more fluid pooling in the area and causing swelling.


Home remedies to treat eye bags


A couple of good nights’ sleep should usually help to minimise your under eye bags as your blood vessels then return to their usual size. However, some people swear by the teabag method whereby you dampen two teabags (one for each eye) in cold water, before placing them over your closed eyes. Lie back and rest for a few minutes while the tannic acid in the tea does its magic. The acid supposedly helps the blood vessels to constrict again, reducing the volume of blood under the skin under your eyes, and preventing excess fluid from leaking into the skin.


You can also try using cold compresses on your eyes which should provide relief and reduce any tiredness-induced itching of the eyes. The cold compresses constrict the blood vessels under the eyes, again minimising the appearance of the eye bags as the excess blood then doesn’t sit so close to the skin’s surface.


Making sure you’re well hydrated can also help to reduce the appearance of puffy eyes and under eye bags. Consuming at least two litres of fluid a day should help with this so it’s important that, as well as getting enough sleep, you’re also drinking lots of water.

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