Yawning is involuntary, and its purpose isn’t entirely clear, but we all do it. Sometimes, a yawn can be rather satisfying. Other times, we try to stifle it or hide it. And some of us tear up when we yawn.
Your eyes probably water when you yawn because your facial muscles tighten up and your eyes get all scrunched up, causing any excess tears to spill out. If your eyes water a lot when you yawn, it could be due to dry eyes, allergies, or other conditions that affect tear production.
Let’s take a closer look at why your eyes water when you yawn, whether it’s a problem, and what you should do next.
There are several reasons why your eyes might water when you yawn, though there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.
You’ve probably noticed that your facial muscles contract when you yawn, including the area around your eyes. This puts pressure on tear-producing glands and, before you know it, your eyes fill with tears.
If you’re prone to watery eyes in the first place, you may be more likely to tear up when you yawn.
Dry eye syndrome
As strange as it sounds, overly watery eyes can be due to dry eyes. Dry eye syndrome is when your eyes don’t produce enough quality lubrication to adequately protect your eyes. That prompts the overproduction of watery tears. If you have dry eye syndrome, your eyes can be easily triggered into watering by the simple act of yawning.
You may notice that you tear up when yawning sometimes, but not always. This variation could be due to other factors occurring at the same time, such as:
- cold or dry weather
- a breeze from fans or air conditioners
- irritants such as dust, fragrances, and sprays
- a stye
- scratched cornea
No. Some people yawn without dropping a single tear.
Just as dry eyes can leave you dripping with tears, they can also make it more difficult to produce tears at all. If you produce fewer tears in general, you may very well remain tear-free when you yawn.
There’s not much research to tell us how common it is to tear up when you yawn. It’s a good bet that that almost everyone tears up sometimes, but not all the time. It may have to do with factors related to our physical state as well as our current environment.
Everybody’s different, so what’s normal for you may be totally abnormal for someone else. If you yawn a lot, tear up way more than you used to, or are very bothered by it, you might consider it excessive.
That’s when it’s a good idea to see an ophthalmologist. Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who specialize in the treatment of diseases of the eye, such as dry eye syndrome.
If you think you yawn excessively, a primary care doctor can help determine if a sleep disorder or other health issue is at the root of the problem.
There’s probably not much you can do to stop your eyes from watering when you yawn. Getting treatment for allergies, dry eye syndrome, or other eye conditions may improve matters.
You also can’t stop yourself from yawning, but you may be able to cut down on yawning by getting good, quality sleep and moving around when you’re bored or sluggish.
Tears should not burn when you yawn or at any other time. Burning or stinging tears could be due:
- eye allergies
- damaged or dirty contact lenses
- eye infection
- dry eye syndrome
If burning lasts more than a few days, or if you have accompanying symptoms, see an eye doctor for evaluation.
Research indicates that there’s such a thing as contagious yawns, and they’re linked to empathy. It also seems that people are more susceptible to catching a yawn from someone we know well versus a stranger.
This phenomenon can happen when you see, hear, or even think about another person yawning.
A 2013 study looked at children between the ages of 3 and 17. The researchers found that when cued to look at the eyes, children as young as 3 years old displayed contagious yawning. They also observed younger children imitating yawns.
Yawning is just one of the many things that can make your eyes water. Some of this has to do with the physical act of yawning, which involves contracted facial muscles and tightly closed eyes. It can also be exacerbated by outside factors, such as allergies or dry eyes.
If you yawn excessively or watery eyes are bothering you, talk with a doctor. You may have a diagnosable condition that can be treated. Otherwise, if your eyes water when you yawn, there’s no cause for concern.