Science Questions

When you yawn, why do your eyes water?

Sun, 27th Mar 2005

Part of the show Avian Flu, Viruses, Bed Bugs and Murder


John asked:

When you yawn, why do your eyes water? Is it normal?


Yes, it is. Part of the reason is that when you yawn, you squeeze your eyes tightly shut. Entombment of Christ, 1672, in Saint-Martin Church in Arc-en-Barrois (Haute-Marne, France). Mary Magdalene.The way that tears flow is that they come out of your lacrimal gland, which is on the upper outer side of the top of your eye; they then flow - in a film - across your eye obliquely downwards and inwards.

The tiny black dot on your lower eyelid is called a punctum, and that's where your tear duct starts and where the tears drain away.

But if you squeeze your eyelids tightly shut, you close off the punctum, stopping the tears flowing across your eye and into the tear duct, so they build up in the eye. This makes you cry a little bit, which is why tears appear when you yawn.


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I don't close my eyes when I yawn, still watering. Nice try though Justin, Sun, 11th May 2014

I don't close my eyes when I yawn either. Plus, I'm more interested in the reason for increased tear production when you yawn, not just the reason tears may or may not stay in your eye. Scott, Sat, 12th Jul 2014

I don't shut my eyes when I yawn and they still water. Is there any way to stop my eyes from watering after I yawn? Casey, Wed, 14th Jan 2015 JJ, Thu, 29th Jan 2015

My eyes water right at the stimulus point - whether by reflex or if I cause myself to yawn when popping my ears. The yawn doesn't have to happen for me to get enough buildup of tears to spill out of closed eyes. Sometimes it's quite copious. I think there's more to it than just a stopped drain -- but I like learning that the puncta are for draining tears only. Brad, Mon, 20th Jul 2015

my mum dose not close her eyes an yet they still water whats up with that??????????????? james, Thu, 18th Aug 2016

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