Why Do My Eyes Look So Tired? 9 Reasons That Have Nothing To Do With Sleep



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“Are you okay? You look so tired”. It’s a comment no one ever wants to hear; sympathy that can be mistaken for snooping, concern for criticism.  

Unless, of course, you’re in the niche pursuit of those telltale signs of tiredness. It’s been reported that some TikTokers are intentionally mimicking the dark eyes you’d commonly see in an exhausted person. 

As The New York Times reports, TikToker Sara Carstens wants to “normalise dark circles”, since most of her generation are stressed, tired and have “bad sleeping schedules’’.  

If you think that sounds a little wild, you’re not alone. One TikTok user commented, “I did not spend 18 years trying to cover these up for them to become trendy,” and we’re with them. Moreover, we’re feeling this isn’t actually a new trend! Haven’t you heard of Goths? 

Unfortunately, no matter how much makeup you’re wearing, if you have eyes that do not look as alert as you’d like, you will end up looking tired and worn out. If you have been constantly asking Google how to get rid of eye bags and dark circles, consider first that those bags may not be caused by bad sleep at all.

Indeed, you may be surprised to know that this is not the only reason for it. Here, we take a closer look at what might be causing those puffy eyes and dark circles. If you’re wondering why your eyes look so tired, here are 9 reasons that have nothing to do with sleep.

Digital Eye Strain

Screens occupy most of our waking lives, sometimes in ways we don’t even acknowledge. From phones and tablets to laptops and TVs, an average person spends around 8-10 hours staring at screens all day. Or, to put it differently, the average adult will spend 34 years of their life gazing into one.

This constant exposure to screens puts a strain on our eyes which, in turn, causes dilation in the blood vessels that surround the eyes. This increased blood flow intensifies dark circles and tired looking eyes. Consult your doctor if you feel any difference in your eyesight as that might be the reason for eye strain, too. 

Ideal Tip: Use the 20/20/20 rule to give your eyes a break. Turn your eyes away from the screen every 20 minutes and stare at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. 

Read: 7 ways to prevent digital eye strain

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Salty Food

Waking up with heavy bags under your eyes? It could be down to too much sodium. Consuming large amounts of sodium can cause your body to retain water, which can contribute to puffy under eye bags. 

Eyecare professionals recommend steering clear of foods high in salt – the sodium can result in swelling of the eye tissue, and aim to eat a balanced diet largely defined by fresh vegetables, fruit, pulses and beans. Food with a high water content is ideal, such as cucumber, watermelon and celery.  

Ideal tip: Resist the urge to eat ready meals and fast food and add foods rich in potassium to restore your body’s sodium and potassium balance.  


Indeed, diet has a major role to play in the appearance of your eyes, and this doesn’t only refer to your food intake; dietitians and health care providers advise everyone to drink at least 8 glasses a day. Proper hydration not only keeps you healthy but also keeps up your energy levels. When you drink less water, your body begins to show signs of dehydration. 

Less water intake reduces blood volume which, in turn, reduces the efficiency of the heart, leading to exhaustion. One of the most notable signs of body exhaustion is tired eyes.

Ideal Tip: Keep your water intake in check by putting reminders on your phone or even downloading an app specifically designed to have you drinking sufficient amounts each day.


Alcohol, as so many folk on a Saturday morning will attest, dehydrates its consumers. So how exactly does it dehydrate the skin? As GQ explains, “the body metabolizes the alcohol from an enzyme in the liver, which releases a byproduct called acetaldehyde. This byproduct is toxic to body tissues. In turn, body tissues and skin are dehydrated”. 

Among alcohol’s many detrimental effects on the body, this causes premature ageing of the skin.  

Ideal Tip: Keep your consumption below that oft-quoted 14 units, and when you are drinking, have a big glass of water for every alcoholic drink.

Read: 7 surprising ways alcohol affects the body (spoiler alert; they’re all bad)


If you are allergic to pollen and animal hair, this might be the cause of tired looking eyes. In allergic people, the body releases a chemical called “Histamine” in response to the allergen. Histamine dilates the blood vessels which in return increases blood flow and dark circles. Not only this, but histamine also causes itchiness in the eyes along with fluid accumulation, swelling, and inflammation. 

Ideal Tip: Use OTC antihistamine and the puffiness will go itself. 

Read: 5 IDEAL reasons to use an eye serum

The Ageing Process 

If you’ve happened to look in the mirror recently and noticed crow’s feet and fine lines around the eye then first things first – stop worrying. It will only make things worse. 

Secondly, understand that as you age, the skin starts to lose collagen due to which the blood vessels become visible, leading to dark circles along with sagging skin. This is a natural process and a reason for tired looking eyes. 

Ideal Tip: Start a skincare regime before you hit your 30s. If your skincare routine did not make any difference on your dark circles, you could consider cosmetic treatments. For more tips on how to deal with signs of ageing around the eye, check out our article here

Hormonal Changes

Fluctuations in your hormone levels can have a significant impact on your body, including the skin around your eyes. For women, hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, or menopause can lead to water retention, resulting in puffiness and dark circles under the eyes.

Ideal Tip: Maintain a balanced lifestyle with regular exercise and a diet rich in antioxidants to help mitigate the effects of hormonal changes. Gentle yoga and meditation can also help in managing stress, which can exacerbate hormonal imbalances.

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Vitamin Deficiencies

A lack of essential vitamins, particularly Vitamin K and B12, can contribute to the appearance of dark circles and puffiness around the eyes. Vitamin K is crucial for blood clotting and circulation, while B12 supports healthy red blood cell formation.

Ideal Tip: Incorporate foods rich in these vitamins into your diet. Leafy greens, such as spinach and kale, are excellent sources of Vitamin K, while eggs, dairy, and fortified cereals can boost your Vitamin B12 intake. If you suspect a deficiency, consult with a healthcare provider for advice on supplementation.

Environmental Factors

Exposure to environmental irritants such as pollution, smoke, and harsh weather conditions can lead to oxidative stress and inflammation around the eyes. These factors can damage the delicate skin, leading to a tired appearance.

Ideal Tip: Protect your skin by using a daily moisturiser with SPF and antioxidants to combat free radical damage. Sunglasses can shield your eyes from harmful UV rays and prevent squinting, which can contribute to fine lines. Additionally, using a gentle, hydrating eye cream can help to fortify the skin’s barrier against environmental aggressors.

The Bottom Line

There can be plenty of reasons for tired looking eyes but there is not one reason that cannot be resolved. Follow the tips and get wide awake eyes in no time! Prevent puffiness by changing your habits…good luck.

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