You have been blinking ever since your birth. It’s so automatic that you rarely think about it. And yet blinking is an essential body function without which your eye health can suffer.
Blinking helps moisturize your eye, prevent dryness and irritation, and even fight bacterial infections. But that’s not all. Blinking also refreshes the brain and improves your focus and concentration.
Read on to discover all about why we blink, how often we blink, and what happens if we don’t blink. We’ll also cover the reasons why you sometimes blink more frequently and sometimes less often. And finally, check out the benefits of conscious blinking.
First, though, let’s understand what blinking exactly means.
What Is Blinking?
Blinking is the quick closing and opening of your eyes. It’s a reflex—your body does it automatically whether you think about it or not.
So, why do humans blink? Well, blinking helps lubricate the surface of your eyes by spreading over it tears. It also protects your eyes from dust particles, insects, and other irritants that are about to enter your eye.
You also blink in very bright light to adjust your vision and see better. Plus, blinking acts as a brief mental break. It refreshes your brain and improves your focus.
How Often Do We Blink?
Not everyone has the same blinking rate. Some people blink less, some more. Each blink lasts between 0.1 to 0.4 seconds. On average, you blink:
- 15 to 20 times in a minute
- 900 to 1,200 times in an hour
- 14,400 to 19,200 times in a day
- 100,800 to 134,400 times in a week
- 2 to 7.1 million times in a year
That sure is a lot of blinking! And most of the time, we are not even aware of it.
Why Do We Blink Our Eyes?
Blinking is an important part of your eye health. It helps moisten the surface of your eye, flush out small dust particles, and keep irritants and other objects from entering your eyes.
But that’s not all. Blinking is also closely linked with your brain function. It helps shut off visual stimuli briefly, and allows you to focus your attention better.
Let’s take a closer look at why do we need to blink.
Lubricates the Eye
Your tear ducts release clean and lubricating secretions. Each time you blink, these secretions are swept over the surface of your eyes. This helps lubricate your eye and prevent dryness, itchiness, and irritation.
Blinking also clears the surface of your eye. With the aid of your tears, blinking helps wash debris and other particles, dead cells, and dried tears in your eye.
Nourishes the Eye and Supplies Oxygen
Your eye surface has no blood vessels. But blinking helps nourish it. It supplies protein-rich nutrients to the eye, keeping your vision healthy and comfortable.
Blinking also supplies oxygen from the atmosphere to your cornea. If your eyes don’t get enough oxygen, they will fail to produce tears. This in turn will cause dryness and even inflammation and redness in your eyes.
Blinking helps prevent and fight infections, too. Your tear film contains lysosomes and other antibacterial enzymes that protect your eye from various kinds of infections.
Some infections are airborne. Others you can catch by sharing eye makeup or eye drops with others, touching your eyes with dirty hands, or using old contact lenses.
Refreshes the Brain
Blinking is a way to give your brain a brief mental rest. It helps the brain get away from all visual stimuli and refresh itself.
A study found that the precise moment of your blink is not random. In fact, blinking is very predictable. For example, you often blink at the end of a sentence while reading or at breakpoints while viewing a video.
What’s more, blinking also improves your attention. When you open your eyes again after blinking, you can focus better.
Benefits of Conscious Blinking
You can’t really help blinking. But you can certainly blink less often while staring at a screen for hours. This can cause digital eye strain and make your eyes dry and gritty.
To avoid this, remind yourself to blink more completely and consciously. Here are some benefits of conscious blinking.
Prevents Digital Eye Strain
Your eyes can feel fatigued if you work on a computer or use your smartphone all day. That’s because your blinking rate decreases, and your eyes become drier and strained.
To prevent this, blink every 10 to 15 seconds. Also, make a conscious effort to look away from the screen every 20 minutes for at least 20 seconds.
These steps will keep your vision sharper and prevent your eyes from feeling as strained by the end of the day.
Fights Dry Eye Syndrome
Your everyday lifestyle can make your eyes dry. Blue light exposure, wearing contact lenses for too long, using a drier, and smoking can all make you feel like there is sand in your eyes.
To prevent this sensation, blink more often. This will help rewet the surface of your eye. Your eyes will also feel less itchy or irritated.
What’s more, blinking consciously to keep your eye moist will also cut down on the amount of wetting drops you have to use.
Do your eyes feel dry and tired? You may have dry eyes disease. Take the Dry Eye Test now to find out.
What Can Happen If You Don’t Blink?
Blinking is like breathing, you can’t really help doing it. But why do we have to blink?
Well, if you don’t blink often enough, your eye health will be affected. Your cornea can swell, your eyes can become deficient in certain nutrients, and you may even get an eye infection.
Let’s take a closer look at what can happen if you don’t blink frequently.
Swelling in the Cornea
Blinking less often is bad for your cornea. In worst cases, your cornea can swell. That’s because blinking supplies oxygen to your eyes. Lack of oxygen can cause swelling in your cornea, and that can lead to vision problems.
Blinking helps prevent dryness by moisturizing the surface of your eye. But if the rate of your blink is less, your eyes can dry out. That’s because your tear film isn’t being replenished. As a result, your eyes will feel itchy, irritated, and gritty.
Nutrient Deficiency in the Eye
There are no blood vessels on the surface of your eye. So, blinking helps supply essential nutrients to your eye through tears. If you don’t blink enough, your eyes don’t get enough nutrients to stay healthy.
Your tears have antibacterial properties. They help prevent infections you may catch from your surroundings. Blinking less often puts your eyes at risk of getting bacterial infections.
Reasons for Blinking More Frequently
You blink more frequently when your blink reflex is overstimulated. There are several reasons for overstimulation, like eye irritation, eyestrain, visual problems, anxiety, and stress. Here’s why you may be blinking excessively.
- Eye Irritation: Pollen, dust, and even your eyelashes can get in your eye. These can cause irritation and uneasiness, and you may want to blink them away. As a result, you will blink excessively.
- Eyestrain: Several things can cause eyestrain. These include exposure to very bright light, using your computer all day, and reading without breaks. Eyestrain can make your eyes feel tired, and you will blink more frequently.
- Vision problems: Myopia, hyperopia, and other vision problems can also cause excessive blinking. That’s because when your vision gets blurry, you try to focus better by blinking.
- Stress and anxiety: When you are nervous or under stress, you may blink more often. This happens because blinking is also a coping mechanism when your body is in the “fight or flight” mode.
- Habit: Sometimes, excessive blinking can also become a habit. You may blink a lot without realizing it. Unless corrected, it may become a nervous tic.
Sometimes, more than one cause may increase your blink rate. If you think you blink too often, try to pay attention to when and where you blink the most.
In front of your computer? After showering? Becoming aware of any triggers for excessive blinking is often the first step to addressing the underlying problems.
Reasons for Blinking Less Often
Just like blinking excessively, you may also be blinking less often. Some common reasons for this are prolonged screen time, paralysis, injury, and side effects of surgery.
Let’s understand closely the reasons why you may be blinking less often.
- Computer Vision Syndrome: When you work on a computer or laptop, you blink significantly less. This is known as computer vision syndrome (CVS). It affects 75% or more of people who work on computers. People with CVS blink around 66% less than at normal times. This can further cause eye fatigue, burning sensations, light sensitivity, headaches, and blurry vision.
- Paralysis: You may blink less often if the muscles helping the opening and closing of your eyelids are paralyzed. Another factor may be lagophthalmos, a condition that prevents the eyelids from closing completely.
- Injury: Eye injuries from sports, accidents, and flying objects in the eye can cause pain, swelling, redness, and also affect your blinking rate. You may even see flashes of light or have blurry vision for some time.
- Eye surgery: If you’ve just had eye surgery, you may find it difficult to blink or control your eyelids. That’s mostly owing to the side effects of anesthesia. Your blink rate should come back to normal after a few hours.
If your eyes often feel dry and tired, it’s a likely sign that you’re not blinking enough. Blinking is important for your eyes, so try to understand what’s reducing your blink rate. Often, the cause is within your control, and you can address it once you become aware of it.
Don’t Forget to Blink
Blinking is important to maintain your eye health. It lubricates the eye and helps ward off stress. It also refreshes your brain and improves your focus.
But it’s easy to forget to blink while you’re looking at a screen. This can make your eyes feel drier and more strained by the end of the day.
Put a “Blink” note on the wall in front of your desk. It will remind you to blink consciously and more often. These tips to reduce computer eye strain can also help.
While blinking, practice a complete blink. Rest your eyes for a second or two. The blink should be soft, like a butterfly’s wings opening and closing. When you open your eyes again, they will feel well lubricated and more comfortable. Repeat this every few minutes.
In the end, conscious blinking is a perfect way to take a mini break from your computer and smartphone. And give your brain a quick refresh. So don’t forget to blink!