Why do we blink?
Blinking is vital for your eye health. It plays a crucial role in keeping your eyes oxygenated and moist while also clearing debris such as dried tears, dead cells, and small particles from the air from your eyes. Blinking can also help keep your eyes healthy by bringing nutrients and other substances to your eyes, which can help prevent dry eyes or eye infections.
Recent studies from Japan’s Osaka University have also shown that blinking helps us to refocus on the task at hand by resting briefly. Although seemingly spontaneous, the researchers’ studies have revealed that people tend to blink at predictable moments rather than random. For example, blinking occurs to a person reading after each finished sentence. On the other hand, a person listening to a speech usually blinks when the speaker pauses between statements. In addition, a group of people all watching the same video tend to blink around the same time, too, when action briefly lags. As a result, the researchers hypothesized that we might subconsciously use blinks as a sort of mental resting point to briefly shut off visual stimuli and allow us to focus our attention.
How often do we blink?
Scientists have shown that the average person blinks approximately:
- 15-20 times per minute,
- Up to 1,200 times per hour,
- 28,800 times in a day,
- 10,512,000 times a year
Thus, if you received a nickel every time you blinked, you would make $210,000 annually.
Did you know that a blink typically lasts 100-150 milliseconds and that the eye is the fastest muscle in your body – which is why when something happens quickly, we say ‘in the blink of an eye!’
What can cause you to blink more or less frequently?
Some possible causes of more frequent blinking include eye irritation, eye strain from extended computer usage, vision problems, anxiety, stress, fatigue, or simply a plain habit. In rare cases, frequent blinking may be a sign of a more severe condition.
A common reason you may blink less often is due to extended usage of a computer, called ‘computer vision syndrome’. Research shows you blink 66% less while you’re using a screen device, which could lead to eye strain or dry eyes.
Here are some excellent practices to prevent computer vision syndrome:
- 20-20-20 Rule: for every 20 minutes, look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
- Use moisturizing eye drops.
- Place a post-it note on your monitor/screen to remind yourself to blink.
- Wear blue light glasses, or use a glare filter on your screen.
- Reduce the screen brightness.
- Set proper lighting around your workspace area.
- Limit your exposure time to the computer screen.
Blinking and contact lenses
Wearing lenses can increase blinking if your eye is finding the lenses uncomfortable. This usually happens if your eyes are dry or if the contact lenses have a rip or a tear. In these instances, you should always remove the existing lenses and replace them with a new pair. Increased blinking can also occur with contact lenses if you wear them for an extended period. The general advice is to wear them for up to 8-12 hours a day, and each type of contact lens should have a prescribed recommended period of usage.
Your blinking can also be affected by the water content in contact lenses. If you suffer from dry eyes or live in a hot and humid climate, contact lenses with higher water content and allow more oxygen to pass to the eye are usually recommended by eye doctors. Daily contact lenses tend to fulfill these characteristics.
Bonus: 10 additional interesting facts about the eye!
- The eyes are the second most complex organ after the brain.
- People generally read 25% slower on screen than on paper.
- Blue-eyed people share a common ancestor with every other blue-eyed person in the world.
- Our eyes close automatically to protect us from perceived dangers.
- Corneas are the only tissues that don’t have blood.
- An iris has 356 unique characteristics, making the iris scan increasingly popular for security purposes than fingerprint scans, which only have 40.
- Research has found that a tie tied too tightly can increase the risk of glaucoma in men.
- In an average life, your eyes will see 24 million different images.
- The human eye only sees three colors: red, blue, and green. All other colors are combinations of these.
- The human eye can differentiate approximately 10 million different colors, which includes 500 shades of grey.