Blinking is an involuntary reflex that your body does automatically. This means that you don’t even have to think about blinking, your brain simply knows that it’s time to blink and therefore actions it. Well, it did until you read this, so you’re likely now manually blinking. Sorry!
Blinking is an extremely critical bodily function and many people don’t even know the full reasoning behind why almost every creature with eyes, bar fish, snakes and some lizards, have to blink.
Why do we blink?
We blink because of the need to clean and moisten the eye. Small dust particles are common in the air and often land on the surface of the eye. A salty secretion, from the tear glands, is swept over the eye when you blink. This effectively flushes your eyes whilst also lubricating the exposed portion of your eyeball. It prevents any alien substances from affecting your vision in the short and long term.
The number of times we blink depends on several factors including the amount of light, temperature, humidity, smoke and cleanliness of a room. All of these factors change how lubricated and clear our eyes are.
When there is too much moisture in your eyes, the excess ‘tears’ drain through the tear ducts. The tear ducts are tiny holes in the corner of our eyes which lead to our nasal passages. This is the reason your nose gets runny on a windy day or when you cry.
Less known reasons why we blink
People tend to blink more when they’re nervous. This could be why many people can tell when others are lying or in an uncomfortable situation. Scientists found that when Air Force Pilots were in ‘friendly’ territory they found that blinks were far more frequent and lasted longer than when they were in an ‘enemy’ territory.
If someone is tired then they tend to blink more frequently and for longer than someone who is well-rested. Both of these imply that a person’s emotional state affects blinking.
Research has also shown that we tend to blink less when we are focused on a task. When we’re watching tv or reading we are prone to blinking less. On average people blink 3 times a minute when focusing, which is much below the healthy limit.
You likely need to blink more!
It is likely that when you’re sitting watching TV or playing video games you are blinking far below the healthy amount. This can have damaging effects on your eyes, especially if they’re for long periods. If focus on it, then you can get yourself into a habit of blinking more frequently.
One exercise that is great at keeping your eyes fresh is to close them, pause a moment, squeeze your eyelids, and then open them again. We also always recommend the 20-20-20 rule to help people’s vision. For every 20 minutes, you spend focused on a task you should spend 20 seconds looking at something that is 20 feet away. This keeps your eyes from focusing on a single thing for too long. To keep your eyes healthy you should be following the 20-20-20 rule and ALSO doing blinking exercises. For more info on the 20-20-20 rule click here.
People who wear contact lenses should also be blinking more, to avoid drying the lenses.
Need Any Help?
If you feel as though you don’t blink enough or suffer from dry eyes then you might want to consider getting a professional examination of your eyes.
We’re an award-winning local opticians based in Hailsham, East Sussex, so if you’re in the area and want an eye test, or have any questions about the health of your eyes, then please call in and see us!