Blinking exercises are preplanned, where you make a conscious effort to blink your eyes. They may help with dry eye disease.
Dry eye is a common condition where your eyes don’t have enough tears to maintain their health and function. This is either caused by a lack of tear production (“deficient” dry eye) or difficulties within your eye that cause tears to dry up too fast (“evaporative” dry eye).
Without natural tear production, you also don’t blink as often as you normally would. When you don’t have enough tears, your eyes can get damaged.
This is where blinking exercises may help. While you may still need medications or other treatments for dry eye, some evidence suggests that blinking exercises may also improve dry eye symptoms.
Blinking and natural tears go hand-in-hand. Without enough tears, you don’t blink your eyes as often as you naturally would. On the flipside, if you don’t blink enough, your eyes won’t get the tears they need to stay healthy.
Each time you blink, your eyes get a much-needed film of tears. This is made up of water, oil, and mucus, and it protects your overall vision. On average, a person may blink 7–10 times per minute. But increased screen time may lower the number of times you blink.
Due to the connections between blinking and tear production, researchers are investigating the possible benefits of intentional blinking exercises for dry eye relief.
They also noted that blinking exercises may be useful when combined with other treatments. They recommend blinking exercises for people who look at screens regularly.
While more research is needed to assess the precise benefits blinking exercises may have for dry eye specifically, the takeaway is that they’re indeed helpful for your overall eye health.
To try blinking exercises, set a timer for 1 minute at a time and blink your eyes for up to 50 times in several directions (up and down). You can repeat this process up to five times per day.
Rather than shutting your eyes completely during blinking exercises, make sure your eyes rapidly flutter closed and open.
A possible alternative to blinking exercises for dry eye is another technique called “blind working.” The purpose behind this method is to give your eyes a break entirely by closing them during times you don’t need to see (besides sleeping at night).
Blind working may be especially helpful if you spend a lot of time looking at a screen throughout the day. A
Unlike blinking exercises, blind working consists of resting your eyes. Try to find a few minutes per day at a time to close your eyes completely.
Alternatively, you can also set a time for every 20 minutes you’re looking at a screen and look away at a distant object for 20 seconds.
Blind working can also allow your eyes to replenish with their much-needed tear film. This may also be a particular relief if you’re exposed to environmental factors that worsen dry eye, such as low humidity.
Despite the possible benefits of blinking exercises for dry eye, it’s still a good idea to see an eye doctor for a comprehensive exam. If you experience any discomfort while blinking, see a doctor right away for an evaluation.
You may also consider seeing an eye doctor if you’re experiencing worsening symptoms of dry eye. The following can also range from mild to severe:
- blurry vision that may be more noticeable when reading or during the nighttime hours
- sensitivity to light
- excessive tear or mucus production
- unusual twitching or excessive blinking
- chronic eye redness and irritation
- chronic stinging or burning sensations
- feelings of grittiness, as if something is constantly stuck in your eye
- increased sensitivity to irritants such as wind or smoke
- eye pain that may interfere with wearing contact lenses
In addition to blinking exercises, you may also try other remedies for dry eye, such as:
- using over-the-counter (OTC) artificial tear products
- using warm compresses on your eyes
- doing an eyelid massage
- cleaning your eyelids
- adding omega-3 fatty acids or vitamin A to your diet, if a doctor thinks you’re deficient in these nutrients
- drinking more water
- using a humidifier in dry rooms
- wearing wrap-around glasses when outdoors
- limiting screen time and taking frequent breaks
Possible medical treatments for dry eye may include a combination of:
- preservative-free artificial tears (if you need to use artificial tears six or more times per day, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology)
- prescription eye ointments or drops to keep your eyes lubricated
- punctal plugs, which are used to temporarily close your tear ducts to stop excess tear production
- permanent tear duct-plugging surgery
- treating certain underlying conditions that may be contributing, such as autoimmune diseases
Blinking helps to replenish the tear film in your eyes. In theory, this may help treat and prevent dry eye. While more research is needed to determine the extent of the possible benefits of blinking exercises, these may help complement a treatment plan for dry eye.