Blinking is essential for your eye health. It helps your eyes stay moist and oxygenated, and also clears debris from your eyes.
Not everyone blinks at the same rate, but there is an average rate for the number of times most people blink in a minute, hour, or day.
Let’s take a closer look at the average number of times you likely blink in a day, and what may disrupt your blinking frequency.
On average, most people blink around 15 to 20 times each minute. That means, while you’re awake, you probably blink:
- 900 – 1,200 times an hour
- 14,400 – 19,200 times a day
- 100,800 – 134,400 times a week
- between 5.2 and 7.1 million times a year
Each blink lasts between 0.1 and 0.4 seconds. Given how many times the average person blinks per minute, this makes up about 10 percent of the time you’re awake.
Research suggests that there’s no significant difference in how often you blink based on your sex or your age.
Blinking is essential for your eye health. It plays a key role in:
- clearing debris from your eyes, like small particles from the air, dried tears, and dead cells
- bringing nutrients and other substances to your eyes that help keep them healthy
- wetting your eyes, which prevents dry eyes and reduces your risk of problems with your tear film
- bringing oxygen to your eyes
All of these functions also help prevent eye infections. Additionally, blinking lets your brain briefly rest, helping you refocus on whatever it is you’re doing.
What can happen if you don’t blink?
If you don’t blink, or don’t blink frequently enough:
- Your cornea can swell. Your cornea doesn’t have blood vessels, so it needs oxygen from the tear film, which it gets when you blink. If you simply blink less often, your cornea should still get the oxygen it needs. But if you don’t blink, the lack of oxygen can lead to corneal swelling. In fact, your cornea even swells a little bit when you sleep, but goes back to normal soon after you wake up.
- Your eyes won’t get the nutrients they need to stay healthy.
- Your eyes can dry out, because your tear film isn’t being replenished. This can lead to eye pain and blurry vision.
- Your risk of eye infection increases due to debris that stays in your eye and a lack of oxygen to the eye.
A common reason you may blink less often is due to computer vision syndrome. This can happen when you use a computer for a long time without a break.
In fact, research shows you blink 66 percent less while you’re using a computer. If you find yourself with dry eyes while using a computer, it may be because you’re blinking less frequently.
To help combat computer vision syndrome, try:
- taking frequent breaks and use the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look away from your computer and rest your eyes on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds
- reminding yourself to blink while you’re in front of your computer
- using eye drops
- adjusting your lighting or screen position to reduce glare, or use a glare filter on your screen
- adjusting the brightness and contrast of your screen so you don’t have to strain your eyes to read
- limiting how much time you spend in front of a computer screen, especially closer to bedtime when lighting may be worse and you’re more fatigued
You may also blink less frequently due to problems with your eyelid. Eyelid issues may be caused by:
- eye disease
- side effects of surgery
Some people with Parkinson’s disease may also blink less often, due to issues with their muscle movements.
Blinking more frequently can be annoying, but it’s rarely a sign of a serious issue.
Some possible causes of more frequent blinking include:
- eye irritation, due to irritants in the air, dry eyes, a scratch on your cornea, inflammation of your eyelid or iris, having something in your eye, or other reasons
- eye strain from focusing on one thing for too long — for instance, after you shut down your computer at the end of the day
- vision problems, like nearsightedness, farsightedness, or your eyes not aligning properly
- a movement disorder, which can cause eye spasms
- anxiety or stress
In rare cases, frequent blinking may be a sign of a more serious condition. Conditions that may cause frequent blinking include:
- seizure disorders (especially in children)
- multiple sclerosis
- Wilson’s disease
- Tourette syndrome
Most of the time, a change in blinking frequency isn’t a cause for concern. However, if blinking frequency is accompanied with other symptoms, it could be due to something more serious.
Be sure to look out for:
- signs of an eye infection:
- blinking frequency changes after a recent eye injury
- problems with your balance or coordination
- other muscle spasms
- physical and vocal tics (in children)
On average, most people blink 15 to 20 times per minute. This helps your eyes stay healthy by keeping them oxygenated and moist, and clearing out debris.
While there are some conditions that can cause you to blink more or less frequently, a change in your rate of blinking is rarely a sign of a serious issue.
If you notice changes in your blinking and signs of an eye infection, neurological symptoms, or a recent eye injury, talk to your doctor. In this case, it may be a sign of a more serious condition.