If You’re Staring at a Screen, You’re Not Blinking Enough

These days, we’re on so many devices, virtually all the time. Smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops; they’re everywhere, demanding every bit of our attention.

For many of us, long work hours and remote work, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, have meant spending more time in front of a computer. And what about when we’re not working? Much of our leisure time is spent staring at a screen, too.

But unfortunately, there’s a price to pay for working and playing on all those devices. Staring at all those screens can lead to digital eye strain, which includes dry eyes.

And one of the reasons is that we tend to blink less when we’re concentrating.

In a study by the University of Iowa, people blink 66% less often while they were on a computer. 1

How is it that we blink less? Isn’t that something that’s automatic?

"More than likely, it's simply due to the fact that you're reading so much," says James Sheedy, an optometry professor at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon . "Reading demands your attention, so you forget to blink as often."2

And that’s a problem.

The less often you blink, the drier your eyes get

Every time you blink, you spread tears, mucin, and other hydrating substances across the surface of your eyes. You lubricate your cornea, and wipe away just about anything that shouldn’t be in your eyes.

And when you blink, you cover your eye and eyelids with nutrients and minerals that are needed for good eye and vision health.

And researchers in Japan have found that the less often a person blinks, the lower the level of MUC5AC. 3

So blinking less often can mess with your eye health. It can lead to digital eye strain such as dry eyes. If left untreated, serious dry eyes can lead to blurred vision or even eye damage. You can experience headaches, fatigue, neck pain, even dizziness, in addition to the negative effects on your eyes.

And it gets worse: staring at a screen also increases the number of partial or incomplete blinks, which don’t cover the whole surface of the eye. These can be even more significant than the reduced blink rate.

According to a study by the American Academy of Optometry (AAO), staring at a computer screen resulted in fewer complete blinks—and higher incidents of digital eye strain and dry eyes.4

What can you do?

First, remember that whenever you’re staring at a screen or on a device, you’re not going to blink as much, so make yourself blink more. Really flutter those lids. Think of it like giving your eyes a bath, shower, or a tall drink of water.

If you have trouble remembering to blink, a Japanese company, Masunaga Optical, may have the answer for you. They’ve developed the Masunaga Wink Glasses, which fog up one lens if you haven’t blinked within five seconds! 4

You can also download an app that will remind you to blink.5

Next, staying hydrated can give your body extra moisture it needs to help produce tears, so drink plenty of water every day. (Frequent water drinking can also lead to frequent bathroom breaks, which get you away from the desktop screen, if not the smartphone.)

You can also try blinking exercises to help produce a better blink. Here’s one from Dr. Andrew Gasson, an optician in the U.K.:6

Step 1. Relax
Step 2. Close eyes
Step 3. Pause for three seconds
Step 4. Open just slightly wider than normal
Step 5. Pause in the wide open position pause for a moment
Step 6. Close

Repeat 10 times, 15 times per day.

Here’s another blinking exercise you can do (from the National Keratoconus Foundation):7

> Set aside five – one minute sessions a day for two weeks spread throughout the day.
> Into each of the minutes, cram fifty full blinks – look into each of the five forward directions (up, down, left, right, straight) blink ten times into each direction (5×10) it takes less than a minute.

To determine if you’re blinking fully, completely, and correctly, gently place your forefingers sideways, just above each cheekbone and below the eyes, with your fingers pointing at your nose. If you can feel your upper eyelashes brush against your fingers when you blink, you’re doing it right!

And finally, speaking of hydrating your eyes, dropping the appropriate Rohto® Cooling Eye Drops into your eyes can help fight the symptoms of digital eye strain: dry and red eyes. Use lubricating Rohto® Digi Eye®, specially formulated to counter the effects of staring at all those screens.

So, to summarize, whether you’re working or playing, remember to blink, drink, and drop. Blink more, drink more (hydrating fluids), and drop some Rohto® Digi Eye® eye drops into your eyes.

1 https://uihc.org/health-topics/computer-vision-syndrome

2 https://www.vox.com/2014/8/5/5967487/computer-screen-eyesight-vision

3 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24903353/

4 https://www.aaopt.org/detail/knowledge-base-article/incomplete-blinks-and-computer-vision-syndrome

5 https://www.japantrendshop.com/masunaga-wink-glasses-p-1892.html

6 https://www.blinkingmatters.com

7 https://www.notadryeye.org/all-about-dry-eye-syndrome/treatments-for-dry-eye-syndrome-and-related-conditions/improve-blinking/

8 https://nkcf.org/science-and-art-of-blinking/