Blinking is a natural reflex. Your body does it automatically to keep your eyes lubricated and healthy. But, when necessary, you can blink on command, too. Blinking protects your eyes from bright lights and irritants like dirt, dust and smoke.

What is blinking?

Blinking is a normal, healthy reflex. Thanks to your autonomic nervous system, you don’t have to think about blinking to do it. It happens automatically. But you can blink “on command,” too. In fact, there are three different types of blinking:

  1. Spontaneous blinking. This is the most common type of blinking. It happens subconsciously, like breathing.
  2. Voluntary blinking. This is when you blink on purpose. For instance, if you want to blink, you can. (You just did it, didn’t you?)
  3. Reflex blinking (corneal reflex). This type of blinking happens when something gets too close to your eye. Your corneal reflex kicks in whenever you sense danger — like if you’re caught out in a dust storm, or if a baseball zips by a few inches from your face.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Why is blinking important?

Without blinking, you’d have dry, uncomfortable or painful eyes. You also wouldn’t be able to see as clearly, and you’d have a much higher risk of eye infections. Blinking keeps your eyes healthy in many ways.

Each blink:

  • Protects your eyes from irritants and dangerous objects.
  • Spreads lacrimal secretions (tears) across your eyeballs, keeping your eyes lubricated and comfortable.
  • Removes dead cells, dried tears and other debris from your eyes.
  • Sends oxygen and nutrients to your eyes.

How many times does the average person blink per day?

Most adults blink about 14 to 17 times a minute. That comes out to 840 to 1,020 blinks every hour. If you sleep for 8 hours every night, that means you probably blink about 13,440 to 16,320 times a day while you’re awake.

This is an estimate. Some people blink less, some more. But unless your blink rate interferes with your quality of life, then there’s nothing to worry about.


Do you blink less when looking at a computer?

Yes, research suggests that most of us blink far less frequently when looking at a computer. We blink about 14 to 17 times a minute in general — but that number drops to five times a minute when we’re working in front of a screen. This drastic decrease in blink rate can lead to eye strain, fatigue and chronic dry eye.

If you spend a lot of time in front of screens, try the 20-20-20 rule. For every 20 minutes of screen time, look at something at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. Incorporating this practice into your daily routine can help reduce eye strain, fatigue and chronic dry eye.

What are some health conditions associated with blinking?

Common conditions associated with blinking include:

  • Excessive blinking.
  • Blepharospasm.
  • Eye pain when blinking.

Excessive blinking

There’s no number that defines “too much” blinking. Blinking becomes excessive when it hinders your daily routines or quality of life.

Common causes of excessive blinking in adults include:

Excessive blinking can also affect children. If your baby or toddler is blinking a lot, it could be due to:

Some children, often around age 5, develop a compulsive blinking habit. It’s unclear why it happens, but it usually goes away on its own after a few months.


Blepharospasm is a condition that causes uncontrollable eyelid twitching. It differs from excessive blinking because it’s a neurologic disorder. While anyone can develop blepharospasm, it’s not very common.

Eye pain when blinking

There are many conditions that can cause eye pain when blinking, including:

  • Eye infections.
  • Corneal ulcer.
  • Allergies.
  • Exposure to irritants like dust or smoke.
  • Wearing ill-fitting contact lenses or wearing contacts longer than you should.
  • Uveitis (a condition that causes eye pain, inflammation and redness).


How can I stop my excessive blinking habit?

Oftentimes, excessive blinking goes away on its own. In the meantime, here are some things that might help you stop blinking so much:

  • Use lubricating eye drops every day.
  • Take frequent breaks when reading or working at a computer.
  • Avoid environments that irritate your eyes (like smoky rooms).
  • Practice mindfulness, meditation or other stress-reducing activities.
  • Get regular eye exams.

In most cases, excessive blinking doesn’t mean you have a health condition. But if you blink so much that it affects your daily life, it’s time to see a healthcare provider. They can do an eye exam to find out why you’re blinking more frequently than usual.

Treatment depends on the cause. If you have a refractive error (like nearsightedness or farsightedness), they’ll fit you for glasses or contacts. If you have allergies, inflammation or an injury, they may prescribe eye drops or ointments. If excessive blinking results from stress, anxiety or facial tics, they may refer you to a specialist.

When should I see my healthcare provider?

You should schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider any time you develop: 

  • Eye pain.
  • Drainage.
  • Inflammation.
  • Sudden changes in your vision.

In addition, you should visit your optometrist for regular eye exams. During these visits, they can check for common eye issues and treat them before they worsen.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Most of us don’t think about blinking too often. But this little reflex has a big job. Without blinking, you’d have a much higher risk of eye infections and eye-related pain. Your eyes would feel gritty all the time and you’d need a lifetime supply of eye drops to keep them comfortable. Blinking plays a key role in keeping our eyes healthy. If you feel like something isn’t quite right with your eyes, talk to your healthcare provider. They can design a personalized treatment plan in the blink of an eye.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 10/04/2023.

Learn more about our editorial process.

Questions 216.444.2538