Most people never stop to consider the act of blinking their eyes. There’s actually quite a lot to it, including the three types of blinking: spontaneous, reflex and voluntary.
Spontaneous blinking is similar to digestion and breathing, which we don’t have to think about because our brain stem activity takes care of it for us. And we need to blink, as doing so allows our eyes to stay moistened, oxygenated and healthy.
Reflex blinking is what we do when an object comes flying at us and takes us by surprise, like when your tantruming toddler lobs a toy straight at you. (Fun fact: this reaction is called a menace reflex.) Reflex blinking is also what happens when there’s a sudden bright light, an eyelash or speck of debris enters the eye, or when we’re startled.
Voluntary blinking is when we intentionally blink, which you’ve probably done a few times while reading this article. With more screens in our lives, our eyes aren’t blinking properly: it’s called incomplete blinking, where the upper and lower lids aren’t meeting all the way. It’s not good, as it leads to less tear film that creates dry, tired eyes. In other words, eyes prefer print rather than screens. When you’re using screens, follow the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes look away for 20 seconds at something 20 feet away. A few good voluntary blinks also help.
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