Experimental evaluation of eye-blink parameters as a drowsiness measure

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2003 May;89(3-4):319-25. doi: 10.1007/s00421-003-0807-5. Epub 2003 Mar 14.


Drowsiness and increased tendency to fall asleep during daytime is still a generally underestimated problem. An increased tendency to fall asleep limits the efficiency at work and substantially increases the risk of accidents. Reduced alertness is difficult to assess, particularly under real life settings. Most of the available measuring procedures are laboratory-oriented and their applicability under field conditions is limited; their validity and sensitivity are often a matter of controversy. The spontaneous eye blink is considered to be a suitable ocular indicator for fatigue diagnostics. To evaluate eye blink parameters as a drowsiness indicator, a contact-free method for the measurement of spontaneous eye blinks was developed. An infrared sensor clipped to an eyeglass frame records eyelid movements continuously. In a series of sessions with 60 healthy adult participants, the validity of spontaneous blink parameters was investigated. The subjective state was determined by means of questionnaires immediately before the recording of eye blinks. The results show that several parameters of the spontaneous eye blink can be used as indicators in fatigue diagnostics. The parameters blink duration and reopening time in particular change reliably with increasing drowsiness. Furthermore, the proportion of long closure duration blinks proves to be an informative parameter. The results demonstrate that the measurement of eye blink parameters provides reliable information about drowsiness/sleepiness, which may also be applied to the continuous monitoring of the tendency to fall asleep.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Blinking / physiology*
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Equipment Design
  • Equipment Failure Analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monitoring, Ambulatory / instrumentation*
  • Monitoring, Ambulatory / methods
  • Optics and Photonics / instrumentation*
  • Physical Examination / instrumentation*
  • Physical Examination / methods
  • Sleep Stages / physiology*
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Transducers*
  • Wakefulness / physiology*