Don’t read in the dark, you’ll ruin your eyesight! It’s a phrase that’s been drilled into many of us since a young age, but as with many of these broadly held, rarely questioned theories, the concept’s scientific basis is probably not explored as often as it should be.
So, when we were asked whether dim lighting does indeed screw your eyesight, we were intrigued. Here’s what a little further digging has uncovered.
Does reading in the dark damage your eyes?
Not really, no. According to Harvard University, who busted a bunch of eye-related myths, reading in dim lighting “will not adversely affect your eyesight”.
What it does do, however, is cause your eyes to tire out pretty quickly. I mean, all that squinting and straining is hard work. In turn, using a desk lamp or reading light gives your eyes a bit of a break.
The university said that if you’re going to begin using a light while reading, you should work to ensure that the light is shining straight onto the page rather than passing over your shoulder. Having a light positioned behind you will result in glare which contradicts the whole intention of using the light.
Harvard writes that “A desk lamp with an opaque shade pointing directly at the reading material is the best possible arrangement.”
This is a similar situation when it comes to using a computer or staring at a screen all day. It does not damage your peepers, per se, but it will tire them out pretty quickly.
Give your eyeballs a break
All that focussed attention, especially in an environment that causes your eyes to strain to get their job done (dim light, bright screens) will leave you with a couple of exhausted eyeballs. Harvard University suggested giving your eyes a little love with regular rest (step away or close your eyes for a moment) and in the case of screen use, remember to blink!
There are habits that negatively impact eye health
While you’re sort of in the clear with reading in the dark, there are bad habits that will weigh on your eyesight and general eye health. Yes, some eye conditions are caused by genetics, but other problems are brought on by UV damage, bacteria and infection, and habits like smoking, the Australian Government’s Health Direct website shares.
Harvard University reported that “An estimated 40% to 50% of all blindness can be avoided or treated, mainly through regular visits to a vision specialist”. So, be sure to get the windows to your soul checked by a health professional regularly. They’re valuable, those babies.