Many of us will remember reading a book by torch light in bed after lights out, possibly even hiding under the bedclothes.  You may have also have been told by your parents, or heard somewhere that reading in poor light can damage your eyes.  So how much truth is there really in that statement?  The good news is that you will not damage your eyes!

Why do my eyes get irritated then?

Although you may not damage your eyes, because it is hard for your eyes to focus when the area is dimly lit, your eyes can get tired.  Your eyes have to strain harder to make out the words because the contrast between the words and the page is not as good.  As a result, you may find you suffer from headaches, red and itchy eyes, blurred vision and light sensitivity.  Some people tend to not blink as often causing their eyes to dry out.  Symptoms should go away when you rest your eyes.  If the symptoms don’t go away, you should go and have an eye examination with your optometrist.  You may have an undiagnosed eye condition such as short-sightedness (myopia) that could be causing the same symptoms.

What can I do to minimise the chances of eye strain?

If you prefer to read in low light, there are things you can do to help minimise any symptoms of eye strain.  Take a break every now and close your eyes to rest and refresh them.  At regular intervals, remove your gaze from your book and refocus your eyes on an object on the other side of the room. And don’t forget to blink often!  Blinking produces tears that refresh your eyes.  You could even try a few eye exercises to increase the flexibility of the muscles in your eyes.

What is the best light to read in?

The best reading light is natural light, so if reading during the daytime position your chair by a window.  When you read at night it is best to have a light or lamp that you can position to shine directly on the page.  Light shining over your shoulder can produce glare on your page. A bulb that has a soft yellow or warm light is best as it is closer to natural light.

You may find that you need for good lighting increases as you get older, so stronger lighting and a good pair of reading glasses will make your reading experience more enjoyable.

Whatever your preferences are for reading, it is good to know that reading in low light will not damage your eyes.  And so are your child’s eyes safe should they choose to do a bit of sneaky after dark reading by torchlight!