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Is Reading in the Dark Bad for Your Eyes?

Shu Kie

Written By:

Shu Kie

Updated: 03 February 2023 •  

When you were younger, I bet you often heard your parents telling you that reading in the dark is bad for your eyes. But is there any truth to this parental admonition?
 
And how about looking at your phone in the dark? Does reading in ‘dark mode’ at night help?
 
Before you spend another evening reading a book or skimming comment wars on social media, you should read this article first!
 

So, will reading in the dark destroy your eyes?

The short answer is… not really.
 
Conventional wisdom claims that reading in low-light causes a decline in vision, but so far, no scientific evidence supports it. This myth is false as debunked by many optometrists and ophthalmologists, including Dr. Rupa Wong.
 
Reading In The Dark Destroy Your Eyes

Reading in the dark may not be as bad as it’s hyped up to be.

 
Vision tends to weaken over time as we age. There’s no stopping it.
 
But while genetics play the biggest determining factor in how fast your eyes deteriorate, your lifestyle choices can either delay the onset or increase your risk of macular degeneration.
 
So with that being said – reading in the dark is among the habits you should break ASAP.
 
Skimming a magazine at night may not be detrimental, but spending long hours in dim light studying or working nearly every day can have delayed side effects.
 

So why should we stop reading in the dark?

While reading in the dark will not wreck your eyes, it can cause short-term eye fatigue and make it difficult for you to stay focused. Poor lighting can only reduce how effectively your brian collects information.
 
The biggest challenge with reading in dim light is that your pupils dilate more to allow as much light as possible, thus giving your eyes a narrow depth of field. Your eyes need to fine-tune objects into focus, but your range of focus in the dark is much lesser compared to in bright light. As a result, you get eye strain.
 
Also known as eye fatigue, it is not a serious health concern if it happens only occasionally. But once eye strain gets chronic due to long periods of activity involving eye focus, such as reading in the dark, it eventually weakens the eye muscles and leads to a myriad of issues.
 

Is it bad to read on screens in the dark?

The answer is YES regardless of how strong or faint the room lighting is.
 
In this day and age, it is normal to stare at a screen for most of the day. Nearly everyone has a phone, tablet, or laptop as modern life increasingly revolves around digital devices.
 
Screen time in the dark

Reading on screens can be a bigger issue.

 
Unfortunately, too much screen time in general can be detrimental to your health. Have you ever had blurry vision, headaches, and eye fatigue due to prolonged screen use? You’re not alone!
 
Another reason to avoid reading on screens in the dark, especially before bedtime, is that it interferes with your biological clock and production of melatonin, a hormone responsible for promoting sleep. Light of any kind can suppress melatonin production but blue light at night does so more powerfully. According to a Harvard study, the effects of blue light exposure in the dark can lead to adverse health effects, including diabetic retinopathy.
 
Consider getting blue light-blocking lenses if you work a night shift or use a lot of electronic gadgets at night. These lenses help prevent Computer Vision Syndrome by filtering the blue light emitted from your devices, and will help keep your sleeping patterns in check.
 

The better way to read at night

To help promote restful sleep and good eyesight, here’s what to do before you dive into the pages of your book or screen.
 

1. Observe the 20/20/20 rule

 
Taking a 20-second break and looking at something 20 feet away every 20 minutes prevents digital eye strain. Studies show that we don’t blink as often when we’re reading on a screen, which often leads to dry sore eyes and puts an extra burden on the eye muscles. This is one of many eye exercises that are good to practice.
 

2. Install good lighting

 
Whether you prefer a print book or an e-book, you will want good lighting. It could be a floor lamp or bedside lamp with a yellow or soft orange hue. Warm hues also create a cozy environment.
 
The sweet spot is right around 400 lumens. Angle the light until you find the least glare.
 
Turning the overhead lights can be too much and tricks your brain into staying awake far longer than you had planned.
 

3. Wear blue light glasses

 
Blue light is a potent suppressor of the sleep hormone melatonin and it throws your circadian rhythm out of whack. Even if you have 20/20 vision, you don’t want to skip wearing blue light glasses.
 
Setting the screen to dark mode may seem easier on your eyes, but it also causes your eyes to dilate. So generally speaking, it doesn’t help prevent eye strain.
 

Understanding eye strain

Reading in the dark does not impair eyesight, but it can intensify eye strain because the ocular muscles have to exert more effort for a close or exact focus.
 
Straining your eyes can give you headaches and temporary pain around the eyes, thus interfering with concentration.
 
Eye strain

Eye strain is never much fun for anyone.

 
Whether or not chronic eye strain leads to long-term consequences remains a moot point among researchers. Some argue that having chronic eye fatigue early on in life contributes to the early decline of your eyesight.
 
Regardless, it’s always better to err on the side of caution. If you’re experiencing eye strain, you should get up and take those extra few steps to turn on the lights. You might need glasses if you’re having trouble reading small text.
 

Looking for reading glasses?

As you get older, it gets harder to see things up close, but this is a natural, annoying part of aging called presbyopia. In most cases, people start needing to use reading glasses when they’re over 40, but others acquire their first pair in their early 20s due to farsightedness or astigmatism.
 
The good news is that you don’t have to look like your grandparents just because you need to wear glasses.
 
At Mouqy, we have reading glasses to suit everyone’s tastes. Here are some of our patrons’ top picks:
 

Oscar: Square transparent brown

 
Mouqy Oscar Eyeglasses

Oscar in square transparent brown frame.

 
Oscar, one of our bestsellers, is a sophisticated piece that both sexes can wear. Its stylish translucent brown frame contours the image of the confident man and woman. It’s also available in white. So comfortable, you can wear these readers all day.
 

NEAT NT007: Matte dark navy

 
Mouqy NEAT NT007 Eyeglasses

NEAT NT007 with a matte dark navy finish.

 
NEAT NT007 is a premium choice. Its slimline design, square frame, dark navy color, and intricate silver details give off a sexy yet serious look, making it perfect for those working in the business environment. These readers are bound to emphasize your professionalism.
 

ODD Dione: Gray round

 
Mouqy ODD Dione Eyeglasses

ODD Dione in a gray round frame.

 
ODD Dione flaunts industrial aesthetics for a more professional look and clean minimalist lines on the face. These readers don’t break the bank nor do they break under pressure. Crafted in Korea, the frame is made from B-Titanium and promises higher resistance against corrosion.
 

Elan: Geometric rose gold

 
Mouqy Elan Eyeglasses

Elan with a geometric frame in rose gold.

 
Slim, geometrical readers are all the rave this season, such as Elan. This beautiful rose gold frame is a fantastic pick for strong independent women who want to show a bit of their sweet, dainty side.
 

Brilliant: Rectangle gold

 
Mouqy Brilliant Eyeglasses

Brilliant with a rectangular frame in gold.

 
Make a strong statement with your eyewear with Brilliant. This pair of semi-rimless gold glasses is a great fit for the dapper men with diamond or face-down triangle shapes, as it delivers a balanced look. It comes with a spring hinge and plastic for all-day comfort.
 

Abby: Round rose gold

 
Mouqy Abby Eyeglasses

Abby with a timeless round frame in rose gold.

 
These down-to-earth readers are suitable for both men and women. Sleek and professional, you can wear Abby in multiple functions without the usual unpleasant obstruction you usually get with regular glasses.
 

Zowie: Oval clear pink

 
Mouqy Zowie Eyeglasses

Zowie in oval clear pink frame.

 
A kid at heart? No problem! The chunky oval frame and pink shade of Zowie add a playful vibe to an outfit of dark solid colors. Its toned-down hue makes it easy to match with business casual.
 

Begonia: Geometric tortoise

 
Mouqy Begonia Eyeglasses

Begonia with a geometric frame in tortoiseshell print.

 
Those who wish to stand out from the crowd will love the offbeat charm of Begonia. Its acetate tortoiseshell frame is lightweight and wear-resistant, making it suitable for ladies on the go. It’s available in pink to complement casual chic outfits.
 

Element: Cat eye purple

 
Mouqy Element Eyeglasses

Element cat eye in purple.

 
Here’s Element, a fresh take on the classic cat-eyed frame. These readers come in two galaxy colorways: purple and red. Add a touch of whimsy to your outfit without being too loud.
 

Aurora: Cat eye red

 
Mouqy Aurora Eyeglasses

Aurora cat eye in red.

 
Featuring Audrey-Hepburn vibes with a retro twist, the Aurora is perfect for cuties with round faces as it sharpens soft facial features. It is designed with spring hinges for the wearer’s maximum comfort.
 

So – reading in the dark can be bad for your eyes

Challenging visual work, such as reading in the dark, causes the eyes to become tired more quickly than they normally would. And you are more prone to getting eye strain if you have prior eye conditions, such as astigmatism, uncorrected vision, or muscle imbalance.
 
Although experts say reading in the dark is safe, it is best to err on the side of caution and take precautionary measures to keep your eyes healthy for longer. There’s no denying the circumstantial evidence that chronic eye strain, especially starting from a young age, hastens the weakening of the ocular muscles.
 
So, stop abusing your eyes! If you like reading an e-book or scrolling through your Instagram feed at night, then get a good pair of glasses for performing near-vision tasks.

Shu Kie

Written by:

Shu Kie

Shu Kie is Mouqy’s certified optician with over 5 years of experience in the optical industry. She earned her certification from Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO).

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