Whether you're trying to read a map while lost on the last leg of a long road trip or you're just too lazy to turn the light on while reading before bed, sometimes it's just more convenient to read in the dark.
So how does reading in the dark affect your eyes? According to most eye doctors, it won't cause lasting damage. Vision tends to weaken over time for most people, and family history tends to be a big factor in determining that. But while reading in low light won't cause a decline in vision, it can lead to eye strain.
Just like any muscle in the body, the eyes can get weak when overworked. Challenging visual work, like reading in dim light, causes the eyes to become tired faster than they normally would. Some symptoms of eye strain include tired eyes, headaches, itchy eyes, blurred vision, and increased sensitivity to light.
If you're experiencing eye strain because you've been reading in the dark, it's time to look at the reasons why you are choosing to read in such low lighting. If it's simply because you don't feel like turning your light on, then you should probably go ahead and take those extra few steps to turn on your lamp. If it's something unavoidable, like sensitivity to light, then there are a few things you can do to cut down on the effects of eye strain.
When spending a prolonged amount of time reading something, remember to blink. Blinking produces tears that moisten and refresh your eyes. Try to blink as often as you can when reading to keep your eyes from drying out.
If you spend most of your day staring at a computer screen or other digital device, try observing the 20/20/20 rule - every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at something 20 feet away. Too much time on any digital device can cause eye strain, so try to take regular breaks from your computer and smartphone. An easy way to take some time away from staring at your screen is to get up from your desk once every hour and do something that doesn't involve looking at your computer.
Another way to combat eye strain is to improve your eye muscle flexibility. Some flexibility exercises include making a figure-eight with your eyes, moving your eyes up and down and from side to side in an open space, and massaging the muscles around your eyes.