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Perhaps, in combination with our hearing, our sight is one of the most important senses that we have. However, far too many people neglect to take proper care of their eyes. This eventually leads to vision problems and the need for corrective intervention—or even worse sight for those who already depend on lenses to see the world around them. Perhaps paradoxically, the most common cause of eyesight and decreased vision is reading. Reading is definitely good for our minds, but not our eyes. The extended amount of focus and effort we put into reading, even when we’re otherwise immersed in a gripping story or lyrical prose, puts a strain on our eye muscles and manifests a myriad of other symptoms. The good news is that eye fatigue is highly avoidable, so long as you follow these four tips.
If you’re like most people, you’ve probably spent a considerable amount of hours lying in bed, cozied up with a great read. However, as relaxing as this pastime may be, it can ultimately wreak havoc on your eyesight. This is due to the angle and position you’re reading from. According to researchers, you should hold your book at a 60-degree angle, and just 15 inches away from your eyes. This position is easier to maintain when you’re sitting upright than when you lie down. While the latter posture is much more comfortable, the angle forces your eyes to constantly have to maintain focus, which can lead to a form of eyestrain known as “asthenopia.” Remember: it’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you want to read while lying down, do so sparingly; stick mainly to reading while sitting up, and your eyes will thrive!
Whether it’s a tablet, phone, laptop, or television, it’s no secret that staring at bright screens all day harms your eyes. This is because the vast majority of these devices project blue light. While blue light isn’t completely harmful, the scattering properties of this type of light push your eyes to focus more and can create a special form of eye strain known as “digital eye strain.”
Luckily, there are numerous ways to combat this side effect. The first is to simply reduce how much time you spend staring at screens each day. The second is to take lots of breaks, namely in the form of the “20-20-20 rule.” This involves looking at your screen in 20 minute intervals, and then taking 20 second breaks in between to look at another object 20 feet away from you. Finally, you can download programs or apps onto your devices that will gradually alter the color of your screen as the day wears on, shifting from blue light during your waking hours to orange light at night. This can greatly reduce eye strain, among other benefits.
If you were an especially bookish child, you may have heard this from your parents: “Don’t read in the dark, or you’ll ruin your eyes!” However, this is an exaggeration. Reading in sparsely lit rooms won’t exactly ruin your eyesight, but it can definitely promote eye strain, which can prove uncomfortable enough to motivate you to avoid this habit. If you want to avoid a full day of eye discomfort, try to stick to reading in rooms with bright lighting. You’ll be able to see much more clearly, and you and your eyes will appreciate the increased visibility as you read.
The amount of light you’ll need can vary based on your quality of vision. Those who already rely on corrective lenses will need stronger lighting to avoid strain. People with 20/20 vision can rely on an average lamp. Use a shaded lamp if you plan to read at your desk; otherwise, you risk overexposure to the light, which can hurt your eyes further. A standing lamp can be placed directly behind you if you decide to read on the couch or in an armchair.
As with any other activity, it’s very important to remember to take breaks from reading every now and then. We already mentioned the “20-20-20 rule” above, but there are also other ways to give your eyes the rest they deserve. Another way you can give your eyes a break is by getting up and taking a quick walk, whether it’s around your room or home, or even out and about around your neighborhood.
Moisturizing can also give your eyes some much needed relief. In fact, it’s as simple as blinking! If this doesn’t help, however, you can squeeze a few droplets of artificial tears into your eyes to give them the moisture they need.
Following these simple tips can make it much easier, and more enjoyable, to read the books you love. Not only will you not have to deal with eye strain the next day, but you’ll be able to better take advantage of a lifetime’s worth of reading potential.