Is Reading in the Dark With a Flashlight Bad for Your Eyes?

Whether you just simply love reading books or you are trying to cram for a big test, you might be forced to read in the dark at some point in your life. But, if we wanted to go old school, the simplest way to read in the dark is by making use of a flashlight, which is something that most households have. But is reading in the dark with a flashlight bad for your eyes?

The common fact among experts is that reading in the dark using flashlights won’t have any lasting damage to your eyes. But the problem here is that you will almost certainly get a headache or you will end up straining your eyes faster when you read in the dark using a flashlight.

It might be a fact that your eyes won’t get damaged when you read in the dark using a flashlight or when you are reading in low-light conditions. But the one thing you need to consider here is that there are still negative impacts that need to be looked at when you are reading in the dark using a flashlight. That’s why you need to read on to find out more about what happens to your eyes if you are reading in low-light conditions.

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Is It Bad to Read in the Dark With a Flashlight?

Reading in the dark or in low-light situations has always been something that we have been doing ever since we were young. You probably went through those years where you needed to keep the lights closed so that your parents would think that you were asleep but you were actually reading a book under the covers while using a flashlight to provide you with enough visibility. In some cases, the lights may have gone out and you had to rely on a flashlight or even a candle to prepare for an upcoming test.

If you go back centuries ago, our ancestors did in fact rely on low-light conditions to read and write at night because electricity and light bulbs were yet to be introduced to them. In that regard, reading in the dark has always been a part of our history.

But, growing up, we have always thought that reading in the dark using a flashlight is bad for our eyes because that was what our parents told us. And some of us still believe in that even up to this day though we regularly read in low-light conditions as we scroll through our smartphones in the middle of the night when the lights are already out.

So, in that case, is there really a truth as to whether or not it is bad for our eyes when we are reading in the dark using only a flashlight or any other small light source (such as a candle or even our smartphones)?

The truth here is that there really is nothing wrong with reading in the dark as far as whether or not your eyes will get any lasting damages from doing so. Remember the fact that our eyes are naturally designed to adjust to any lighting conditions or else we wouldn’t have been able to survive as a species this long.

Thousands of years ago when humans couldn’t rely on any other source of light aside from the stars, we were still able to survive in the dark particularly because of how our eyes were able to adjust to low lighting conditions.

In the same way, when we are presented a situation wherein we have to read in the dark or in low-light conditions by making use of a small source of light, our eyes would be able to adjust well enough to such conditions even though we are often told by urban myths that we should never read in the dark while making use of a flashlight as our only light source.

With that said, there is nothing wrong with reading in the dark with a flashlight as that will not have any lasting damage to our eyes. But what you have to consider here is that your eyes will get strained faster when you are reading in the dark because you are giving it a handicap similar to how you will eventually tire out your entire body faster when you are walking using crutches. While reading in the dark won’t damage your eyes, doing so will tire them out easier than it would when the lighting conditions are optimal.

Let’s illustrate that in a manner that is easier for you to understand.

Suppose that you are a professional basketball player who not only plays 82 games in an entire season but also practices multiple times in a single week. While playing basketball and practicing are what allow you to do your job well, playing and practicing non-stop will tire out the different muscles throughout your entire body. And when your muscles are tired because you pushed them too far, they will end up getting injured rather quickly.

The same concept applies to our eyes. Regardless of whether it is because you are reading in the dark with a flashlight or because you spend too many hours in front of a computer screen or the television, your eyes will get tired sooner or later. When that happens, tiring your eyes out without giving them enough rest will make them more prone to getting damaged or to certain degenerative diseases and eye conditions such as myopia.

In that regard, yes, reading in the dark with a flashlight won’t be the direct cause of any possible damages to your eyes. However, because reading in the dark or in low-light conditions will tire your eyes faster, there is a likelihood that doing so will eventually contribute to eye conditions later on especially if you don’t give your eyes time to rest or if you push them too hard.

Tips for Reading in a Dark

So, if you still can’t avoid reading in the dark but you want to minimize the strain your eyes get when you are doing so, here are some tips that will help you make the most out of it without straining your eyes:

  • Don’t do it when you are sleepy

Reading in optimal lighting conditions when you are sleepy is already hard enough for your eyes. Imagine doing so when you are reading in the dark. Reading in the dark when you are sleepy will only force your eyes to work harder even though you should be resting them. As such, it is best to give your eyes some rest by sleeping or by taking a short nap.

  • Use a digital device for reading

We are now living in a digital age where some of us read more on our smartphones or tablets than we do on actual books. So, if you are reading in the dark, it is best to do so using your digital device because they provide enough brightness for you to read and they also come with options that you can use to optimize the reading conditions when you are reading in the dark.

But if you are reading a book by using a digital device just before sleep, it is better to use a blue light filter app. For instance, the Iris screen dimmer app has a useful filter that will help you protect your eyes.

  • Avoid reading heavy topics in the dark

Yes, the type of topics you read in the dark will make a huge difference. The fact is that heavy topics that are too technical or too difficult to understand will not only force your brain to work harder but will also keep your eyes focused too much so that you can actually see every detail word per word. This will strain your eyes faster in comparison to when you are reading light fiction books that aren’t too technical and are more or less narrative-based.

  • Read under the covers using a flashlight or a small light source

Reading under the covers isn’t only for children and is far from being something that enhances the experience of reading in the dark. In fact, there is a good reason why it is best to read under the covers when you are using a flashlight or a small light source.

The reason here is that, by keeping yourself under the covers, you are minimizing the space that light needs to travel to. When that happens, the flashlight’s light will only be scattered throughout the space under the covers, which will help optimize the lighting conditions enough for you to be able to read your books.

  • Use clip-on lights

The problem with flashlights is that their light tends to scatter. And if you want to keep the flashlight fixed on a certain point, you have to hold on to it, which can tire your hands out or make it more difficult for you to read as you are holding your book in one hand while holding a flashlight with the other.

So, in such a case, using a clip-on light that you can clip on top of your book as it flashes its light onto the pages of your book can be a good idea. This way, your book will be lit enough for you to see the words clearly even though the entire room may be dark.


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