A topic about eye health that’s currently doing the rounds in social media is reading while lying down. Rumor has it that some research studies have proved a connection between this common habit and permanent eye damage. And concerned people are looking back to years of curling up in bed with a book, and wondering what their next routine eye check-up will reveal about the state of their eyes.
Not to worry – about the “permanent damage” bit at least. You’re not risking vision loss by reading in bed. So perish the thought.
But is it bad for you? Well…yes, in that, the posture causes a ton of strain on the eyes.
The ideal reading distance – the space between your eyes and the book – should be about 15 inches. And the ideal reading angle is 60 degrees. (If you wear bifocals, your line of sight may be lower.)
When you read from a lying-down position, the eyes have to focus upwards and this less-than-optimal angle can cause severe eyestrain if you’re doing this for long periods at a time. The condition is called Asthenopia and it is pretty commonplace.
But the strain that happens from reading in a supine position is not on the eyeballs. It’s on the muscles surround the eyes – the extra ocular muscles that help rotate the eyes and orient them to the object being viewed.
Eye fatigue is just like muscle tiredness in the rest of the body, and a subtle indication you might notice of this while reading in bed is you’re taking a little bit longer to read a sentence from one end to another. Other more obvious reactions could be burning sensations, redness, irritation, dryness, blurred vision and headache.
While you are not inflicting any permanent damage with this habit, it is still good to be aware of eyestrain if you spend a lot of time reading in bed.
There are some spiritual schools of thought that prohibit the reading of books in bed because the backbone is not straight, as it would be if you were sitting and reading, and the mind as a result is not as focused and concentrated. The argument makes sense if you think of the material we generally like to read in bed: magazines, spy thrillers, romance novels and such. Just a relaxed occupation for the brain while the body stretches out and relaxes, perhaps in the few minutes before sleep.
Just be careful not to overdo it, and you should be quite alright!