With the ability to open up new worlds, expand the mind, and ignite the imagination, reading is a hugely popular pastime loved by millions around the world. However, did you know that prolonged hours spent with your nose buried in books can take a significant toll on your eyesight?


The connection between reading and eye health is an important one to understand, as it can help us take better care of our vision. One of the primary ways that reading affects our eyes is through the strain it can cause. This is because our eyes have to work harder to focus on the text, which can put a strain on the muscles and lead to discomfort.


Are you an avid reader? Here we will explore how your reading habits can impact your eye health and offer some valuable tips to help you maintain healthy vision while immersing yourself in your favourite hobby.


How Reading Affects Your Eyes


Eye Strain and Fatigue  – While you are enthralled in a captivating storyline for hours on end, the constant focus and lack of breaks can cause your eyes to feel tired, heavy, and uncomfortable. And for those bookworms who have embraced digital reading devices, such as Kindles and e-readers, the eyes are also exposed to blue light, and this cause digital eye strain, disrupt sleep patterns and contribute to long-term eye damage.


Dry Eyes - Excessive reading means the eyes are focused on small text for prolonged periods, this reduces the frequency of blinking, which can lead to dry, irritated eyes.


Headaches - The strain on the eyes from intense reading can trigger headaches, especially in the forehead and temple areas. This is the body's way of signalling that the eyes are overworked.


Nearsightedness (Myopia) - Some research suggests that prolonged, close-up reading during childhood and adolescence may contribute to the development or progression of nearsightedness, as the eyes adapt to focusing on nearby objects.


It's important to be mindful of other factors that can strain our eyes and lead to discomfort over time. Some things to be aware of include the size, brightness and contrast of our reading materials, the distance at which we hold books or devices, and the amount of time spent reading without breaks. Improper lighting, glare, and prolonged focus on a single area can all contribute to the issues stated above.


Practical Tips to Protect Your Eyes While Reading

Fortunately, if you’re a keen reader, there are several strategies that you can employ to minimise the impact of reading on your eyesight and promote better eye health. Here are some tips to consider:


Take Regular Breaks - To prevent eye strain it’s important to give your eyes a chance to rest. You should aim to follow the 20-20-20 rule. This simply means, every 20 minutes, look away from your page and focus on an object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.


Be Mindful of Lighting - Try to read in natural light whenever possible and avoid reading in dimly lit environments. The use of adjustable lamps or specialised book lights can help to illuminate the page without creating glare or harsh shadows.


Use Proper Reading Distance - Maintain a comfortable reading distance of about 40cm from your eyes to the book or e-reader. Avoid holding reading material too close to your eyes, as this can strain your eye muscles. If you notice that you need to hold a book closer or further in order to read clearly, you might need corrective lenses.


Blink Regularly - Be mindful of blinking while reading to keep your eyes lubricated and prevent dryness. If you notice your eyes drying out while reading, consider using artificial tears or lubricating eye drops to alleviate dry eye symptoms.


Consider Eyewear - If you wear prescription glasses or contact lenses, ensure that your prescription is up to date and suitable for reading. Consider using blue light-blocking lenses to reduce digital eye strain when reading on electronic devices.


Practice Good Posture – Sit in a comfortable chair with adequate back support while reading and keep your book at eye level to minimise neck strain and avoid hunching over.


Reading is a fantastic pastime that is good for the mind, body and soul, but it's important to balance your love of the written word with a dedication to maintaining healthy eyes. While you may be tempted to immerse yourself in a good book for hours on end, it's crucial to take regular breaks and employ strategies to minimise eye strain.


If you’re a bit of a bookworm, then maintaining optimal vision is vital. Make sure you schedule regular eye exams so you can keep your vision at its best and continue to enjoy your love of reading for many years to come. For comprehensive eye tests Perth is home to five Abernethy Owens optometry clinics. Book an appointment online at your local Fremantle, Floreat, Kardinya, Woodvale, or Rockingham eye clinic. Alternatively, you can call 1800 411 744 to speak with our friendly staff.