By Sanskriti Pandey:
The answer to that completely depends on what you perceive as “not good for your eyes”. Does reading while lying down cause permanent damage? No. Does reading while lying down affect your eyes? Yes. Confused? Let’s get the anatomy out of our way, shall we?
Your Muscle Power
Worry not, no complex terms are coming your way. Because the only part we are concerned with here, are the extrinsic eye muscles. These ‘extra-ocular muscles’ as they are called, help orient our eyes to the object being viewed. Put simply, no matter your viewing capacities, it is the muscles that help rotate the eyes when you’re reading. Which brings us to the crux of the problem – eye strain!
What Is Eye-Strain And What’s Reading Got To Do With It?
Most eye professionals agree that an ideal reading distance to focus your eyes at is 15 inches, or roughly, 38-40 cm. An ideal reading angle on the other hand, is at about 60 degrees. Which is to say that when you’re lying down and reading your book or e-reader, anything closer than the ideal distance will cause strain to your eyes, a condition called Asthenopia – because how you are oriented towards the book will affect how much effort it will take your eye muscles to traverse and keep focus on the complete the length and breadth of the text. You might take longer to read a single line, and your muscles will have to stretch better and longer.
So, the answer to the question at hand? Reading while lying does affect the eyes insofar as it strains them – but this strain does not in any way cause permanent damage. Just as your aching leg muscles do not mean that you have irreversibly damaged your legs, your aching eyes do not mean that your vision will get impaired or cause blindness. Eyes get fatigued like the rest of the body. Burning, irritation, dryness, redness, headache, or watery eyes are symptomatic of strain, which in turn may negatively affect your comfort while reading. And relieving the stress on your eyes, just like bodily stress, can be managed with adequate rest!
To bust some old-wives’ tales, just as sitting too close to the TV does not damage your vision, and carrots are not the sole champions of good eyesight, reading while lying down will not by itself land you with spectacles. Strain, however, could itself be a symptom of a refractive error (near or farsightedness) that you need to get checked for, if experienced.
Not to mention that while we bookworms love to experience the best of both worlds – reading and lying down – the neck, spine and arms too may bear the burden of our whims, and cause bodily discomfort and pain. You know how hospitalised patients sit up and read propped up with the help of a pillow under good light? That’s your best way right there!