How Bad Is It for Your Eyes to Watch Television in the Dark?

How Bad Is It for Your Eyes to Watch Television in the Dark?

Since you were a little kid, you were probably told that it’s bad for your eyes to watch television in the dark. Many of us stop following that rule when we get older. But, can watching TV in the dark really damage your eyes or is just an old wives’ tale?


When you are watching television in a dark room, your eyes must constantly adjust to the different lighting. You may think the light on the television stays the same, but it actually changes quite a bit. The various scenes and backgrounds of the show have different lighting levels. To prove this, try looking at the wall opposite of the television while a show’s on. You will see many flashes of lighting level changes happening in quick succession.

Every time the scenery on the screen changes or if the television show switches to a commercial, there can be a big change in the light emitted from the screen.

This constant changing level of light makes your eyes work harder, which results in eye strain. Eye strain can result in dry eye syndrome, which is a contributing factor to the development of glaucoma.

How Bad Is It for Your Eyes to Watch Television in the Dark?One study conducted by the Lighting Research Center (part of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) found that eye strain can be reduced while watching television by lighting the area around the television. The results of the study found that this lighting resulted in less visual discomfort, fatigue and a quicker response in brain waves from visual cues. This remedy is still recommended by experts today under the term “bias lighting.” Bias lighting smooths out the contrast between a bright screen and dark room thus reducing eye strain.


Some of us (let’s be honest, many of us!) work on our computers in the dark too. It is probably more commonly done by teenagers than any other age group, but it happens to all of us more than it should.

Since computer monitors and television screens are now manufactured very similarly, users are at the same risk when using a computer in the dark as they are when they watch television in the dark. Eye strain is a growing problem among the younger generation who spend more and more time using the computer whether it be in the light or the dark.


As children, we were also warned against reading in the dark. We were told that we would ruin our eyes forever. Today, more and more children read on e-readers or tablets. These devices can cause eye strain and dry eye syndrome because of the pixel quality and lighting levels. But, newer models allow for lighting and contrast adjustment which make them slightly easier on the eyes.

If you want to read from a book or e-reader, make sure there is a secondary light source or bias lighting. If you don’t want it bright, it can be a softly lit background light. It just needs to be strong enough to keep your eyes from straining to see the text on the screen.

Symptoms of Eye Strain

Eye strain is often thought of as something that is temporary. So, most people think that their eyes will hurt for a while, but after they rest them, everything will go back to normal. In the short term, this is usually correct. Unfortunately, eye strain has been associated with glaucoma and astigmatism.

You should listen to your eyes! I know that sounded funny didn’t it? Our eyes don’t talk, but they do give us clues that something is not right.  Some symptoms that you are straining your eyes include:

  • Watery and/or irritated eyes
  • Burning eyes
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sometimes your eyes can even feel tired and overworked

If you experience any of these symptoms, take them seriously. You don’t have to surrender to suffering from eye strain.

Steps to Save Your Eyesight

The best ways to ensure you keep your eyesight healthy when watching television and using the computer at night is to keep at least a small amount of light on. Low level lighting can reduce eye strain. Be aware of where the lighting sources are set in relation to the screen, otherwise they can create a glare on the screen which increases the risk of eye strain instead of reducing it.

Give your eyes a break from the electronic devices. If you are watching a movie, look away from the screen every 30 minutes. Take a couple of minutes to look around the room, scan it. Do not focus on any single object, as this is making your eyes work when your goal is to let them rest. Or close your eyes for a minute to allow them to get that bit of rest. These and other eye exercises will help prevent eye strain.

Make sure you are blinking often. If you are working on a computer or on an e-reader, take frequent breaks. Also, make sure you are sitting far enough away from the television and computer screen.

Try eye vitamins to reduce eye strain and strengthen your eyes. Eye vitamins, like the ones found in the Ocu-Plus Formula, really make a difference in strengthening your eyes, and therefore your vision. Just like any other muscle in your body, you need to take care of the muscles around the eyes. Keep them healthy and strong and you’ll find your eyes won’t get tired as fast or easily!

About the Author

Avatar for Tyler Sorensen

Tyler Sorensen is the President and CEO of Rebuild Your Vision. Formerly, Tyler studied Aeronautics with the dreams of becoming an airline pilot, however, after 9/11 his career path changed. After graduating top of his class with a Bachelor of Science degree in Informational Technologies and Administrative Management, he and his brother decided to start Rebuild Your Vision in 2002. With the guidance of many eye care professionals, including Behavioral Optometrists, Optometrists (O.D.), and Ophthalmologists (Eye M.D.), Tyler has spent over a decade studying the inner workings of the eye and conducting research.

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28 responses to “How Bad Is It for Your Eyes to Watch Television in the Dark?”

  1. Avatar for cheri cheri says:

    Not a comment, but a question.
    I’ve just been diagnosed with “early stages of cataracts”.  Is there anything I can do to reverse them? It’s not bad enough for surgery and my eye doctor basically said I have to live with it.
    Any Suggestions?


    What is the ’10-10-10′ rule?

  3. Avatar for Geetha Murthy Geetha Murthy says:

    As usual, a very interesting and useful article. I am always moved by your articles, as they reflect your concern for eyes. Many a time either out of ignorance or negligence, we try to destroy the gift of God. Let us all be aware of the importance of our  eye sight and follow your useful tips. Thanks for all your help and service.

  4. Avatar for Bill Bill says:

    This is bollocks. I’m doing fine. Still have 20/20 eyes. I’ve always loved dark room. Watching tv, using my computers and laptop since 1985. I read ton of books in dim light too.

    • Avatar for Henry Henry says:

      Same here, in fact I noticed it’s far more relaxing to watch TV in a semi dark room, than with too much light.

  5. Avatar for Mitch Mitch says:

    I have a roommate who likes to play excessive video games late at night while I’m trying to sleep. He claims he has to leave the lights on while he plays because it’s good for his eyes, which is why I’m here. If the game (League of Legends) doesn’t have any major light changes in it, is it still very damaging to his eyes? Thanks!

  6. Avatar for Jim Jim says:

    If watching in the dark is bad for your eyes, why do movie theaters still exist?

  7. Avatar for Mk fan Mk fan says:

    Thank you Tyler for all your great insight on how to improve our vision. I have had Glaucoma for ten years and nearsightedness. Due to the high stress in my personal life my glaucoma level became dangerous. I am now on glaucoma drops.

    Two months ago I started researching about glaucoma on the internet and was impressed by your website. I purchased your OCU-Plus supplements. I have seen a huge improvement in my vision and my glaucoma is under control.

    Thank you so much for helping thousands of people re-claim their vision.

  8. Avatar for Fadi Fadi says:

    Dude can you link me to the post about how u improved your vision plz

  9. Avatar for connor connor says:

    how many people watch movies in the dark

  10. Avatar for Cameryn Cameryn says:

    Are you still alive,you are really cool because you never gave up.

  11. Avatar for soumadip soumadip says:

    We Americans should be aware of this. Its an wonderful article.

  12. Avatar for Rohit Gupta Rohit Gupta says:

    “This constant changing level of light makes your eyes work extra hard” Is this also true for e-books? or is there any other reason?

  13. Avatar for J13 J13 says:

    This isn’t real. I have worn glasses my whole life. My eyes are longer. But I watch Netflix sometimes until 1-2 A.M. especially if there is a test. I’m 13 and my eyes haven’t changed. Don’t even have eye bags

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