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. But, when you go to a movie theater, you can’t help but notice how nice it is to have all the lights turn off so you can really focus on the movie. So, many of us stop following that rule of keeping the lights on while we watch TV when we get older. But, can watching TV in the dark really damage your eyes, or is it just an old wives’ tale? And what about using other types of screens in the dark? The answer may be more complex than you think.

The Effects of Watching Television

Unfortunately, watching TV in the dark can strain your eyes. 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 constantly 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?Eye researchers agree that eye strain can be reduced while watching television by lighting the area around the television. 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 a dark room, thus reducing eye strain. You can even buy special bias lights to install behind your TV these days, which means you wouldn’t have to leave your lamps or recess lighting on while enjoying your favorite series!


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. So, it’s important to invest in a good desk lamp and switch it on when you’re working on the computer, especially after the sun goes down. This will really cut down on any digital eye strain you could experience.


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 makes them slightly easier on the eyes.

If you want to read from a book or e-reader, make sure you also use 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, prolonged 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 the following:

  • 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 way 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, like bias 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, increasing the risk of eye strain instead of reducing it.

Give your eyes a break from 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 and 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. Our 10-10-10 rule is a great one to follow. Also, make sure you are sitting far enough away from the television and computer screen.

You can also 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!

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Join or Start the Discussion

  1. Avatar for Tyler Sorensen 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

  2. Avatar for Tyler Sorensen 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?

  3. Avatar for Tyler Sorensen soumadip says:

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

  4. Avatar for Tyler Sorensen Cameryn says:

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

  5. Avatar for Tyler Sorensen connor says:

    how many people watch movies in the dark

  6. Avatar for Tyler Sorensen Fadi says:

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

  7. Avatar for Tyler Sorensen 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 Tyler Sorensen Jim says:

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

  9. Avatar for Tyler Sorensen 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!

  10. Avatar for Tyler Sorensen 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 Tyler Sorensen 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.

  11. Avatar for Tyler Sorensen 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.

  12. Avatar for Tyler Sorensen LOU LINXWILER says:

    What is the ’10-10-10′ rule?

  13. Avatar for Tyler Sorensen 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?

  14. Avatar for Tyler Sorensen rains says:

    Yes. Eyes are like a muscle. In my case I notice I have less eye strain and better focus if I move my eyes around regularly and look and focus of different things around the room every chance I get. I feel like I get more eye strain if I just keep them static and don’t ever move them around. I do this exercise before every match (I play video games on a BenQ monitor with a blue light filter on. really helps for me as the motion blur software it has really helps my eyes too) I do this excersice where I look or stretch my vision slowly or comfortably to all corners I can reach without moving my head. This is something I read a while back about some complicated method the military used maybe at one point to repair their recruits vision before service. Worth looking into. Some guy claims to sell this method called the quantum vision system. I’m not buying. Literally. But I did some yt research and found out something along the lines of stretching your vision in a sequence. But I forgot it. It also has focus exercises I believe. Idk. Maybe it’s time I look more into it again. I’ve noticed just doing that to all corners up and down diagonal etc. Helps incredibly with my eyes ability to focus. Also things like blue light filters can help with sleep and possible eye strain. I have one set on my phone almost at all times. The good ones are like a yellowish tint and it’s hardly noticeable after a couple minutes. I’d look into getting a TV or monitor with eyecare possibly. Or a pair of blue light filtered glasses if you want a cheaper solution. Hyperx makes a good pair. And you can get them prescription. If you do all this and minimize your time looking at a screen and never look at one in the dark and pair all that with a well balanced diet not deficient in anything, your vision can be healthy for many years. I used to see terribly, couldn’t read smaller print street signs, I had glasses. Blurred vision almost all the time, inability to focus accurately and now I never wear my glasses, because prescriptions are bad and can see just fine and use my monitor for about 3-4 hours a day, sometimes up to 8. I also try to avoid looking at screens in daily life when I’m out and about, sometimes there’s no avoiding but I try. Its really a difficult situation as everything is online based these days. Like banking and paying bills to literally everything almost. This I avoid like the plague.. Paid subscriptions to more shit revolving around screens. I rather read a book. I had to quit anime. Switched to Manga. Canceled Spotify, got an ipod shuffle and pirated the shit out a bunch of music, now I don’t sit there and browse music for hours. Idk just some ideas for you and anyone who reads. I know I went on a longer than planned, but this article completely missed the fact on keeping your eyes stationary increases eye strain Along with the high contrast of a dark room

  15. Avatar for Tyler Sorensen Uday says:

    Hi there’s a big difference. Movie theater screens are very easy on the eyes. The reason is that it’s a projected and reflected image.On the other hand tv’s beam light directly into our eyes. That’s why they are more fatiguing. To use an analogy we can stare at the moon for hours but we can’t look at the sun!

  16. Avatar for Tyler Sorensen Laurie says:

    I was wondering the same thing! I always have told people that watching TV in the dark is damaging/straining to their eyes. Always their retort is-‘movie theaters do it’….. So, what is the difference? Or is there not one??

  17. Avatar for Tyler Sorensen sally190 says:

    How many hours do you sit in a cinema, each month, compared to watching TV ?

  18. Avatar for Tyler Sorensen Michelle says:

    I used to believe that too. It could be age related but I went from perfect vision at age 40 to requiring min 2.0 reading glasses at age 44, to having both near and farsightedness and feeling blind, at age 46. It is very hard for people like us, who have had perfect vision, to get used to glasses, or even worse, contact lenses.

  19. Avatar for Tyler Sorensen Anonymous says:

    Just tell him video games are going to do something to him that mite hurt

  20. Avatar for Tyler Sorensen FaZe Rain says:

    So I’m a professional gamer, I travel and play video games for the majoraty of the yearyear, the point being I’m in front of a television ALL THE TIME… Now for the question.
    Is there anything I can do to strengthen my eyes or prevent them from weakening any further

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About the Author

Avatar for Tyler Sorensen

Tyler Sorensen is the President and CEO of Rebuild Your Vision. Formerly, Tyler studied Aeronautics (just like his brother) with the dream of becoming an airline pilot, however, after 9/11 his career path changed. After graduating top of his class with a Bachelor of Science in Informational Technologies and Administrative Management, he joined 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 nearly two decades studying the inner workings of the eye and conducting research.


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