If you really needed another reason not to drink and drive, here it is: alcohol decreases your night vision.
It’s no secret that alcohol messes with your brain. It causes a whole slew of problems that can inhibit your ability to drive. Some communities simulate this by providing a pair of “drunk goggles” and allowing people to attempt to drive a golf cart at community events. If you ever have the opportunity to try that out, do it! It will definitely convince you to think twice before getting behind the wheel after a night on the town.
It’s well known that alcohol affects your ability to make good decisions, your reaction time, and your peripheral vision. These are all integral parts of being able to drive well. However, did you know that alcohol also causes direct problems with your eyes that add to your already inhibited state of mind? That’s just one more reason as to why you shouldn’t drink and drive, especially at night. Keep reading to learn more about the science behind how alcohol can impair your vision at night.
How Alcohol Affects the Eye
One reason alcohol impedes night vision with prolonged use is that it decreases your ability to absorb vitamin A. Vitamin A is one of the most important nutrients for preserving your vision. This means that if you already have night vision issues, those issues are exacerbated by the alcohol in your system. The higher your blood alcohol level is, the more your night vision is affected.
Alcohol can also impede your night vision in the short term. The agent in alcohol that affects the human brain is called ethanol. Ethanol impairs your vision by flowing into the tear-film of your eye. This distorts the quality of the images you see. The alcohol disturbs the covering of the eye called the tear-film, which destroys the quality of the images you see. When the tear-film deteriorates, the quality of all the images you see deteriorates as well. Add that mess to the normal glare from traffic on the highway and you can understand just how difficult it is to drive at night after you’ve had a few drinks.
Vitamin A and Night Vision
Research Outreach recently interviewed Harvard neurologist John E. Downing to help better understand the role of Vitamin A in night vision. Downing allows that the reason Vitamin A is essential to night vision can be a bit too technical to be easily understood. However, it has to do with Vitamin A’s ability to help the rods and cones in your retina create pigmentswhich allows your eye to differentiate and see color. This is especially important when trying to see at night since the contrast between the bright lights from the road and the darkness outside. Without a sufficient amount of vitamin A, your eyes will not be able to produce the necessary pigment to see at night. Prolonged use of alcohol can significantly deplete your Vitamin A stores, greatly impacting your night vision.
The connection between Vitamin A and night vision has been of value to public healthcare and society in general, especially when it comes to driving at night. Night vision and alcohol consumption have been factors in many traffic accidents for a very long time. Our hope is that people will become even more aware of the kinds of effects alcohol can have on a person, while driving, and especially on their vision.
When you are put in the situation that the researchers put the subjects of the study in, your visual perceptions would make it incredibly difficult to see. You could miss a person walking across the street, or the shape or image of a road sign, or the headlights from oncoming cars. That’s why it’s so important to bring a designated driver with you if you are going out for the evening.
Improving Night Vision
Luckily, there are some steps you can take to improve your night vision before getting behind the wheel. The first step in improving night vision is to definitely never drink alcohol before or while driving. If you have a group of friends you like to go out to dinner with, rotate who will be the designated driver for the night. Maybe even chip in and pay for that individual’s food that night as a way to say thank you! That way, you and your friends will all stay safe, and the person not drinking won’t feel as left out.
Other than that, there are several ways you can improve how well you see at night while you are driving. Some people have such terrible night vision that they can’t drive after dark at all without risking getting into an accident.
One way you can boost your night vision abilities is to increase your vitamin A intake, which can help to improve your night vision. You can do this by eating more carrots, of course. However, it will take a whole lot of carrots to give you enough vitamin A to boost your night vision that much. Or, you can eat and drink other beverages and foods that contain vitamin A, leafy green vegetables, or you can take a vitamin A supplement.
You can also boost your intake of lutein, a nutrient found in a variety of foods. Lutein is very beneficial for your eye health and one of those benefits happens to include your ability to see at night. You can find high amounts of lutein in green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale. It’s in a variety of other foods as well.
Supplements for Night Vision
In addition, you can also improve your overall eye health by including eye-healthy vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements in your diet. These nutrients have the ability to strengthen your eyes and the muscles around them to improve your vision naturally and safely. Our Rebuild Your Vision Ocu-Plus formula contains 17 vitamins and minerals that will help boost your overall eye health, not to mention your night vision. Adding in some healthier foods, reducing your alcohol consumption (especially after dark!), and taking a supplement daily can all help lead to healthier vision, day and night.