If you’re in the habit of checking your messages during the night, or browsing Facebook on your smartphone before settling down to sleep, here’s something you need to be aware of. Temporary loss of vision due to nocturnal smartphone use is a common modern phenomenon – you may even have experienced it for yourself. But luckily, it’s probably nothing serious. Here’s what happens, and why.

Smartphone and how it causes temporary loss of visionThe modern phenomenon of smartphone blindness

Smartphones and tablets are used everywhere these days.  Always connected, they are our lifeline to the rest of the world, at any time of the day or night. Even when we’re lying in our beds.

But unlike a commuter sitting hunched over a screen, smartphone addicts’ texting in their beds tend to do something a bit different. Instead of sitting up and focusing on the phone with both eyes, someone using their phone at night will often be lying on their side, focusing on the phone with one eye while the other is obscured by a pillow. When this happens, the eye looking at the phone grows accustomed to the bright light emitted from the glowing screen, while the eye resting on the bed is adapted to the darkness of the bedroom.

Temporary loss of vision following this practice can occur when the user puts the phone down and gets up to visit the bathroom, or even when they wake up the following morning. Having grown accustomed to the bright light of the phone, the light-adapted eye seems to experience a temporary ‘blindness’ which can last for up to 15 minutes before it adapts again to the ambient environment. In reality, the eye is not blind, but simply readjusting to the level of darkness that it is experiencing.

Is smartphone blindness a cause for concern?

If using a smartphone in this manner is the cause of this temporary loss of vision then it’s nothing to worry about – although you might want to consider changing your phone usage habits in order to get a better night’s sleep.

It’s important to rule out other possible causes for any vision problems, however – so if you are worried, don’t ignore your symptoms and always get your eyes checked by a specialist.

How to avoid it

With screens becoming more and more of a fixture in our lives, smartphone blindness is likely to become more common in the future. Here are some tips on how to avoid temporary loss of vision when using your phone at night.

  • Adjust the brightness settings on your phone so that the screen is dimmer at night. This will help reduce the contrast between the screen and the rest of the room.
  • Switch on a lamp when viewing your phone, so that when you put it down, adjusting to the lighting levels in the room isn’t such an extreme task for your eyes.

Alternatively, kick the habit altogether! You could try switching your phone off at night, or keeping it in another room.

If you’re intrigued about this temporary loss of vision or have another related query, feel free to contact the Allon Barsam team.