It’s confession time. We’re all adults here, so we can admit our naughty, little habits to each other. When I’m in the mood, any position and any place will suffice. I’ve done it outside in broad daylight, huddled underneath the sheets in a pitch black room, and even folded up like origami in the closet. In a moment of weakness, I’ve sometimes failed to wear protection or to make sure that what I do use works properly. Admit it you guys, at some point we’ve all been careless about protection, positions, and the right place to go for it. So, let’s talk about the best way to stay safe while doing our favorite deed. You know – reading. (What did you think I meant?)
As many kid bookworms can attest, when it was past my bedtime, I would sneak whatever I was reading under the covers with my handy-dandy flashlight – or when that wasn’t so handy-dandy, my night light – and read to my heart’s content. I ignored parental warnings to stay out of the sun for too long, or to stop sitting so close to the TV (um, how else are you supposed to watch TMNT?), and I definitely didn’t care about turning on a lamp when I could read the book just fine with a pinprick of light. Luckily, I survived childhood without destroying my vision. Well, guess what? Adulthood is not so generous to our eyes, and we often pay for the bad reading habits we developed in our youth. So let’s tighten our game, and make sure that we’re ready when it’s about to go down.
Listening to Bob Marley croon Turn Your Lights Down Low may be enticing, but as we get older, we’re more likely to need to turn them back up. According to ophthalmologist Dr. Eleanor Faye, the lightbulb wattage with which we need to read increases by 1% each year. That means that when you’re in the 5th grade, you can read easily with a 40 watt bulb, but by thirty you’ll need a 60-watt. And if you’re near retirement age, you’ll need at least a 100-watt light. The best way to make sure that you and everyone in your home is getting the correct lighting is to use a three-way bulb (which are normally 50-100-150 watts). Yes, this is your excuse to finally replace that boring old light switch with a sexy dimmer. Turn up for reading, and turn down for what? For bed, Lil’ John. We turn down for bed.
Whether you’re in the throes of passion or the pages of your favorite book, your body responds in a very specific way. Reading – like arousal – makes your pupils dilate. This reaction is great when you’re indoors and reading in a dimly lit room, but what about doing it outside? The sun is the biggest, brightest reading lamp ever and I don’t know about you, but I’ve tried reading underneath it and the glare has been so bright that I had to wear shades just to finish the page. If you already have vision problems or wear glasses, the direct sunlight may be too fatiguing to your eyes.
Never fear, because the solutions are simple. Donning a pair of reading sunglasses may help on an overcast day (the UV rays bounce off the clouds and become more intense on cloudy days). Underneath a bright, blue sky, find a shady area that allows some indirect sunlight to turn your pages. If you’re out on the beach, you may find it easier to use an e-reader that is designed to be read in sunshine to reduce glare. Take care to wear shades, as UV rays and glare can bounce off of the sand and water (oh, how I’d love to be at the beach, right now….)
Since we’re on the subject of the beach, let’s talk about protection. Sunglasses, check. Sunscreen, check. Wait, why do you have this crazy headache? Let me tell you about a guy who thought he had a tumor. This healthy young man began experiencing migraine-like headaches and blurred vision, seemingly out of nowhere. Fearful for his life, he scheduled appointments with a specialist, and braced himself for the worst. After undergoing a battery of tests, he was embarrassed when he finally got the news. His health was great. But he hadn’t seen an eye doctor in years and his prescription was so old that he was actually making his eyes worse with the strain of squinting through his glasses.
You may have been called “four eyes” in elementary school, but there’s no reason to be ashamed of your extra eyes today. You can get sexy, designer frames from places like Warby Parker and transition lenses that take you from day to night. If you’re more into wearing contacts, since there are so many options, make sure to choose the ones that best suit your lifestyle. You can wear daily disposables, and never worry about cleaning them. Or, if you tend to fall asleep while reading, you’ll want the extended wear lenses that help your eyes breathe easier. The key to safe specs is to get your annual or biennial exams and stay protected.
Now that we know where to do it, and what to use, let’s talk about how it goes down. If you’re a strait-laced chair reader, make sure that your spine is straight and the book is level to your eyes. This will eliminate the pressure on your neck that you feel from sitting up but looking down.
If you’re more into cuddling up with a book, keep your feet raised, but make sure that you extend your legs to keep circulation flowing if you’re sitting for long periods.
If the supine spine is fine for you (that’s when you’re on your back), keep the book level with your eyes so that you don’t strain your neck, and also elevate your feet. The same goes for if you like it in the prone position. I’ll usually use pillows to lift the book and my head to the same level if I’m lying on my tummy.
Of course, we’ve all gotten caught up in a book so good that after we finish, we have to walk off a leg cramp or a work out a crick in the neck. Changing positions, taking a few stretch breaks, and resting your eyes often help.
So, what are some of your best and worst reading habits? Do you ignore your body’s comfort while reading? Are you guilty of not wearing the right prescription, or do you even borrow someone else’s glasses? How do you plan to change your old habits?