After age 40, most of us will experience changes in vision. This is why investing in the health of our eyes at every age is so important. Here are four ways you may be able to improve your eye health:
- Take a break from the screens. Focusing on brightly-lit screens all day without a break can negatively impact eye health. Put a reminder on your computer keyboard or monitor that compels you to refocus your vision every 10-15 minutes on objects which may be further away, such as the writing on a white board, an office plant in another cubicle, or the view out the window. Forcing your eyes to re-focus to see middle and longer distance objects is a great exercise for reducing eye fatigue.
- Use it or lose it. If you spend most of your time doing close, detailed work you may find that your long-range vision begins to suffer. While some of these changes may have to do with overall health or age, you may be able to reduce eye strain by focusing on objects at a distance – without corrective lenses – for 15-30 minutes a day. This can be something as simple as taking a sheet of paper with writing on it and holding it out in front of you until it begins to blur, then focusing and re-focusing as you move the page.
- Invest in better light. Reading or doing other types of work in dim or low light has been shown to tire out your eyes more quickly. Simply put, the more light that falls on an object, the easier it is to see. Investing in a powerful reading lamp that delivers full-spectrum light as natural feeling as the sun can help prevent eye strain and the headaches that often accompany it. Ensure that you place the light directly over the reading material or project you are working on to reduce glare.
- Spend more time outdoors. Some studies have found that children who spend more time outdoors tend to suffer less from myopia. It doesn’t appear to matter what types of activities children engage in outside, so the theory is that the benefit to vision may be that their eyes are exposed to more sunlight during the day. This may improve depth of field perception and the ability to focus.
Did your parents ever tell you to eat your carrots because carrots could improve your vision?
According to Scientific American, the correlation between eating carrots and improving one’s night vision was first made in a propaganda piece from the British Air Force during World War II. The U.K. Ministry of Food attributed British pilots’ ability to shoot down German aircraft in the dark to the beta-carotene they ingested through their carrot-rich diet. While it’s more likely that their success had to do with the advent of radar, the rumor has persisted over the intervening decades
So is it fact or fiction that eating carrots can help you see in the dark?
It turns out that Vitamin A, which can be converted by the body from beta-carotene, has indeed been shown to improve the night vision when it has been impaired due to a lack of vitamin A. That said, once your body has adequate levels of vitamin A, you can’t continue to improve your vision by ingesting more. This is because – as with many other substances – vitamin A can be toxic in large doses, so our bodies naturally regulate how much vitamin A is in our systems at any one time.
Today, most vision problems are caused by the natural process of aging, genetics, or chronic disease. The best thing to do for your vision as you age is to stock up on green leafy vegetables (which contain nutrients that can protect the eyes by filtering wavelengths that may damage the retina) and ensure that you get enough light when performing detailed work.
Susan Rhein of Albuquerque, NM is an award-winning cross stitch artist. Rhein works ten or more hours a day to create breathtaking pieces of cross-stitch art which are admired across the country. The life of a cross stitch artist takes its toll, however, and doing so much detailed work each day used to lead to Rhein experiencing eye strain and fatigue. To help reduce these symptoms, Rhein began to research and purchase lamps designed specifically for those who need to do this type of close work.
Artist Susan Rhein with one of her original creations, “Sea Sprite.”
“Over many years, I have tried various lamps,” Rhein says. “I’ve tried a lot of specialty lamps out there that market themselves for people like felters or stitchers; anybody that uses their eyes significantly for that reason.” But none of those lamps reduced her eye strain or improved color contrast or depth perception, even when she used multiple lamps.
Rhein had nearly given up hope when she read an ad in a magazine about Microsun Lamps. As soon as the lamp arrived and she switched it on, she said that the difference between her Microsun Lamp and the other lamps she had purchased was “night and day.” “It was much easier on my eyes,” she said, “There really is nothing else out there that comes even close to the value that I put in my Microsun lamps.”
“Now I start and end my day with the Microsun lamp,” Rhein says. “I have four Microsun lamps now. I’m inclined to use two at a time, one at each end of my work table. Working without my Microsun lamps now would be like working without my glasses. I just could not do what I need to do without Microsun lamps.”
Because Rhein relies so much on her vision to create her award-winning pieces, she recommends that anyone who cares about their vision invest in a Microsun lamp. “I don’t care what age they are,” she says. “I wish the whole world knew about the value of what good light can do in saving your eyes and reducing eye strain over the decades. If Microsun was around forty years ago, and if I knew about it, I would like to think that my eyes would have aged a little bit differently. If people knew about the value of this kind of light and what it means long-term to eye care, all parents would run out and buy a Microsun lamp for their kids… and for themselves.”
“Armada” a Susan Rhein creation.
Even Rhein’s friends have fallen in love with Microsun Lamps. “One of my friends is a quilter,” Rhein says. “I told her about Microsun, and the first time she set up her Microsun lamp she put it in the living room just as it was starting to get dark outside. She went into the kitchen for a few minutes to start dinner and when she walked back into the living room where the Microsun lamp was on she said, ‘I could swear it was daytime!’ She was easy to convince and buy another Microsun lamp.”
Today, Rhein can continue her incredibly detailed artistry due to the light she relies on from her four Microsun lamps. “I just cannot say enough about the value of the best light I’ve seen in my life,” Rhein says. “I’ve been looking for the best, and I’ve found it.”
Did you know that there are some easy ways you can save a few bucks and reduce your carbon footprint? Making your home more energy efficient is good for your pocketbook and your peace of mind. Here are five simple ways to do just that:
1) Plant a tree. Planting a shade tree on the side of your house that gets the most sunlight can greatly reduce energy costs. As the tree grows, it will provide shade over your home during the hottest months, reducing your air conditioning bill. Choose a beautiful shade tree you can enjoy now and thirty years from now, and reap big dividends later.
2) Set up a rain barrel. Have you ever considered how much time and energy it takes to deliver clean water to your home? It’s substantial! Buy a couple of rain barrels and use the water to irrigate your garden. Save energy and water and reduce your water bill.
3) Get the right light. Replacing your fluorescent bulbs with LED bulbs is a small investment to make now that can result in savings later. Also, consider swapping out those less energy-efficient floor and table lamps with an energy efficient Microsun Lamp, which provides up to eight times the amount of light as a regular lamp bulb while using less energy.
4) Insulate water heaters and pipes. While we are quick to insulate the walls of our homes, many forget that a substantial amount of heat can be lost through our water heaters and pipes. Cover your water heater with an insulated blanket and have foam or rubber pipe insulation installed to reduce heat loss from hot water pipes.
5) Upgrade your thermostat. Older thermostats require one to flip between activating the furnace and the air conditioner to provide the optimum temperature. Newer “smart” thermostats can be programmed to keep your home at the ideal temperature throughout the day.
If you’re sleeping too much or not enough, you may want to take a look at how much (or how little) light you’re exposing yourself to every day. Our bodies are very sensitive to light, as it is the light that helps to regulate our sleeping and waking cycles. Sleep is regulated by two body systems: sleep/wake homeostasis and the circadian biological clock. While both internal and external cues can affect these cycles, the most powerful external cue is light.
Our eyes are equipped with light-sensitive cells in our retinas that regulate our sleep patterns according to how much light they detect. The single biggest change to our natural sleeping cycles occurred with the development of the light bulb at the turn of the century. Exposure to more light in the evening caused a shift to later bedtimes. Shift workers fight the natural rhythm, which significantly alters sleep-wake patterns leading to increased sleepiness, impaired attention, impaired performance and alterations in mood. Disruption to sleep-wake patterns has been shown to increase the likelihood of fatigue-related workplace and driving accidents.
Increasing reliance on mobile devices – which many of us sit up with while in bed – has been causing a further disruption in our regular sleep cycles. If you are looking to get a sound sleep, turning off the lights and putting down the phone well in advance of bedtime could help you rest easier.
Exposure to light can also work in reverse and make it easier to get out of bed and make that morning meeting on time. Regular exposure to full-spectrum light can also leave you feeling invigorated throughout the day. Research conducted by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has substantiated a slew of benefits from this kind of light, and also debunked a few marketing myths. The reality is, the quality and amount of light can make a psychological and physiological difference.
This is why we often feel so much better when the sun is out. Investing in an alarm clock that triggers a warm light to turn on as you wake, or getting up and immediately turning on all of your lights, can trick your body into beginning its wake cycle. If you work in a dim home or office, investing in lamps that emit a full spectrum of light that mimics sunlight – like a Microsun lamp – can so also help reinforce these “wake up” cues throughout the day.
Do you have more questions about the effect of light on our health and moods? Find out more about the science of light here.
If you’re feeling down, depressed, or starving for light this time of year, you’re not alone. Daylight saving time ended this week, ushering in the long, dark winter season across the northern hemisphere. As the days shorten, many of us begin to experience negative mood changes such as seasonal depression.
About 6% of Americans will suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a condition caused by reduced exposure to sunlight which can result in excessive sleep, insomnia, increased appetite, depression, and sluggishness. Another 14% will experience seasonal mood changes to one degree or another. These percentages go up in countries with even less daylight – in many Nordic regions, 15-20% of the population experiences SAD.
The root cause of SAD is a lack of sunlight. As one’s exposure to full-spectrum light decreases in the winter, changes begin in the hypothalamus of the brain, which regulates our circadian rhythms. Many mammals enter a hibernation phase during the long winter months, and humans are not immune to this seasonal change.
Less light exposure increases the release of melatonin in the brain, which can cause us to feel depressed, hungry, and eager to spend more time in bed – just like a hibernating bear. However, modern life doesn’t slow down just because the seasons change, and we are still expected to work and play according to a fixed schedule. People with SAD also have a higher risk of substance abuse and suicide, making this a potentially serious condition.
Symptoms of seasonal depression generally resolve on their own as the season changes, but for those who suffer debilitating side-effects, there are effective treatments. While counseling and anti-depressants may be prescribed, the most successful treatment is exposing oneself to more sunlight. Spending more time outside during daylight hours isn’t always possible, however, so light therapy is often recommended.
Light therapy, in which one spends more time under a full-spectrum light that mirrors the type of light emitted by the sun, can suppress and even resolve one’s symptoms. Light boxes or lamps which use the patented Microsun lighting system can deliver bright white light with more light in the blue and green spectrum – more like real sunlight. Exposure of thirty minutes to two hours a day can be enough to alleviate symptoms. If you feel you are suffering from seasonal mood changes, be sure to speak to your doctor.
To find out more about the Microsun lighting system, click here.