My friend heard that reading while lying down is more strenuous (unhealthy) for eyes.

I like reading in bed (books, tablet). Is there some study that confirms this hypothesis?
I use two positions (looking to the book on the side or looking to the ceiling having the book in iron stand).

There seem to be a few factors that act

  1. Light intensity and color
  2. Light direction
  3. Distance of the book
  4. Material of the reading item (book, tablet, laptop)
  5. Position (on side, on back) and gravitation forcing on the liquid in the eye

Let's say we will define ideal conditions for points 1, 2, 3, 4. What interests me most is if the point 5 will cause something bad, if it's worse than reading while sitting or standing

thank you

  • 2
    Given the number of years I've been reading in bed, the effect is empirically small, if it exists at all.
    – RBerteig
    Apr 24, 2011 at 19:58
  • 3
    what about lying on your stomach, with the book hanging-off the edge of the bed, or just propped-up on your elbows and reading facing downwards/slightly-forwards?
    – warren
    Apr 25, 2011 at 15:14
  • 2
    @warren This position is strenuous for cervical vertebrae
    – xralf
    Apr 26, 2011 at 6:26
  • 1
    @warren - In the question are described two positions (on the side and on the back).
    – xralf
    Apr 26, 2011 at 15:28
  • 2
    @xralf - I am aware of the two positions in the question. I was wondering why the two I mentioned had been excluded
    – warren
    Apr 26, 2011 at 15:35

1 Answer 1


Since our eyes evolved in a constant 1G environment, and the fact that the vitreous humour only weighs a few grams, the orientation of our eyes while doing any activities should not be a factor what so ever. If anything, lying on your back could possibly aid in that the mass of the vitreous humour is more evenly spaced out on the photo-receptors as opposed to graduated when standing/sitting upright.

Of course, once we get outside the constant 1G, walking/running speed environment, all bets are off.

As all the related questions have shown (Does watching television damage the eyes? and Is it harmful to your eyes to read in dim light?), the eye is a versatile and resilient organ. Most of these questions are the result of misrepresentations of other physiological effects, that have grown into "old-wives-tales".

  • 2
    Thank you for your answer. I am reading regularly my tablet (in plastic socket) in the evening which is attached to the wall via some iron sticks with positioning joints. Reading is very pleasant in this position. I usually read about 2 hours because I want to sleep. Maybe when sitting I would be sleepy later.
    – xralf
    Jul 6, 2011 at 16:59
  • If I read while laying, water poors out of my eyes and I have to stop within 5 minutes or have to sit if I want to read.
    – TheTechGuy
    Feb 25, 2012 at 2:48
  • 3
    @Believer you may have other conditions you are contending with, such as dry eyes (I know, it sounds counter-intuitive, but dry eyes can cause profuse tear production), allergies, or other complications. As long as you are in a one G position, your eyes will generally not care. Psychosomatic issues may also play into it, but that's beyond the scope of any answer here. Feb 25, 2012 at 4:17
  • 2
    This seems theoretical and requires better evidence... can anyone help?
    – Sklivvz
    Jan 8, 2017 at 18:31

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