Once the clocks go back and the daylight hours shorten for our winter months, dark nights loom ahead, so short of military-grade night-vision goggles, here are some eyesight tips for navigating the darkness.

Update Your Prescription

Close up of a person's green eye and long eyelashes looking at the various letters in various sizes of a sight test

This might go without saying, but it’s really the first place to start. Seeing in the light of day is hard enough when your prescription is out of date but we all know how our eyes can play tricks on us in the dark – hedges can look like hulking prospective muggers, every dark patch on the pavement could be dog muck, and suddenly the curb becomes practically invisible.

You’ll be half of the way towards telling the difference if you make sure you get regular eyesight check-ups and wear up-to-date prescription eyewear. There even exists a thing called ‘night-blindness’ which is a term that applies to anybody with below-average vision in low-light. It might be the result of an underlying condition, which is something you’d only find out from a trained optometrist.

The human eye isn’t well adapted to seeing in the dark in general, so we need all the help we can get.

Wear Glasses with Anti-Reflective Coating

time lapse image of traffic lights streaming through a city at night with streetlights brightly shining

As the earth tilts away from the sun and we descend into winter, dark mornings and dark nights flank us from both sides of the day, which means that most irritating of seasonal hazards will once again be unleashed on our roads at peak times – car high beams.

Buying a pair of glasses with anti-reflective coating, or having your glasses treated with anti-reflective coating, reduces the halo effect created by things like car headlights. On top of this, the coating allows more light to pass through the lens, which produces an increase in contrast and visual acuity – both of which will give you a leg-up when trying to decipher your surroundings at night.

Even if you don’t need prescription glasses it might be worth keeping a pair of plano (blank) lens frames equipped with anti-reflective coating in your glove-compartment just for driving. We offer this option on every pair of glasses at iChoose.

Use Your Peripheral Vision

close up of a young woman smiling while wearing a parka coat with her hood up at night

When it comes to what we see, there are two important components in the retina: cones and rods. Cones render colour vision but are inactive at lower light levels, while rods are more sensitive to light and almost entirely responsible for our vision in low light. The rods contain a chemical that reacts to light, which produces sight in the dark. Think of the process like the exposure setting on a camera – what light there is available is absorbed by the rods (or film) and reacts to create an image.

While we have a higher number of cones than rods (thanks evolution), more rods are engaged when we use our peripheral vision, meaning we can often see things at the very edges of our vision in the dark that we can’t when directly looking at them. This is worth bearing in mind if you ever tend to wear a hood over a hat during the colder and more importantly, darker winter months.

Avoid Looking Directly at Bright Light Sources

close up of a light bulb at night with blurred light behind

This might sound counterintuitive but please give us a minute. Have you noticed that when you use a torch in the dark everything the beam doesn’t directly fall on is pitch black, but once you turn it off you find you’re slowly able to see more of your surroundings? That’s because it can actually take up to 30 minutes for the human eye to fully adjust to darkness, and high light exposure compromises that ability.

Once again, this all comes down to rods. The process of the rods reacting to low light isn’t immediate, and if you live in civilised society that process is constantly interrupted by the high light of street lights, car headlights, and quite likely your phone, thereby reducing overall clarity of vision in the dark patches. The best advice we can give you is to try to find a happy medium – nurture your low-light vision and don’t stare at anything too bright while trying to find your way.

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