Myopia Experiment

It was computer work that made me realise that I needed glasses. While I was using Photoshop I couldn’t seem to get the screen sharp enough, I was always tinkering with the monitor settings. I went to the optician and left with a pair of glasses – I was short-sighted, myopic. That was about ten years ago.

Getting glasses was great, they brought back sharp vision to me, I haven’t had a problem with screen work since and I wear my glasses most of the time now. My prescription has increased slightly during the last ten years and now when I take my glasses off, pretty much everything is blurred. Really quite blurred.

Ten years ago my vision didn’t seem blurred all the time, just slightly when I was doing screen work. So has wearing glasses made my eyes worse?

If you look at Wikipedia you’ll find two “causes” listed for myopia or near-sightedness:

1. “Near work” hypothesis

The “near work” hypothesis, also referred to as the “use-abuse theory” states that spending time involved in near work strains the eyes and increases the risk of myopia. Some studies support the hypothesis while other studies do not. While an association is present it is unclear if it is causal.

2. “Visual stimuli” hypothesis

Although not mutually exclusive with the other hypotheses presented, the visual stimuli hypothesis adds another layer of mismatch to explain the modern prevalence of myopia. There is evidence that lack of normal visual stimuli causes improper development of the eyeball. In this case, “normal” refers to the environmental stimuli that the eyeball evolved for over hundreds of millions of years. These stimuli would include diverse natural environments—the ocean, the jungle, the forest, and the savannah plains, among other dynamic visually exciting environments. Modern humans who spend most of their time indoors, in dimly or fluorescently lit buildings are not giving their eyes the appropriate stimuli to which they had evolved and may contribute to the development of myopia.

These ideas make a lot of sense, particularly if you are a proponent of using your body “as designed” in order to keep it in good shape. This is exactly how I’ve been using my eyes.

Sitting close to a lit computer screen for up to eight hours a day, five days a week and living indoors in relatively small spaces with artificial lights has to have a dramatic impact on your eye sight. You’re not “exercising” your eyes in the way they would naturally be used. In a more ancestral environment we’d likely be outdoors a lot of the time, focusing on near and far distances all day. Indoors you rarely focus past about 20 foot, this must have an impact on your eyes.

And then on top of this I wear glasses so my eyes don’t have to focus as hard, my eye muscles and my brain have got used to having the extra help of my glasses lenses and no longer need to focus correctly at any distance.

I’d like to try to give my eyes back some of their natural ability. And as with moving better it’s going to require an improvement in eye use and in my behaviour. So this is what I’m going to do:

1. Take off my glasses as much as I can.

When I don’t “need” to wear my glasses I will take them off. This is really all the time except computer work, some reading, and driving. This will give my eyes a chance to re-learn to focus closer to a natural level.

2. Stay in natural light as much as possible

Even if it’s not fully bright, if I can see enough don’t automatically turn on the lights – saves on the electric too! Lower light is just another natural environment for eyes that we have all but eradicated from out lives. And personally I find it quite relaxing to minimize the artificial light.

3. Increase opportunites for longer focusing

Get out of the house more so I can have longer distances to focus on.

4. Add long focusing exercises into my breaks

I try to use my hourly work breaks for good stretching and exercise anyway so I’ll be adding in the odd five minute “take off glasses and focus on the distance eye workout” out of the attic window into my routine.

Why do I want to do this, aren’t glasses just fine?

For me it’s just part of a more natural approach to life. I’m happy to have glasses as they enable me to continue to work, but I would prefer to not have them and I do find it more comfortable to not wear them . I would also like to think that my lifestyle is maximising and even improving my eye health rather than slowly making it worse.

So I’m curious to see if my sight improves by wearing my glasses less and exercising my eyes more over time.

There was a recent Katy Says podcast episode all about this topic and Katy Bowman was talking about doing this kind of experiment and trying to measure the results, so that’s what I’m doing.

Every so often, probably once a week, I’ll measure the distance I can see up to without it becoming blurred, and track if there are any improvements…