Could Sleeping With Your Smartphone Make You Blind?

If you’re one of the 71% of people who sleep with their smartphone, you may want to reconsider!

You may have recently heard in the news about two women who have experienced ‘transient smartphone blindness’: blindness in one eye caused by spending too long staring their phones in the dark, which can last for up to 15 minutes.

Initial tests couldn’t find anything wrong with the women, but now it’s believed that it was caused by staring at their phone screens for long periods with one eye.

One of the patients was reported to be a 22-year-old woman who would often lie on her side looking at the screen with her left eye obscured by her pillow, so her right one was staring directly at the screen.

The other patient was in her 40s and had problems stemming from waking up before sunrise and checking the news on her phone.

Omar Mahroo, an eye surgeon from Moorfields Eye Hospital in London has recently had a paper on the issue published in The New England Journal of Medicine and said: “They were looking at their smartphones and they just happened to have one eye covered because they were lying in bed.”

 

However, Mahroo was quick to point out that all that was happening was that each retina was simply adapting differently to the different light situations.

He added: “In both cases, nothing bad was going on. The retina is pretty amazing because it can adapt to lots of different light levels, probably better than any camera.”

For example, this is what happens when you walk out of a dark room out into the bright sunshine (or vice versa) and your eyes take a second to adjust.

Of course, it’s extremely rare to see a case such as this where the two eyes react so differently.

Researchers asked the two women in question to undergo a test where they viewed their phones just through their left eye, and then through their right.

In both cases, they found that the eye that went temporarily blind was the one being used to look at the screen.

To further confirm the results, Dr Mahroo himself went into a darkened room with one eye covered and looked at a smartphone screen for 20 minutes.

Afterwards, he said: “It did actually feel quite strange, it would be very alarming if you didn’t know what was going on.”

The researchers also found that after the retina was exposed to flashes of dim light they took longer to adjust to their new settings.

A similar case was reported back in 2014 when a Chinese man who spent hours staying up texting his girlfriend experienced ‘retinal detachment’ and risked permanent blindness.

 

And in fact, in this situation, surgery was required to prevent the problem getting any worse!

In general, doctors have found that short-sightedness in young people has soared ever since smartphones become commonly owned, so it certainly does suggest that there’s a link and it’s something worth thinking about when you’re WhatsApping into the early hours!

For all the latest sleep-related news make sure to keep checking back on the Sleepy People blog.