Smartphone overuse and the link to temporary blindness

Written by Dr. Andrew Doan & Brooke Strickland on .

You’ve had a long day and all you want to do is get into bed and relax. While some might turn to relaxing in bed with a book, many of us today want to lay in bed and relax by browsing their phones. Whether it’s catching up on the latest news headlines of the day or scrolling through your Facebook or Instagram page, using your phones to surf the web before bed is a common way for people to unwind. But is it good for your eyes? 

In a new letter recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, doctors discussed cases that they saw that linked temporary blindness to checking smartphones in the dark. While the temporary blindness is not permanently damaging or harmful, it can be distracting. Doctors detailed cases of two women that were temporarily blind and soon, the doctors found that they routinely stared at their phones in the dark using just one eye. When they went to put down the phone and the eye started to adapt to the light and it took a while to adapt, leaving the other eye temporarily blind. (1) 

Rob Hogan, an optical expert, was interviewed for the study and he stressed the importance of keeping kids away from their screens for long periods of time, as well as having a good light source when using a computer screen. He also said that for every 20 minutes spent looking at a screen, spend 20 seconds looking at something 20 feet away. And this information is helpful for adults, too. (2) In addition, if you feel that your smartphone is getting in the way of your sleep patterns, stop using it at night before bed altogether. Your smartphone stimulates your brain and even though it may feel like you’re relaxing when you’re scrolling through the Internet in bed, your brain and your eyes are engaging, which can make it difficult to really unwind once the lights go out. 

If you are someone you know is addicted to their smartphone, pornography, video games, or technology in general, seek help. 


1. “Temporary blindness linked to smartphone use in the dark.” June 22, 2016. Accessed online June 24, 2016.


2. Arthur, Sam. “Parents believe North West toddlers and teens are hooked on tablets, phones, and games, says report.” Mancunian Matters. July 31, 2014. Accessed online August 10, 2014.