Lighting For Reading


The older we get, the more we are prone to eyestrain, blurring vision, and headaches as a result of inadequate lighting while reading.

So, the first and primary consideration is selecting a fixture that will provide the right amount of illumination.

The rooms in your home where you do most of your reading should have lighting that illuminates the area in a general way that makes the room feel attractive and inviting. Where possible, combine general light with directed or task lighting. The lighting selected for reading should be considered supplemental and an addition to the general lighting used in the room.

Ambient or natural lighting was originally used for providing simulated natural sunlight to help with the growth of indoor plants. This natural lighting is easy on the eyes, brings out the true colors of what it illuminates, and relieves eyestrain. The most common type of ambient light is the incandescent bulb.

Most people do not realize that the best type of directed lighting for reading is provided by a gooseneck lamp. While a table lamp may be more attractive, it has the disadvantages of not being able to direct the light to where it is needed and, in general, is not adjustable. Lighting manufacturers have gotten savvy to the need for designing and manufacturing stylish and attractive gooseneck lamps and you can find one to meet your own particular decorating tastes with very little trouble. 

Directed or task lighting provided by a gooseneck lamp should be positioned behind your reading chair or couch. The lamp should be positioned behind you according to whether you are left or right handed to avoid overshadowing as you read. Right-handed individuals should position the lamp behind their left shoulder while left-handed persons should do the opposite. When a table lamp is placed beside seating that will be used for reading, the bottom of the shade should be below eye level and above chin level to effectively light the page.

Many people find it relaxing to read prior to falling asleep. There are some special considerations to keep in mind if you are one of these people.

Many sleeping areas use overhead lighting fixtures as their primary source of illumination. First, overhead lighting in the bedroom usually doesn’t provide enough brightness to read comfortably and second, overhead lighting provides too much overall room lighting for anyone getting ready to go to sleep.

Here are a few suggestions.

  • Use a small table lamp positioned on your side of the bed making sure that the shade is low enough to avoid glare.
  • Use lamps that are attached to a mechanism that can be swung into just the right position over the reader (a variation on the gooseneck lamp).
  • Use a floor lamp with three-way bulbs to decrease the intensity of the illumination.
  • Position a fixture on the wall directly above the reader that will cast only enough light to illuminate the book or other reading material.

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