Daylighting Difference: Better Eye Health

In addition to positively impacting people’s mental and emotional wellbeing, regular exposure to natural light has also been shown to improve physical wellbeing – including the development and preservation of proper eye health.

Reduced Risk of Nearsightedness 
Research has found that children with less exposure to natural light are more likely to develop nearsightedness; and as the number of children who spend their days inside under artificial lighting increases, so does the number of children who go on to require glasses. Since 1970, the percentage of Americans between the ages of 12-54 with nearsightedness, or difficulty seeing things far away, has increased over 16 percent [1]. The American Academy of Ophthalmology and the National Eye Institute predict this trend will continue with over half of the world’s population being nearsighted by the end of 2050 [1].

By spending at least three hours a day outside or in a well naturally lit environment, however, children can reduce their risk of developing nearsightedness in their adolescence. A child’s eyes are still growing and developing; and without enough dopamine, a hormone that promotes normal eyeball growth, the eyes can grow longer than expected – putting an unhealthy distance between the lens and retina and causing far away objects to appear blurry [2]. One way to ensure the body is producing enough dopamine for healthy eye development is to spend more time in the sun as natural light has been proven to stimulate the production and release of dopamine.

Studies show that for each additional hour children spend outdoors per week, their risk of becoming nearsighted drops an astonishing two percent [1]. For this reason, it is not surprising that children who play fewer sports outdoors are more likely to develop nearsightedness than those who are frequently exposed to sunlight during practice [1]. Similarly, it was found that children allowed 80 minutes of outdoor recess per day showed fewer cases of nearsightedness than those not required to spend recess outdoors [1].

Decreased Eye Strain and Fatigue
In addition to helping preserve an individual’s long-distance vision, increasing exposure to natural light also helps alleviate the unpleasant side effects of artificial lighting. The flickering of fluorescent lighting has long been accepted as hard on the eyes, but even incandescent lighting has been shown to cause eye strain and headaches – often leading to increased fatigue and difficulties focusing [4]. A recent study by Cornell University found that employees working under natural light, on the other hand, experienced an 84 percent decrease in headaches, eyestrain, and blurred vision [5].

Artificial lighting is also often uneven; and when the eyes are forced to constantly adjust between different brightness levels, this can cause disorientation and further eye strain [3]. Natural light, when incorporated correctly, helps to bring more light to a space and create more gentle, consistent lighting. Diffused daylight is especially easy on the eyes as it disperses soft natural light evenly throughout the space while also preventing glare. If uncontrolled, glare too can cause unnecessary tension in the eyes that leads to more headaches and fatigue.

While there are numerous health benefits to exposing the eyes to natural light, it’s important to remember that too much direct sunlight can be damaging. Without the proper protection from harmful UV rays, too much direct sunlight in the eyes can cause cataracts, eye growths, and even cancer [3]. Fortunately, studies show that sunlight doesn’t need to be experienced directly for the eyes to benefit. As people spend a greater percentage of their time indoors, it’s increasingly important for their health they have access to natural light indoors; and one of the most visually pleasing ways to do that is with diffused daylight. Diffused daylight provides the eyes with all the benefits of direct sunlight without any of the harmful side effects (such as UV damage and glare). To learn about translucent panel systems and how they can bring eye friendly diffused daylight to your next project visit: