Have you ever been outdoors at night in the dark, and noticed that if you look directly at a small light in the distance it disappears? Then if you look at it with your peripheral vision it returns. (Look a little to one side of it.) Try it out…it’s an interesting facet to discover about your eyesight. It occurs because of the nature of the cone and rod cells in your retina. Like other aspects of your eyesight, night vision can also improve and we will discuss some of the ways you can do this in this article.
Cone cells are those that see in good light, and they give us our colour and detail vision. When the light drops below a certain level they stop working. This is when the vision from the rod cells dominates. These cells cover the outer areas of the retina and so contribute the most to our peripheral vision. In the in-between areas, cones and rods are mixed.
In the central area of the retina directly behind the pupil, the cones hold an exclusive zone called the fovea centralis. Here they create the circle of sharp images that is what we actually give our attention to when looking at things. This clear circle moves around with our gaze/attention. Because the fovea lacks rod cells, in dark conditions we lose that central area of our vision and must rely on the more peripheral and greyscale low light vision given by the rods.
To improve your night vision, consider doing some or all of the following:
Reduce or eliminate the use of sunglasses.
Sunglasses reduce your light tolerance and prevent the stimulation the retinal cells normally receive from sunlight. This reduces the eyes’ ability to respond to low light situations. Sunglasses change natural light into artificial light.
In sunny conditions wear a hat, and use Sunning to increase your light tolerance.
Feed your Night Vision. Vitamin A is the main ingredient in the chemical process of the eye that allows low light vision to occur. It provides the source material for the formation of rhodopsin, the retinal pigment also known as ‘visual purple’. A moderate but steady amount of Vitamin A in the diet is best to refuel this cellular process. Vitamin A can be toxic in overdose so the best source is natural foods. If in doubt, consult your doctor about the recommended doses for you.
Dr. Garry Kappel (O.D.), a specialist in vision therapy, craniosacral therapy and nutrition, described the benefits obtained from the use of a number of well-known “botanicals”, including Bilberry. “Fighter pilots during World War 2 reported improved visual acuity following consumption of bilberries before undertaking night missions. The active constituents of this herb have been shown to accelerate the regeneration of the chemical required in the eye for light and dark adaptation. It also has important anti-oxidant properties. Bilberry has been used to relieve eyestrain associated with computer glare, fluorescent lighting and sustained close visual work.”
Natural Sources of Vitamin A. The body can manufacture its own vitamin A if given sufficient quantities of the precursor Carotene, found in carrot juice, green leafy vegetables, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables. Another form of Vitamin A is found in foods such as liver, butter and eggs. It also comes as a supplemental vitamin from sources such as fish oils.
Practice the Sunning Activity.
Sunning stimulates the retinal cells, increases light tolerance and enhances the visual system’s ability to utilize and adapt to a variety of light levels. It’s also helpful for mood lifting and general wellbeing.
Always practice Sunning with the eyes closed, preferably in early morning or late afternoon. Sun for moderate periods according to your tolerance and never sunburn your skin.
The basic activity is to close your eyes and turn your face to the sun. With your Magic Nose Pencil trace around the disk of the sun, breathing deeply and allowing your body to relax. Start with just a couple of minutes and increase moderately as above.
Visualize darkness while Palming.
Relax, stimulate and inform the brain and eyes with Palming – using images of rich, warm, velvety blackness. See how many black or dark things you can imagine. Breathe deeply and let your body and mind relax. Deliberately explore the rich darkness behind your palms and closed eyes to increase your ability to see in low light.