How to Improve Night Vision
If you grew up in the 1950's or 1960's, you may have been admonished by Bugs Bunny on how to improve night vision: Eat your carrots.
The advice to eat more carrots has a lot of scientific validity for the question of how to improve night vision. Carrots are nature's premier source of beta-carotene. The human body, in particular the fat cells, can convert beta-carotene in to vitamin A.
In parts of the world where the diet is deficient in beta-carotene and vitamin A, night blindness is a huge public health problem. A single dose of supplemental vitamin A, however, is often enough to completely correct the problem in children—preventing blindness for just pennies a child.
And in adults, adding zinc supplements to beta-carotene or mixed carotenoids will usually eliminate night blindness when the underlying problem is nutritional deficiency.
Nutritional supplementation, however, won't improve your nighttime vision if you already have excellent vision at night.
Studies of nutritional supplementation conducted by the Navy for SEALS and by the Israeli Air Force did not find any additional benefit of supplementing with beta-carotene or zinc for those who already had perfect vision.
For the rest of us, however, a combination of 15,000 to 25,000 IU of beta-carotene, mixed carotenoids, or vitamin A, with 30 mg of zinc picolinate every day is enough to restore and maintain healthy eye nutrition for night vision.
Also helpful is bilberry. During World War II, the Royal Air Force (RAF) gave pilots a daily serving of bilberry jam. Many pilots reported that eating the jam at breakfast dramatically improved their night vision.
French doctors looking at the question of how to improve night vision examined the RAF pilots and learned that bilberries enhanced adjustment to darkness, readjustment to high-light conditions, and visual acuity at night.
French research teams considering how to improve vision at night also studied the usefulness of bilberry in supporting sight in non-combat situations.
They found that 5 out of 14 air traffic controllers who had difficulties with night vision saw better after eating bilberries for 7 days.
In North America, it's not all that easy to find bilberry jam. Most Americans and Canadians use bilberry anthocyanosides (an extract of the purple pigment in the berry), 160-200 mg a day.
Many bilberry products combine the anthocyanosides with lutein and/or zeaxathin, which give the eye added protection during the day.
What other answers can we give to the question of how to improve vision at night? One simple but often overlooked step is simply to keep glasses, windows, and windshields clean.
There are no corrective lenses that improve vision at night, but there are anti-reflective coatings that can be applied to lenses to ensure their maximum utility for nighttime activities.
Just be sure to avoid amber or yellow tints to glasses, which actually reduce nighttime vision by reducing the amount of light reaching the eye, although they do reduce halos and glare.
And, finally, chronic eye diseases pose special considerations for anyone concerned about how to improve nighttime vision.
If you have any of these conditions, beware of the corresponding special challenges for nighttime activities. And if you have any of the problems with nighttime vision, see your doctor about testing for the disease.
Cataracts:Blurry visionCloudy visionFading out of colorsGlare from lamps or headlightsHalos around lightsMultiple images in one eye
Diabetic Retinopathy:Blurred visionSpots before your eyes
Glaucoma:Slow loss of peripheral visionPain adjusting to bright light indoors after spending time outside at night, or pain adjusting to low light indoors after spending time outside during the day
Dry Macular Degeneration:Difficulty seeing details in near objects Small, expanding blind spot in central vision
Wet Macular Degeneration:Straight lines look crookedLoss of central vision
Return From Night Vision to Vision Over 40