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How Many Lumens are Good for Reading?


We’re well aware that staring at a screen for hours a day, especially without breaks, can lead to eye-strain. But what about when you settle in bed to read afterward?

What is the best light bulb choice for your bedside table or study desk? 

Is it possible to become a victim of eye strain from too much light? 

Is there a specific kind of lightbulb that offers readers a better experience than others?

Keep reading to find out!

How Many Lumens are Good for Reading?

A person reads their books

The prime amount of Lumens for reading is 450. 

Reading with 450 Lumens of light will ensure you do not experience eye strain from squinting to see the letters on the page. It will also be enough to illuminate the whole surface of your book so both pages have sufficient light. 

However, your needs may vary depending on if you’re trying to buckle down into something more serious at your desk, or cuddling up for a chapter or two before bed. 

Desk Lamps

Industrial 3 Way Dimmable Touch Control Desk Lamp
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If you’re reading at your desk and possibly taking notes, too, you’ll definitely want to make sure your bulb has 450 Lumens. Not only will this decrease eye strain as your eyes jot around the page, but it will also help keep you alert if you’re in for a long night. 

If you find that 450 Lumens is still too low for you, it’s safe to go a little higher, but anything above 600 Lumens will be quite harsh and may prove to be more of a distraction. 

In addition to paying attention to the bulb’s brightness, make sure that your desk lamp shines light on the entirety of your workspace. This will help you avoid rearranging both yourself and your supplies to get a better look at something. Your posture and time management skills will be all the more thankful.  

Reading in Bed

A boy reading in bed in the evening

If you enjoy sneaking in a few pages of your favorite novel before bed to wind down, a lamp of 450 Lumens may prove counter effective to your efforts. In that case, 250 to 300 Lumens should be enough to read by. 

This amount of Lumens offers you visibility, while allowing you to stay in that relaxed state you need to be in before drifting off. 

Some individuals may be particularly sensitive to light, especially before bed, and will find that this lower range of Lumens still proves to be too high for them. Please be aware that anything under 200 Lumens will cause eye strain, so it’s best to stray away from anything lower. 

Light for Reading

Your reading light affects your eyesight, brain, and learning abilities. 

We’ve all heard that improper lighting can lead to poor eyesight and eye strain, but how much of this is true? 

What happens when you do read in a brightly lit area, and can it be too bright?

What Happens When You Read in a Dimly Lit Area?

A girl reading in bed in the evening

Reading in a dimly lit area causes your eyes to work excessively, leading to temporary blurry vision. If this strain continues, you may have headaches and become more sensitive to light, which means you may have to stop reading altogether for a few hours until your eyes readjust. 

Not only does poor lighting affect your eyes, but it can also affect your learning abilities and memory function. In short, if you’re crash studying for a test, you may not be able to understand and remember the material as well. 

The dim lighting also affects our circadian rhythm and will alert your brain that it’s time to rest, not read or work. 

But does dim lighting decrease your eye strength over time? Current studies say people’s eyesight isn’t affected by lower light, unless they’re still in early childhood. So if you find that you’re squinting more than you used to, your late night reading isn’t to blame. 

What Happens When You Read in a Brightly Lit Area?

A couple reading a book in bed

Reading in a brightly lit area will help you avoid putting too much stress on your eyes, which will lead to eye strain. The bright light will also keep you alert and help your brain remember and learn content better.

So if you find that you need to reread the same page over and over again, you may want to turn on a light. 

This also goes for reading on a screen. The contrast between your bright phone or laptop screen and the dark room may lead to headaches and lower levels of attentiveness. The same rule applies when watching videos or scrolling through social media at night. Remember, your phone should be turned off when your lights are turned off. 

Too bright of lighting can lead to a few of the same symptoms that dim lighting can bring on. 

Very bright lights, especially fluorescent white light, can cause headaches. This issue can intensify overtime, especially for those predisposed to migraines. 

How to Choose a Light Bulb for Reading?

There are pros and cons for each type and color of the light bulb. 

The amount of Lumens is just one of the many factors that come into play when choosing the best light bulb for reading. 

What other things should you consider before you make your final selection? 

And what choices can you expect to find down the lighting aisle at the hardware store? 

Types of Light Bulbs

1. LED (Light-Emitting Diode)

Floor Lamp
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LEDs take up much less energy and emit less heat than other lightbulbs, making them the most economical and environmentally friendly choice. They will last several years, but will begin to dim overtime, since they don’t use enough energy to burn out completely like other bulbs. 

Still, they offer sufficient reading light and come in various colors for you to choose from. 

Many LED lights can also be manually dimmed, allowing you the flexibility to choose which amount of light is just right for you. 

2. Halogen

Halogen bulb

Halogen bulbs are your traditional run-of-the-mill light bulb. The light they emit is quite harsh so if you’re looking for something to brighten up your evening reading nook, it’s best to avoid this option. 

However, if you live in the UK, this option is out altogether, since Halogen bulbs for non-directional lamps were officially banned in September 2021

3. Incandescent (Edison)

Hudson Vintage Incandescent 60W Edison Light Bulbs (4 Pack) - Clear Glass 2100K Dimmable Warm 60W Lightbulbs - ST64 Style 230 Lumens
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These trendy and classic light bulbs may be the perfect style choice for your cozy home, but they emit half the light at a much higher wattage than LED bulbs do. This means that both your eyes and your wallet will pay the price. 

Don’t fret too much, though, LED lights can give off the same visual effect for a much lower price. 

4. CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs)

Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb T2 Spiral CFL, 2700k Soft White, 13W (60 Watt Equivalent), 900 Lumens, E26 Medium Base, 120V, UL Listed (Pack of 8)
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CFLs are characterized by their curly bright white tubes and low environmental impact.

However, the light they emit is harsh and unforgiving, and will illuminate your room like it’s a corporate office hallway. 

These are best left where they belong, back at the hardware store. 

Light Colors

1. White Light

White crown LED Desk Lamp
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White light will definitely keep you alert while studying or during other high-concentration activities, but when reading, it may become a distraction if too bright. 

Placing them in your bedroom and living room where you relax at night may also make you agitated and lead to poorer sleeping habits as it damages melatonin production

2. Yellow Light 

Yellow LED Light Bulb
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Yellow light (or warm light) is perfect for leisurely reading and relaxing. 

If the bulb has 450 Lumens you’ll still be able to read clearly, but you won’t experience the hyper-alertness you will from white light. 

Are 100 Lumens Bright Enough for Reading?

A woman reading her book

250 Lumens is the suggested minimum amount of light for reading. 

If you’re using a light source near your book, like a flashlight or clip-on reading light, 100 Lumens may be bright enough, but if your lamp is not pointed directly at your page and is more than a foot away, it’s best to go with a bulb of at least 250 to 450 Lumens. 

Are LED Lights Good for Reading?

A woman reading her book in the cafe

LED lights are the perfect option for reading! 

They offer a variety of brightnesses and hues, depending on your taste, and are long-lasting.

As a bonus, they’re also more economical and environmentally friendly! 

How Many Lumens Do You Need for Studying?

Studying in the dark with light

50 Lumens per square foot is most ideal for studying. 

When studying, the best option is having 50 Lumens per square foot, or 500 lumens per square meter. 

Be aware of balancing out your light sources so that one corner of the room is not brighter than the other. This will prevent shadows which will contrast with your bright lights, distract you, and lead to eye strain. 

White light will keep you alert, but if you need to get some good rest before your big test the next day, the yellow light will keep your melatonin levels stable and maintain your circadian rhythm. 

Wrapping Things Up

A man reading in the dark with light

The next time you’re diving into a good book, be it a chemistry textbook or your favorite drama, check if your bulbs are 450 Lumens. Your eyes will thank you. 

What’s been your experience with the best light for reading? 

Let us know in the comments below! 


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