Treat Yourself to a Winter Reading Retreat

One of life’s little pleasures on a cold winter’s night is curling up with a good book in a cozy nook away from the storm. Add a plush chair, a warm blanket, and a cup of your favorite winter beverage and your imagination can let you escape the winter blahs.

Make flipping through that page-turner even more enjoyable by adding to your reading comfort with lighting that’s easy on your eyes.

Tailor Your Lighting to the Task at Hand
While we recognize the importance of task lighting for kitchens and work areas, it plays an important role in making reading easier, too. Lighting that’s too bright or too dim can cause eye strain, diminishing the pleasure reading brings.

Most experts agree that the amount of light emitted by a nearby 60-watt incandescent bulb is best for an average reader. Some people with impaired vision may find that slightly brighter light works better for them.

But incandescent bulbs are giving way to more efficient technology like compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that use less electricity and last longer. Halogen lamps are a type of incandescent bulb that uses less energy than traditional incandescents. Since wattage is a measure of energy consumption rather than light produced, these newer bulbs emit more light with fewer watts. That’s why you’ll see them rated by lumens rather than watts (although most still list an incandescent wattage equivalent as a guide).

Here are the wattage comparisons of different types of bulbs that emit the same 800 lumens as a traditional 60-watt incandescent bulb:


Light in lumens




60 W


~ 12 W

~ 15 W

~ 43 W

Create the Right Reading Atmosphere
Proper lighting keeps your home inviting and relaxing, and that’s especially important in the winter. We humans, along with most other living things, have an internal clock that runs in 24-hour cycles, known as circadian rhythms, and influence our sleep/wake cycle. While your personal habits (night owl vs early riser, for example) can influence those rhythms, external factors do too. Bright light tells your brain that it’s time to be alert and active, while darkness signals it’s time to relax and go to sleep.

If your goal is to stay awake, overhead lighting keeps you thinking daytime. But when it’s time to wind down, go for the indirect approach. Keep the overall room lighting bright enough to see easily but not so bright it’s not relaxing. Then add table or floor lamps to add extra light next to a sofa or reading chair.
Pick a lamp height appropriate to the job at hand—lower for seating and higher for general illumination. The shade shape and color are important, too. It directs the light and affects how much of it filters through the shade in what color.

Reading in Bed
You may have noticed that you tire more easily when reading in bed. Aside from fatigue, there are other factors working to nudge you off to dreamland as you read.

Your eyes are continuously scanning your environment, even if you’re not consciously looking around. When you’re looking at a bright object, a book page for instance, in a dark room, your pupils are constantly contracting and dilating to regulate the amount of light that enters your eyes. If the difference is extreme, that can add to eyestrain and fatigue making it harder to stay awake. That can be a good thing if your goal is to get some sleep, but if you need to power through a reading assignment, you’re better off doing it in a well-lit room.

A Word About E-Readers
There’s been a lot of talk about whether e-readers (and phone, TV, and computer screens) are bad for your eyes. While early screens had lower refresh rates that could be perceived subliminally and cause eyestrain, newer models with higher refresh rates largely eliminate that problem. LED screens initially had limited viewing angles, too, but that’s less of a problem now as well. The bigger issue is your reading environment (see reading in bed, above) and the quality of the printing on the page.

If you’re buying an e-reader, look for a refresh rate of 120 Hz and read the reviews. If you’re buying one at a store, test it in different lighting conditions and at various reading angles. Then pick one that’s right for your particular needs.

Lighting plays an important role in our lives, both consciously and subconsciously. It’s a year-round effect, too, so choosing the right lighting options for your home is an important part of its design and comfort.

If it’s time to upgrade your home’s lighting, always include a licensed electrical contractor to be sure any changes to your home’s wiring are safe, convenient, and meet code requirements.

The pros at Allstar Electrical Services work hand-in-hand with designers, architects, and contractors to ensure your project is done right, on budget and on schedule. Call us at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve been serving homeowners and businesses along Colorado’s Front Range since 2000 and are top-rated by the BBB.