Fire is mysterious and a burning flame can be so alluring. If you turn all other lights off and use a burning candle as your only light source, the flame can pull you in and before you know it, you’ve been staring at a dancing flame for hours. After getting lost in time, you may ask, is staring at a candle bad for your eyes?
I think that the fear of staring at a candle flame might stem from being told to never look directly at the sun. Ultraviolet radiation can damage our retinas if we stare at the sun, but candles do not produce enough light to cause harm to the human eyes. In fact, staring at a candle flame can potentially be more helpful than harmful to your health.
Read on to learn more about the ways that candles can lead to more good than harm.
Does Light Harm Eye Health?
Some forms of light can actually harm your eyes. Staring at the sun, especially if it’s during the hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., when the sun is highest, can cause damage or worsen an existing eye condition. Energy produced by ultraviolet rays can burn eye tissues in the way that sunburn hurts skin.
This same damage can also be caused by seeing electric sparks or lightning, lying in a tanning bed, arc welding equipment, looking directly at a laser light, and other ways. What’s most daunting is that there’s no pain when it’s happening, it can be hours or days before you feel any pain.
Injury can also accumulate over time, like a few moments of exposure over a period of years can lead to impairment, which is why preventative eye care is so important.
Light generated by candles is different. Candles do not emit ultraviolet rays, instead they produce luminous intensity. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, luminous intensity, a unit also referred to as candela, is the visible light that you see before you as the candle burns.
With candles, the flame is “fueled” by the wax. The exact amount of light a candle produces will depend on its size, shape, and additional factors. But in general, its intensity is only a fraction of one watt. So if you have a lightbulb that’s 60 watts, a candle might give off at least 500 times less light than that of a 60 watt lightbulb.
This entire process and concept are far more involved than what I am able to explain but what has been made clear is that while staring at a bright light can damage your eyes, staring at candle light would not.
Can Eyesight Improve From Staring At A Candle?
Staring at a candle can be a calming experience. It helps release tension in your eye muscles, relaxing your eyes as you release strain.
While some claim that candle gazing can actually improve eyesight, there is no scientific evidence to support this assertion. There is no way to naturally correct vision. But making nutritious choices overall can improve eye health.
Are There Any Benefits To Staring At A Candle?
Even people who don’t usually meditate find that there are benefits to staring at a candle’s flame. It seems that the majority of the benefits to candle gazing are mental, physical, and emotional.
Candles Can Help Prepare You for Sleep
Growing up, you may have been told not to read in the dark because you will cause too much strain to your eyes. This is partially true. While reading in low light will cause your eyes to tire more quickly, it does not actually cause damage to your eyes.
Our eyes can adjust to different light settings. For example, when we are in a darker setting, our pupils widen in order to let in more light to the retina to help us see. It might help to position the candle so that the light is towards your book to help alleviate eye strain. But low light won’t harm your eyes in the long-term. And reading in low light can help those struggling with insomnia to actually get to sleep.
If you are a person who struggles with falling asleep, lighting a candle and simply staring at the center of the flame can help you relax to the point that you are able to get a good night’s rest. It helps to set the candle on a flat surface that is at eye level and a comfortable distance away from you. You may want to sit on the floor and place the candle on a coffee table.
With all other lights off, take some deep breaths, and then slowly exhale each time. Close your eyes for a moment and then open them and find the center of the flame. Sit still, staring at the flame for anywhere between five and fifteen minutes. At some point you won’t even realize you’re doing it and that’s a good sign, it means you are fully engaged and allowing yourself to relax.
This activity does not have to involve words or any other sounds, but you can softly play music in the background if you prefer. The main goal is to allow yourself to slow down and unwind.
By relieving tension in this way right before bed, you might spend less time replaying incidents from throughout the day in your head. And your body will be in a restful state. Once you lay your head on the pillow, you might feel calm enough to sleep.
The only downfall here is that you’ll have to remember to blow out the candle before going to bed.
Scented Candles Can Impact Your Emotion State
Have scented candles? Even better. In addition to creating a relaxing environment for yourself, you can benefit from inhaling certain fragrances. Results from this peer-reviewed study support the idea that fragrances can affect human behavior.
Scents like lavender can decrease heart rate and act as a mild sedative that can help you fall asleep. Orange oil helps reduce anxiety and increases levels of calmness.
During the day, rosemary can help stimulate memory and enhance performance. Both jasmine and peppermint were found to help improve mood states.
If you stare at a candle flame on a regular basis, even if for only five minutes at a time, you might notice that it’s easier for you to concentrate. This article about a Harvard study reminds us that often times we are either fixated on past events or we’re concerned about something that will happen in the future. In the same article, Columbia University Medical Center lists, “improved focus and learning concentration,” as one of the five benefits of meditating that they found.
Concentrating on an object, like a candle flame, can help ground you in the present. Over time, this practice can help you become more present more often throughout the day – improving your concentration.
For a steady flame that doesn’t jump around too quickly, possibly causing agitation instead of stillness, I would suggest that you trim your wick before lighting your candle.
Watching a flame that is jumping around would not damage your eyes, but it would stimulate them which is the opposite effect we’re going for.
All in all, unlike direct sunlight or other sources of extremely bright UV rays, staring at a candle will not cause any injury to your eyes. But if you have a pre-existing medical condition, you may want to contact your doctor before staring at a candle in the dark.
Watching a flickering light is not beneficial to everyone, particularly if you have a history of seizures. The information in this article does not substitute medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should always consult with a physician or specialist regarding any specific health needs.