Can You Get a Headache from Reading too Much?

Headache from Reading

While reading is probably one of the healthiest hobbies you can have these days, with multiple benefits for your mental and physical health, it can also be accompanied by some relatively unpleasant experiences. One of the most common ones is getting a headache when reading, and if you ever experienced it, you already know what a bummer it can be. 

Since the entire team here at Basmo is completely committed to helping all fellow readers overcome any obstacles on their journey to becoming better, more efficient, and happier readers, we had to tackle this as well. We did some research and we found out why we sometimes get a headache from reading and even more importantly, how to prevent it from happening. 

Why does my head hurt when I read?

One thing we need to clarify right from the start is that headaches are of many different types and have very many causes. While having a headache when reading may sometimes feel like the two are related, the truth is that most of the time they are actually not. But when the two are related, more often than not, the problem is with your eyes. Putting a strain on your eye muscles oftentimes results in a quite nasty headache and here’s why.

1. You are holding your reading material too close to your eyes

One of the most common causes, why your head could start hurting during your reading sessions, is that you might be reading at a close range. This forces your eyes to focus at a slightly awkward angle, which puts a strain on the muscles responsible for eye movement. While a 5 minutes session of close range reading is very unlikely to have any effects, prolonged sessions are very likely to put enough strain on your eyes and ocular muscles to cause a headache. 

2. Your eyes are too dry

It may sound silly, but it can happen. Sometimes getting a headache after reading is a problem that could have been easily solved just by making sure you don’t let your eyes get too dry. Usually, our eyes are moistened with every blink, but reading, and especially reading something extremely interesting and engaging, can disrupt our regular blinking patterns.
In other words, you get so enticed by the reading material you are going through that you simply forget to blink. The good news is that having dry eyes will give you different symptoms before it ever gets as bad as getting a headache. A discomfort, itchy eyes, and even somewhat blurry vision are warning signs that make an appearance long before a headache settles in.

3. You may have an untreated eye condition

Those of us who were not blessed with 20/20 vision may have a hard time identifying a problem. The problem with having an issue with your vision is that you have nothing to compare it to in order to realize that you are not seeing the way you are supposed to. You get used to seeing the way you do, and until you try on your first pair of glasses you are usually not going to be able you have an issue unless it is an already pretty severe one. 

These eyesight issues are responsible for a huge percentage of the headaches people experience, especially after or during prolonged reading sessions. Reading is an activity that involves quite a bit of effort from your eyes and it can be pretty taxing when something is wrong with your sight. 

Whether you are nearsighted or farsighted or suffer from astigmatism or other conditions, reading is going to raise some problems if you don’t get the issue under control by seeing a doctor and getting some prescription glasses. If one or both eyes have a problem and don’t function at their maximum capacity, there will be an extra strain put on your eye muscles and other parts of the system which more often than not is going to result in a headache.

4. Reading digitally

If you’re not a fan of paperback books and prefer e-books instead, there’s a chance this is a reason why you’re getting frequent headaches while reading. Not all devices are designed properly to fit your eyes’ needs and while e-readers usually have a good backlight system that minimizes the dagame on your eyes, smartphones or tablets are quite different.

Reading on your phone, especially if you do it for extended periods of time, can have an immensely negative effect on your eyes. As you may already know, phones emit a lot of blue light, which is quite a difficult thing for your eyes to handle. No research confirmed the worries expressed by some scientists that blue light might damage the eyes permanently, but one thing is for sure: blue light does fatigue our eyes to a high extent.

That being said, if you have the habit of reading e-books on your smartphone or tablet, you may have experienced some pretty nasty headaches as well. Switch to paperback or to a dedicated e-reader instead.

5. Reading in a poorly lit room

As per the point above, we established that too much light can hurt your eyes while reading. How about too little light? Well, you won’t probably be too surprised to find out that this is just as bad. 

A poorly lit room is not an ideal environment, especially if you are planning on having a prolonged reading session. The lack of light is going to force your eyes to make a bigger effort to focus, your pupils are going to dilate, and your eyes are going to experience quite severe fatigue in a relatively short time.

Excessive eye fatigue is more often than not going to manifest itself through blurry vision, eye discomfort, and headaches.

6. Completely unrelated reasons

As I mentioned in the beginning of this section, more often than not, the headaches we tend to blame reading for have absolutely nothing to do with reading. Headaches are extremely common and have very different causes for each of us. It’s quite easy to mistakenly attribute a headache to reading since it is a process that involves quite a lot of brain power and keeps us focused for long periods of time. 

Here are some of the most common causes you’re getting headaches that have nothing to do with your reading habits. 

  • Dehydration
  • Lack of sleep
  • Stress
  • Unhealthy eating habits
  • Bad posture
  • Alcohol 

As you can see, common causes for headaches are as varied as it gets. Before you start blaming your reading habits, try eliminating the above as options first. 

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Can you get a headache from reading too much?

That being said, even though headaches actually caused by reading are more uncommon than the ones caused by dehydration or other things from the list above, they are not impossible.

Reading can indeed cause headaches, especially if you have a tendency to read a lot. Getting too much reading done in a single session or in a day can have some negative effects on your general state of mind and well-being. 

One thing that is important to remember is that reading is a surprisingly intense activity for our brain. Reading is quite a workout, and just like your body becomes sore if your training session goes on for too long, your brain starts to suffer as well if you read too much.

You get tired, your brain burns up through glucose reserves, and if you try to push through, you are certainly going to get a headache at some point. Long reading sessions also come with a high probability of making some wrong choices in terms of reading position and general posture.

How far you are from the book you are reading, what angle your eyes are focusing at and how tilted your neck is during the reading sessions, all can have a negative impact on your well-being and cause headaches.

How to avoid getting a headache while reading?

Learning how to avoid getting a headache when reading is an important lesson most of us tend to learn the hard way (a trial and error process that involves a lot of headaches). Luckily for you, our team here at Basmo sat down and discussed the most efficient solutions to no longer getting headaches from reading. 

Here are the most important tips and tricks they were able to come up with.

Sleep more

One thing we need to make sure of every single day is that we get enough rest. Sleeping is an absolutely essential part of our lives and an activity that can seriously impact the way we function. Getting enough rest is going to solve a lot of your day-to-day problems, headaches being one of them.

Realistically speaking, most of us do our reading later in the evening, once we are done with our jobs and daily chores around the house. This means that we are generally quite tired every time we pick up a book. Fatigue is one of the most common causes for our headaches and just because we get them while reading doesn’t necessarily mean that the actual reading caused them. 

Getting enough sleep will not only decrease our chances of getting headaches while reading but will also ensure that we can get more reading done and that we will retain more information while reading.

Stay hydrated

As obvious and well-known it may be that we are always supposed to drink enough water, chronic dehydration is a much more common problem than you might think. As a matter of fact, scientists have discovered that approximately 75% of  Americans are chronically dehydrated.

While that is a huge problem in itself, having a healthy habit of drinking enough water every day can seriously impact the frequency of your headaches in general, which will also mean that you will get a lot fewer headaches while reading. 

Do most of your reading in the morning

Taking full advantage of your rested brain and ensuring that you use it at its peak capacity will mean cramming as many challenging activities in the first part of the day. Reading, as you know, is a very tough task for your brain, so in order to avoid getting those nasty fatigue-related headaches while reading, it is highly recommended to read in the morning more than you do at night.

Reading in the morning has many benefits. Not only are you well rested, but that will also mean that you are getting more natural light during your reading sessions, and as I mentioned above, lighting is quite important when it comes to reading and avoiding migraines. 

In order to create a habit of reading in the morning, the best way to get started is by installing a reading tracking app on your phone. Basmo comes feature-packed for the modern reader, so it will be able to satisfy all your needs.

Scheduling your reading sessions may sound excessive to a certain extent, but it is a very efficient way of instilling healthy reading habits.

In order to get used to reading in the morning, create a reading schedule from within the app.

The scheduler is easy to use, and allows you to select different days of the week (a minimum of three) for your reading sessions, and even different times for each day.

The app is also going to remind you that a reading session is upcoming at the specified time, so you never miss out on any of your reading.

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Read less

Given Basmo’s commitment to helping people read more, I can’t believe I am about to actually recommend the exact opposite. Well, if you want to avoid getting a headache after reading for a long time, one thing you can do is ensure that you cut your reading session short.

Take more breaks, try to spread out your reading sessions over multiple days, and avoid reading too much. How much reading is too much differs from one person to another, but if you tend to get headaches quite often during extended reading sessions, you could certainly benefit from a more relaxed reading routine.

Basmo is a reading tracking app that does exactly that: it tracks all the reading you are doing. Every time a reading session is started, the clock starts ticking and the app records the length of your session. If you want to make sure that you don’t overdo it and risk getting a headache, make sure to take short breaks every hour.  

Final thoughts

Getting a headache from reading can be quite an unpleasant experience. Luckily for you, now you have a whole toolbox for preventing these nasty migraines. Follow our advice, and also start using Basmo, the nifty reading tracking app that is going to completely change your reading habits for the better.

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