What Side Should a Reading Light Be On?

Reading at night requires plenty of light. Whether you like to read in your bed or sitting by the desk, the position of a lamp you use is crucial to think about.  On what side should a reading light be on depends on the place where you read, your position, and the type of device you have.

There is also a difference in the lamp position, depending on whether you usually read paper books or use modern technological devices. While adequately placed desk reading light is enough for a regular book, a bright screen requires different lighting.

Reading Location

What Side Should a Reading Light Be On kids

The side you choose for your reading light depends primarily on your setting. For reading in the bed, place the lamp aside but pay attention to the shadows. If you are a right-handed person, the light needs to be on your left side.

That way, your hand won’t cast a shadow on the book when you turn pages or write something. However, if you prefer to have wall mounted reading light, you can set it above your head and position it slightly bent. The light should illuminate the reading material as much as possible.

When you want to avoid the glare that the paperback book sometimes reflects, one of the best options is to install headboard reading light. Nowadays, you can pick from various models, including clip-on reading light and LED lamps.

The reading light can stand on the side of the desk if you prefer to read there. In that case, a flexible lamp with a changeable angle of illumination is the right choice. You can also pick a reading light with an adjustable level of brightness.

Nowadays, more and more people choose to read on laptops or e-reader instead of using old-fashioned paperback books. In such a case, you should take care to set your reading light to be brighter than a screen.

It is crucial since the contrast between a dark room, and the digital book you read can damage your eyesight. Therefore, place the reading light on the opposite side of your dominant hand. It should also be at least 15 inches (38 cm) away from your digital device.

A Rule of Thumb

What Side Should a Reading Light Be On bed

Wherever you choose to read in the evening, never place the light to go directly into your face because it can blind you and make reading impossible. Interior experts recommend you respect a thumb rule to ensure your side reading light is in the right place.

This rule applies to task lighting or any other artificial light that helps with reading. The bottom of the shade should always be approximately at your chin’s height while reading.

Regardless of whether you sit in an armchair or you need the reading light for bed, the light should directly fall on a book, tablet, or e-reader.

Tips for Placing Light Source

Ideally, the reading light needs to fall between your head and your work surface. Interior designers offer several recommendations, depending on the type of lamp you use:

  1. It is always wise to have several lamps in the room instead of one bright source of light. On average, a standard lamp illuminates around 40 sq. ft (3.7 m2).
  2. Always try to place the lamp on a maximum of 36 inches (0.9 m) from the area you want to lit. The light too close to the book will reflect from the paper and dry your eyes, so you will get tired of reading faster.
  3. Tall floor lamps need to be at least 2 feet (61 cm) away from the bed while reading and a minimum of 15 inches (38 cm) above your head when you lay down.
  4. If you have a chandelier on the ceiling, make sure it hangs at least 30 inches (76 cm) above your desk.
  5. While reading in a double bed, place an adjustable lamp on your side. Keep in mind that it shouldn’t be the only source of light in the room if you want to prevent eye fatigue.
  6. The lamp size needs to match the rest of the furniture in the room. For example, you should always choose a higher standing lamp than the armchair next to it.
  7. Nowadays, there are numerous reading light applications that you can use on your tablet or smartphone instead of a bedside lamp. Try one of them and enjoy reading wherever you are.

Importance of the Light Position

What Side Should a Reading Light Be On

A well-chosen lamp position can drastically increase your enjoyment as you read. Low light tires your eyes, dries them and can lead to pain and headaches. If you place the light on the wrong side or at an inappropriate angle, it may shine right into your eyes or glare off the paper’s whiteness.

Consequently, you can have a problem focusing on the words you read. A practical method to reduce eye fatigue during night reading is a 20/20/20 trick. After 20 minutes of reading, make a pause of 20 seconds break and direct your gaze 20 feet (6.1 meters) away.

Moreover, a constant habit of reading in inappropriate conditions can easily cause serious vision problems, especially in older people. Over the years, the eyes deteriorate, and reading in the dark requires a stronger light. Therefore, the kids’ reading light is not appropriate for grandmas and grandpas while reading.

The solution is to determine the place for the reading light that won’t cause fatigue and discomfort. You should always place the lamp at the proper height and at the angle that least tires the eyes. Don’t forget that you need the right luminosity and bulb shade for quality light.


If you don’t choose the right place for the reading light, it can cause poor concentration, dry eyes, and headaches, which will hamper you to enjoy the book. Therefore, the light should fall directly on the reading material.

Choose a lamp with an adjustable neck and place it on the side, so that you won’t look right into the bulb. Older people need a different reading light than kids and younger people.

1 thought on “What Side Should a Reading Light Be On?”

  1. Great detailed, comprehensive advice. But, please, you write, “a minimum of 15 inches above your head when you lay down.” That’s lie down. Thanks.


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