Another Take on Night Vision

Jack Kramer

A few years ago we had an article in the newsletter about ways to improve your night vision when observing. That article is archived on our club web site and was read by Allen Osborne, a retired U.S. Army NCO. Allen offered some additional ideas about night vision, based largely on his experience while in the military.

Soldiers are trained to close their "firing eye" when encountering light at night, which echoes our suggestion to close your observing eye while reading charts. Allen comments that, like astronomers, the Army also uses red light. While many people think they can see better at night with a red light, it actually just helps preserve night vision. The military also uses green or blue-green light inside some vehicles at night. There is a belief that green or blue-green light also helps preserve night vision. There is even a blue-green lens available for the GI flashlight.

Allen concurs with our idea of closing your eyes for a short while before observing in order to enhance night vision. He closes his eyes for at least one minute, sometimes two or three, to speed up the night vision. Another interesting technique he noted is the use of bayberry, which are little berries that are said to improve night vision in many people. Some allied pilots in WWII ate bayberry jam for a few days before night missions and many claimed to have improved night vision. Bayberry is commonly available as a dietary supplement in the form of capsules or pills. Allen has tried it and it seems to work, but the night vision improvement is subtle and you have to ingest bayberry for at least two to three days prior to when you need your night vision. He also uses it prior to nighttime fishing trips and when camping.

Another suggestion in our article was to wear sunglasses during the day, even after the sun has set. Allen also has donned sunglasses at home for a few minutes prior to going outside at night. They help cut down on the light, and night vision develops more quickly once outside in the dark.

Some of these ideas may sound odd but if they work for you, that's the bottom line.

Published in the February 2000 issue of the NightTimes