It is often surprising how a sight, smell or even a sound can take the mind back to something experienced many years previously. This happened to me recently when I saw what I later learned were called Bed Prisms Spectacles. These are also known as Bed Reading Glasses. They are the oddest looking spectacles you could imagine. They reminded me of a TV program I saw many years ago.
This TV program showed an experiment the like of which, at that time, was truly astounding! The experiment was to see how the human mind could adapt itself to having everything it saw INVERTED or upside down! Imagine that. The sky would be down and the ground would be up where the clouds should be.
Now, this wasn’t a quick ‘Try these on for a few minutes’ type of experiment. It actually entailed the brave volunteer wearing a pair of the craziest looking spectacles for several weeks during all his waking hours.
They consisted of mirrors fitted to a heavy spectacle frame which turned everything he saw upside down. They were very heavy and cumbersome but the ‘guinea pig’ persevered and kept them on whenever he was awake for many days, as required by the scientists.
After a few days of bumping into things, falling over and generally having a not very nice time the volunteer began to move around his world without too much difficulty and could do just about everything that he did before. His brain had adapted itself to this new view of the world! It had effectively ‘rewired’ itself to cope with the new information it was receiving from his eyes. The brain is an amazing thing, isn’t it?
When the experiment had successfully run its course, the world-inverting spectacles were removed from the plucky volunteer. Unfortunately things didn’t return to normal for him straight away. In fact he found that without the spectacles everything looked upside down once again. It took several more days for his brain to adjust itself back to normal vision once more. It must have been a very traumatic experience for him.
What had put me in mind of this, hopefully very useful and beneficial experiment, was something I hadn’t seen before, but which I thought could be very useful in certain circumstances. It was a pair of spectacles, like the ones that turned the world upside down for the courageous volunteer, but much lighter and smaller and which used small prisms instead of heavy glass mirrors.
Why, you may ask, would anyone volunteer to wear such ‘instruments of torture’, let alone go out and buy a pair? Well, it turned out that while not completely inverting everything the wearer sees they only turn their view downwards by ninety degrees.
So while looking straight ahead they would see, not the horizon and everything before it, but their feet. Handy to check that my shoelaces were still done up, I thought.
But what were they really for? Their real purpose, it turns out, is a lot more practical and certainly very much more useful than contemplating one’s toenails. They are for reading a book or watching a TV whilst lying down.
They are called ‘Bed Prism Spectacles’, and as the name suggests, they are for use when reading or TV viewing and when lying down in bed. In this position and with the head at a comfortable and more natural angle, and not bent forwards, it is possible to read a book or watch the bedroom TV in comfort.
The prisms in the spectacles change the viewing angle by around 90 degrees. The book or TV then appears, to the viewer, to be directly above them and almost on the ceiling!
What a great idea. No more pain in the neck and fatigue. No more arms aching through holding a heavy book, or a Kindle perhaps, above one’s face. Wearing a pair of these Bed Prism Spectacles means you could watch TV for as long as you wanted without discomfort – or until you dozed off.
Reading a newspaper in bed is also practical and certainly more comfortable than either sitting propped up or lying down and holding the newspaper above your head. It is almost impossible to stop it collapsing and falling down over your face, making bedtime newspaper reading a bit of a challenge. Without the Bed Reading Glasses you would have to sit up to do this.
For someone who is bed-ridden or who has to spend a great deal of time in bed for medical reasons, these bed reading glasses would be a real boon. They would enable the patient to watch TV or read books without the discomfort of sitting up or having to hold the book aloft.
So, maybe these bizarre looking spectacles aren’t quite so crazy after all. They certainly do make bedtime reading and TV viewing while lying comfortably in bed, not just possible, but also a more enjoyable experience.
But whether the idea for them came from that ‘turning the world upside down’ experiment of long ago I don’t know. But it certainly makes me wonder.