Your Screen May Be Keeping You Up At Night; Here’s a Fix!

Its Thursday! So why not indulge your inner-nerd? Each and every Thursday the ergonomicsHelp.com blog will feature a post on topics related to human-computer interaction. Whether you’re a programmer, database manager, in financial services, call centre or healthcare, we will to bring you information that will make your computer experience a safe, healthy, productive and enjoyable one! And if there are any topics that you would you like to see us blog about, tweet us at @ergonomicshelp with the hash-tag #nerd-day.

So without further ado, on with the blog!

Do you love being blinded by your computer monitor or smartphone at night?

Computer and smartphone displays look awesome during the day, and they are designed to be that way! In fact, they are designed to look like they are illuminated by the mid-day sun. So obviously when the sun sets, you probably shouldn’t/wouldn’t look at something so bright! In fact, the American Medical Association’s Council on Science and Public Health recognizes that:

“exposure to excessive light at night, including extended use of various electronic media, can disrupt sleep or exacerbate sleep disorders, especially in children and adolescents. This effect can be minimized by using dim red lighting in the night-time bedroom environment.”

Further to this, over the past 20 or so years, a large body of literature has continually shown that night-time exposure to blue light has a negative effect on sleep. More recently, research suggests that an average person reading on a tablet for a couple hours before bed may find that their sleep is delayed by about an hour.

This is where f.lux comes in

f.lux is a program for Windows, Mac, Linux, and iPhone/iPad (jailbroken only 😢  UPDATE: See Below!) that adjusts the colour of your device’s display by adapting it to the time of day. It makes the screen look bright like the sun during the day, and warm like paper under incandescent light at night. Natural sunlight has a colder blue colour where as artificial light has a warmer red colour. As the sun sets, f.lux adjusts the colour temperature of the screen to make it appear as if it were illuminated by the lights in the room.  In fact, the colour temperature on the screen is adjusted to look like a piece of paper under an incandescent light bulb (see bellow).

with f.lux

ergonomicsHelp.com Trial Run

Although I’ve known of and have recommended the use of f.lux since I first read about it a few years ago, I must admit that I had never tried it 😖. So, last week I decided I would trial it for a full week and report on it in the blog. And after trialling the software for a week I must say that I’m very impressed. Since I’m used to working on the computer late into the night, I’m also used to dealing with sore eyes. Without question, f.lux reduced my eye strain almost immediately. I found that I was far more comfortable looking at the monitor at night, and found the transition between day and night to be very seamless. I decided to take it a step further by reducing my monitor brightness at night which also provided further relief. As for sleep, I did in fact sleep well however I can’t objectively say that f.lux was the cause. What I can say is that when I went to bed, I found that I was more mentally prepared to sleep. In fact, when checking my phone before turning off the lights (a terrible habit that I’m sure many of you share) I found myself almost blinded by the screen on my phone. I also notice how extremely blue the standard display colour temperature is when compared to looking at a paper (of a display with f.lux running) at night.

 

Bottom Line

I have recommended f.lux for a number of years and I will most certainly continue recommending it. The difference is that now I will also continue to use it. I’m also pushing for everyone on the ergonomicsHelp.com team to try using f.lux for a week. The only criticism I have at this point is that to be able to use this handy piece of software on an iPhone or iPad, the device needs to be “jailbroken.”  For those of you that have no idea what that means, jailbreaking is when you modify the device to allow it to run software that it’s not normally allowed to run. Unfortunately Apple does not allow software developers to access the interface which is needed to make the software work. Update (22 March 2016): Apple released a new feature for their mobile devices (in iOS 9.3) called ‘NightShift’ that functions similarly to f.lux.

To get f.lux, download it from their website at https://justgetflux.com/

 

Sources

The f.lux team lists countless research articles on their website which was the main resource for this post. Thanks very much to the folks at f.lux!

Joe has had a diverse career across many industries which has provided him with invaluable training and experience. Joe's specialization focuses on the human factors of human-computer interaction, with a particular focus on usability. He has conducted numerous academic and internal scientific research projects, has a Master of Science Degree from the University of Victoria and is an active software/web developer. Fun fact about Joe is that he has had four holes in one (twice on the same hole) and a double eagle while playing golf.

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