The timing was perfect. Last Thursday night, I finished up working at about 12:30am, brushed my teeth, and mentally added up the hours I’d spent on my Macbook that day. Taking out my contacts was like peeling an old band-aid off a dried up scab. I went to bed with a headache, which is a somewhat normal occurrence.
Friday, fellow Matadorian Jason Wire sent out a link and recommendation for F.lux, free software that causes your computers lighting to mimic your surroundings, meaning sunlight during the day and warm indoor lighting at night. From their website:
Most LCD displays are calibrated to display at 6500K, which has even more blue than noon sunlight (5500K). Some studies indicate blue light is beneficial during the day, but late at night it can negatively affect your sleep pattern.
The download (available for Windows, Mac and Linux) takes just a few seconds. I entered my zip code so F.lux could use it to time the change in lighting with the sunset. Eager to see it in action, I elected to go with the “Fast” setting, which dims the lights in about 20 seconds.
The program is automatically set to Halogen lighting, but you can change it to Tungsten, Fluorescent or Daylight, depending on what best fits the lighting of the room you’re in.
The switch was fast – I was typing away when my computer dimmed and turned kind of pinkish. It’s somewhat like slipping on a new pair of sunglasses that are rose-tinted, when you’re accustomed to blue lenses. I left it on to give it a shot, although it was admittedly distracting.
Saturday I switched over to the slow transition, which takes an hour to dim. Much better, and highly recommended. Of course, if the color is really bothering you, you can disable F.lux in the main menu easily.
Saturday night, Sunday night, and now Monday night, and I can honestly say that I can feel a difference. My eyes aren’t nearly as strained as they were last week, and I’ve slept well each night. I haven’t been this pleased with an eye strain solution since I found Readability, which I downloaded last year and still use regularly.
According to F.lux, “you’re at the right color when your monitor screen color looks like the pages of a book under your room lights.” Reading that flipped a switch in my head. Rather than trying to read what I was typing and focusing on how damn rosy everything was, I leaned back and studied the screen in comparison with my room. I turned F.lux on and off. Suddenly the regular glow seemed unnatural, irritating. In fact, tonight I switched over to the Tungsten setting, which is even softer and rosier than Halogen.
The ideal solution is to cut back my computer time, to avoid staring at an LCD display at 2am. But at least at the moment, it’s unavoidable. If you’re a nighttime worker (or surfer), I’d recommend giving F.lux a chance.