It’s late at night, and your face is a ghostly blue, illuminated only by your phone or laptop as you sit in darkness. We’ve all been there once, but we really shouldn’t be there ever again. Now, I’m not saying to stop using your screens late at night. While that’s a worthy battle, it’s a battle for another day. What I am saying is that there are a few quick, easy, and vital changes you can make to your screens right now to save your eyes and your sleep cycle.
1. Adjust your screens’ temperatures.
During peak hours of the day, the sun gives off a bluer hue. As it sets, it gives off a more orange/redder hue. (See this Kelvin light temperature chart for more). Our indoor lighting tends to be more orange as well. These shifts in temperature help signal to our bodies when to be alert and when to get sleepy. Unlike the rising and setting sun, however, our screens’ light doesn’t change in temperature. Instead, our screens radiate a bluish light that mimics the midday sun all day and night, clashing with our environments after the sun sets. This clash can cause eye strain and overstimulates us, interfering with our ability to fall asleep and sleep well.
There are tools you can use to address this problem that gradually change the temperature of your screen as the sun rises and sets. While your screens may feel very orange at first, you’ll quickly adjust. After a while using these tools, you’ll find that when you disable them, your screens look insultingly blue. Since adjusting my screens’ temperatures to the cycles of the sun, I’ve been getting sleepy at more reasonable times of night, I’ve been falling asleep more easily, and my eyes haven’t felt as tired.
F.lux, which I use on my laptop, uses your location to determine when the sun rises and sets. As the sun sets, your screen becomes warmer, and as it rises, your screen becomes cooler again. The settings for f.lux are simple. In preferences, I recommend that you use your zip code for location and that you disable fast transitions. You can also adjust the default colors, if you want, to make them better match your working environment, but I’ve found that the default settings work well.
If you need to do something where color accuracy is important, like edit photos, you can temporarily disable f.lux. It also has a special mode for watching movies.
iPhone/iPad: Night Shift
In March of this year, Apple introduced a function very similar to f.lux for iOS, enabling your iPhone and iPad screens to change temperature as the sun sets. This function, Night Shift, can be found under Settings > Display & Brightness > Night Shift. I have mine scheduled for sunset to sunrise.
While I haven’t used it, I’ve heard the Twilight app is a great solution for Android users that behaves very similarly to f.lux and Night Shift.
2. Adjust your screens’ brightness.
In addition to changing your screens’ temperature, you should also adjust your screens’ brightness. If it reads like a light source in the room, it’s probably too bright. (Hint: you can check right now!) This has the added benefit of extending the life of your battery charge.
3. Give your eyes a break.
Every now and then, take a moment to shut your eyes, blink a lot, or look away from your screen. The Mayo Clinic recommends following the 20-20-20 rule: “Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.”
Do you have any other tips for preventing your screens from interfering with your eyesight or sleep patterns? I’d love to hear them!