Monthly Archives: November 2012
Post by Kyle St. Romain.
If you’re like me, you probably spend an inordinate amount of time in front of a computer screen. It’s an unfortunate consequence of living in a digital world, and our eyes bear the brunt of the pain. Think of your computer screen as a big light bulb that you stare at for hours on end. It’s not that much different than staring at a regular light bulb, except it’s not as bright and we’ve grown used to it — still bad for your eyes.
The effects of working in front of a computer screen are magnified at night. Many people will lower the brightness of their screen to make it easier on their eyes after sundown, but a dimmer screen only solves part of the problem. In addition to adjusting the brightness of your screen, you should also adjust the color. Let me explain.
Natural daylight registers at around 6,500K, while incandescent and fluorescent bulbs produce light somewhere between 2,700 and 3,300K. A main difference between color temperatures is that higher temperatures appear bluer, while lower temperatures appear more yellow or red.
Computer screens are designed to work best with daylight, and produce a bluer light between 5,500 and 10,500K. However, when you’re working under artificial light at night, the color light produced by your computer screen clashes with the ambient light in the room; it irritates our eyes and our brains.
To help equalize the light temperatures, developers have created programs that gradually lower the temperature of your computer’s backlight according to the time of the day. During normal business hours you won’t notice much of a difference, but if you flip your laptop open at night you’ll notice a red hue to your screen. This change takes some time to get used it, but once you try it, you probably won’t want to switch back. I adjusted to it after only a couple of nights, and can’t stand to look at unadjusted screens anymore.
In addition to reducing strain on your eyes, proponents of these programs also argue that adjusting your screen’s temperature at night helps you sleep better. First, your eyes will feel rested (I hate tired eyes). Second, your body is more used to lower temperature light at night, because our biological clocks (circadian rhythms) are quite sensitive to light. When it’s dark outside, your body produces melatonin, which helps you fall asleep. Staring at a bright computer screen disrupts this process, and can actually make you more alert. Try sitting under a full spectrum light at night, you’ll probably never fall asleep.
While the best way to sleep better is to completely avoid the computer at night, we don’t always have this luxury. So, if you find yourself needing to burn some midnight oil, try lowering the temperature of your computer screen. Programs like f.lux are free, and available for Mac, Windows, and Linux operating systems. There are other programs available that do the same thing, but f.lux seems to be the most popular. It also adjusts your computer screen automatically based on your location, which is a nice touch. After a while, you probably won’t even notice the transition anymore.
Have you tried it? Let us know what you think about the comments below.