Using an electronic device that emits artificial light – including laptops, smartphones, and tablets – an hour before bed can prevent you from falling asleep. This is a cause for concern. Chronic lack of sleep has been linked to such detrimental health conditions as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
There’s a perfect solution to this dilemma: Just turn off your devices at night.
…OK, let’s be realistic – that’s not going to happen.
Using an electronic device before bed has become part of our lives.
We have emails to read, tweets to scroll through, and photos to like – turning off your phone or laptop isn’t an option for most of us. In fact, the National Sleep Foundation has found more than 90% of Americans use an electronic device an hour before they hit the hay.
So we’re all getting a lot of light from our devices. Why is this harmful?
That Eerie Blue Glow
Artificial light produced by our laptops, phones, and tablets is referred to as ‘blue light.’ Blue light is particularly bright and has a narrow wavelength.
It gives off a very eerie, ghostly glow. You might not notice this during the day when the room is well lit, but in a dark room at night it is very distinct.
Blue light from electronic devices negatively affects our ability to sleep. Here’s why:
- Blue light wavelengths have been found to heighten attention, increase reaction times, and improve mood. These aren’t exactly the effects you’re looking for when it’s time to sleep.
- Melanopsin, a photoreceptor in the eye, is extremely sensitive to blue light. Melanopsin agitation causes sleep disruption.
- Exposure to blue light harms the natural production of melatonin and forces the human body to stay awake and alert when it should be idle and sleepy.
Neutralizing That Eerie Blue Glow
Electronic devices primarily disrupt sleep cycles because of their blue light wavelengths. So what we need to do is reduce the amount of blue light they produce.
Seems simple enough. But how do we do it?
While dimming your device’s screen is a good start, it doesn’t directly address the problem. Although a dimmed screen isn’t as bright and may be easier on your eyes, it is still emitting blue light that will unintentionally keep you awake. What we need to do is replace the blue light with a color that doesn’t have disruptive effects.
There are applications that can achieve this on all platforms and operating systems. Here are some of the best offerings:
Windows, OSX, Linux, iOS
f.lux is the most popular and effective blue light reduction application. f.lux adjusts your device’s color temperature according to the location and time of day using your longitude and latitude coordinates.
f.lux transforms your screen to resemble natural light. It removes the eerie blue glow and replaces it with a warm orange overtone.
Throughout the day your screen will become increasingly mellow – just like watching the sunset. f.lux replaces the harsh halogen appearance of your screen with a more warming and welcoming incandescent overlay.
By masking the blue light produced by your screen, f.lux minimizes its negative effects to help you sleep.
It also makes your device a whole lot nicer to look at. A lot of f.lux users keep it on the highest setting all day.
f.lux is available at justgetflux.com.
Night Filter is a screen filter for Android devices. It gives you complete control over the tint of your screen.
You can use Night Filter to transform bright and harsh blue light into a soft, natural color that is easy on the eyes.
Night Filter doesn’t come with predefined settings like f.lux, nor can it automatically transform the color of your screen based on the time of day, but with some simple configurations it can effectively reduce blue light wavelengths and help you get to sleep.
Night Filter available on the Google apps store.
Easy Eyez is another f.lux alternative for Android that helps you sleep.
Easy Eyez is inspired by f.lux. It eliminates the blue glow from your devices by replacing it with a warmer color with a more natural, and visually pleasing, tone. Easy Eyez supports the natural production of melatonin to help you rest.
This is a powerful application with a feature set similar to f.lux.
Easy Eyez is available on the Google apps store.
So, Does It Work?
Research has found that using applications to reduce the intensity of the blue light emitted from electronic devices has demonstrated noticeable improvements to sleep patterns. Some of these findings are published in the following reports:
Although not all users have reported dramatic improvements in their sleep cycle, it is unanimous that overlaying blue light displays with soft orange or yellow colors makes electronic devices more pleasant to look at and increasingly useable for longer durations of time – especially at night.
Blue Light Be Gone
Applications like f.lux, Night Filter, and Easy Eyez may help you sleep better tonight.
Using an electronic device an hour before bed will likely disrupt your sleep cycle. Blue light produced by these devices reduces your natural ability to produce melatonin, boosts your alertness and reaction times, and agitates your photoreceptors.
If you aren’t willing to put away your laptop, phone, or tablet before going to sleep it is best to reduce the blue light they produce with an application that applies a warm overtone to the screen and dimming the device’s brightness.
Why not try it for yourself? Be sure to let us know how it goes!
This Guest Post was contributed by Joel Harris — a writer and technology-focused professional from Toronto, Ontario.
Photo credit: idovermani cc and marcusjroberts cc via photopin