Next time you are viewing your computer or iPad in a darkened room, have a look around. That light you see illuminating the room could — and probably does — mess with your sleep. If you work from home — without a concrete schedule that you need to stick to — you are probably prone to this. The same goes if you play games late at night, or watch movies just before you go to sleep. You turn off the computer and go to bed, but sleep just doesn’t seem to come easy. You’re not alone. Several studies have now established links between sleep disturbances and the sort of bright-white light associated with computer and device screens. It isn’t just about not being able to fall asleep, either. Insomnia and disturbed sleep patterns mess up your work and life routines, and your health.
The specific concerns associated with the light emitted from computer screens is twofold. First, we know that exposure to excess light at night — any sort of light — can suppress the amount of melatonin that your body secretes. Melatonin is the hormone that governs your sleep-wake cycle. Secondly, several studies have outlined the links between “blue” light — the short wavelength light emitted by your phone, your television, your computer screen and your tablet — and peak rates of melatonin suppression. To put it simply, the light coming from your computer is perfectly tailored for keeping you awake by convincing your brain that it’s daytime.
Electronic devices that emit white light in the hour or so before bed contribute massively toward disrupted sleep and delayed sleep onset. If you have insomnia, it’s worth evaluating whether or not you need to cut out screen time before you go to sleep. Cutting down on — or completely eliminating — computer use late at night can make a big difference to your lifestyle. You’ll fall asleep sooner, and feel better. You’ll also spend less time arguing with your documents (or other internet users) when you’re not thinking clearly.
If you absolutely have to be near a computer at night, but you want to alleviate that insomnia-causing white light as much as possible, you should consider trying a tool like flux or Eclipse. f.lux is free, and available for Mac, Windows, Linux, and iOS users. It has a simple, intuitive user interface that adjusts your screen “warmth” depending what time it is. It even detects your location automatically!
Eclipse works in much the same way, except it’s designed for jailbroken iPhones. Instead of filtering the colours on your screen and just making it “warmer” — yellower — Eclipse darkens everything, as well as adding an orange filter in there. The look is fairly stunning, and you can get this app on your phone for $0.99, providing that your iPhone is jailbroken!
Of course, computer and phone screens are designed to shine like the sun, so you’ll never be able to eliminate that white/blue light one hundred percent. But tools like f.lux serve a dual purpose: by dimming your screen and adjusting the colours, you are reminded when it’s time to go to bed. Do you find yourself texting or browsing the internet while in bed? Simply having a darkened or yellowed screen can give you that internal impetus to turn the phone off and go to sleep.