How to stop your computer from ruining your sleep
As phones and computers become more integrated into our daily lives, we’re spending more time staring into the harsh light of our screens. A while back, my colleague Corey Butler wrote for this blog about computer vision syndrome, a kind of eye strain that often accompanies frequent computer use. Well, it turns out that there’s another eye-related problem with routine computer use: interrupted sleep. It’s not just that people are staying up later because they don’t want to put down their phones or turn off the TV. Rather, a growing body of research is showing that exposure to blue light (especially in the evening) leads to a significant drop in sleep quality. It’s more of a biological response than a behavioral one.
If you’re like me, using computers at night is a necessity. Often, the evening is the best time to get work done. But shutting the laptop and reading by candlelight isn’t the only solution to the negative effects of blue light. Stanford University’s Department of Health and Human Safety recommends a free application called f.lux that automatically adjusts the color temperature of computer monitors. If you have f.lux installed on your computer, it will decrease the blue light emitted from your screen, as the sun sets. So, while your screen will look normal during the day, it will have a warmer, more pinkish-orange hue at night. In theory, this will lead to better rest once you finally go to bed.
If you’re the skeptical type, the f.lux website lists a number of peer-reviewed studies to support its methodology, which you can check out here. Or, you could download the software (available for Macs and PCs) and give it a try. You just might sleep better.