How to Counter the Effects of a Harsh Computer Screen

Not all lighting is easy on the eyes. Flickering fluorescent lamps give you a headache, powerful rays from the sun make you search for sunglasses, the harsh computer screen at night leaves you seeing spots.

It probably didn’t come as a surprise last month when we published results of a recent study revealing certain artificial indoor lighting has a negative impact on sleep cycles.

The study found that light with a cool color temperature affects a certain blue-sensitive photoreceptor that targets our biological clock. So, to avoid losing sleep because of your lights, we recommended sticking to lighting with a warm color temperature (2800-3200K) after dusk – and dimming the lights before bed!

However, that recommendation didn’t address the bulk of the problem: the glare from computer screens, smartphones, and tablets. If you’re like most people, you check your e-mail and catch up on news articles in the hour or two before you go to bed. The color temperature from those devices will kill your efforts to stay away from sleep-inhibiting lighting.

Luckily, there’s a solution! It’s a free software program called F.lux, and it automatically adjusts the color temperature of your computer monitor based on the time of day. You can tweak the settings, but you basically just specify where you live and how fast you want the color temperature transition to be.

I came across a review of F.lux on the Jim on Light blog and downloaded it right away. It detected my location and didn’t seem to change anything. That evening, I was working on the laptop around 6pm or so as the sun was going down. All of the sudden, my monitor transformed from a cool blue-ish daylight glow to a pleasant, warmer toned screen. Given the fact that the room around me was darkening as well, it was much more relaxing on the eyes. I love that it is completely automated!

You can download F.lux on most Windows, Mac, and Linux OSes, and it’s also available as an iPhone app. Thanks, Jim on Light for blogging about this software – it’s an excellent way to dial down the harsh glare of a screen at night.

Emily Widle

Emily graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a degree in journalism. She enjoys scouring the news to report on the latest in the lighting industry as well as bringing valuable remodeling tips and exemplar home projects to light.