Just because you can't shake your addiction to your devices doesn't mean it should keep you up at night. That is, if you've discovered f.lux, a free, patent-pending utility for Mac, Windows, Linux and (jailbroken) iOS devices that makes the color of your computer's display adapt to the time of day.
Sound simple? Well, it is. It's also one of the very few absolutely indispensable utilities you can find for your computer, especially if you travel for work.
Conquering The Blue Light Demon
In 2012, the American Medical Association's Council on Science and Public Health acknowledged that it:
Recognizes that exposure to excessive light at night, including extended use of various electronic media, can disrupt sleep or exacerbate sleep disorders, especially in children and adolescents. This effect can be minimized by using dim red lighting in the nighttime bedroom environment.
This is precisely what f.lux does. While there are a number of ways to handle the brightness of your computer's display (not to mention a few like-for-like competitors), f.lux does something different. f.lux actually changes the color temperature of your display.
This may not sound like a big deal, but it is, because it minimizes exposure to sleep-delaying blue light. As the f.lux team explains, natural light is more blue, while most artificial light (including candlelight) is warmer. Incandescent bulbs become more red in tone when you dim them. But newer LEDs and CFLs don't—this includes the backlight on your monitor.
By changing the color temperature of your machine, f.lux removes the blue light and makes it easier to keep working... and still fall asleep at the desired time.
Putting F.lux To The Test
The f.lux team points to an array of research that points to the harmful effects of blue light on sleep, but here's my first-hand experience: it works. I travel across time zones on a regular basis, and am constantly struggling to get to sleep at the right local time, whether I'm in Palo Alto, New York City or London. By using f.lux, I'm able to work later without any impact on my sleep.
Of course, the better course of action is simply to stop using one's computer at night, because blue light isn't the only thing that will keep us from sleep. But f.lux has become an essential utility for me. I use it every single day.
The f.lux effect takes some getting used to. The first time you see your screen take on a muddy orange-pink hue can be a bit disconcerting, and it's not a good fit for those doing graphics work that depends on accurate color mapping. But for those of us who just want to answer a few emails before bed without the blue light triggering our brains into delaying sleep by an hour or more, f.lux is incredibly useful.
You can download it here. You'll thank me later.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.