Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sleep-friendly software makes your computer screen easy on the eyes

A free program available for download promises to promote sleep by automatically altering your computer screen’s picture.

As recent studies indicate, bright screens found on laptops, cell phones and iPads can suppress the body’s melatonin production, potentially leading to insomnia. The hormone regulates the natural sleep-wake cycle by signaling when its time to sleep.

F.lux, available for mac and pc, promises to reduce this effect by making your computer screen by altering its color temperature to make it look like orange-colored soft indoor lighting at night. The program is fully automated based on where you live.

F.lux’s website cites several studies about lighting color and intensity and the related physiological effects. One in particular mentions how blue wavelength light reduces deep sleep. However, new research suggests green light, or even the entire spectrum may mess with melatonin functions, affecting sleep.

Because there are no peer-reviewed studies to verify whether the F.lux actually limits the insomnia-causing effects of computer screens this blogger decided to try it out.

I installed f.lux on my Macbook earlier this week. I found the dim orange nighttime look to be oddly easy to look at, maybe even reducing the eye strain associated with evening viewing. But make no mistake about it, the default settings are there for a reason. The orange look can’t compare to the bright colorful factory settings.

Does it work for the sleep? I don’t know. I had no problem getting to sleep after using my laptop, but there’s no way to know if it’s because of F.lux. I have my doubts based on the recent research about green light previously mentioned in this article.

There’s no doubt the program is a more affordable option than other products designed to cut down on blue light. The best solution is better sleep hygiene. For quality sleep turn off all electronics about a half hour before bedtime and do something relaxing, like a puzzle or light reading.

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