Today the sun sets at 3:54pm. Unbelievable. Long gone are the days where it’s still bright at 10pm, and you wake up bathed in the gentle glow of the rising sun. Now you’re pretty much surrounded by darkness, and the shortest day of the year is still upon us. If you work in front of a computer, the chances are you work past 4pm, meaning it’s dark by the time you’re ready to go home. And in these chilly winter times, you’re probably browsing your computer or laptop every evening, huddled under a blanket with a cup of tea.
You know how they say you shouldn’t watch TV or browse the internet an hour before you go to bed? Well, your monitor emits a bluish light to match natural sunlight, but when it gets dark, a computer screen is almost blinding. You can read in more detail about the research involved here, but essentially, blue light is stimulating. Blue light tricks you into thinking it’s still daytime, and essentially makes it difficult to get to sleep.
This is where f.lux comes in. f.lux is a computer programme which matches your screen display temperature to the time of the day, and adjusts to the lighting in your room. Its aim is to reduce eye strain at night, reduces that “blue glow”, and helps you to sleep better. When the sun sets, f.lux matches your indoor lighting. In the daytime, it looks like sunlight again.
You just tell f.lux where you live and what type of indoor lighting you have, and it will take care of the rest. It works out when the sun sets in your city, and changes the display based on what you’ve set your lighting to. If you work by candlelight at night, there’s an option for that too.
A warning: it will look surprisingly yellow/pink when you first use it. It takes a while to adjust to the change, and it can seem unnatural at first, as we’re used to looking at very bright screens. You can eliminate this “shock” by changing the transition speed from 20 seconds to an hour, so you get used to it as the sun sets. Try adjusting the colour temperature sliders until you find one you like. f.lux recommends fluorescent or halogen.
Careful if you’re a graphic designer; if you forget you have f.lux on late at night, you may be wondering what on earth the yellowy glow is. You can disable f.lux for an hour at a time (for colour-sensitive work), and there’s also a movie mode (and a rather cool darkroom mode).