Researches recognizes that exposure to excessive light at night, no matter it is continuous or discrete, including usage of various electronic devices such as phones and tablets with light-emitting screen, can disrupt sleep or exacerbate sleep disorders.
Enough light hitting eyes, particularly of the blue variety, can stop the pineal gland, a pea-size organ in the brain, from releasing melatonin, thus warding off sleepiness but increasing alertness. So easing into bed with a tablet or a laptop makes it harder to take a long snooze.
New study also suggested that using iPad before bed has major impact on sleep causing syndromes like insomnia. It has also been revealed that prolonged exposure to blue light can lead to risk of ongoing damage to retinal cells. And this is especially more vulnerable for children than adults.
In addition, exposure to bright light or straining to see in dim light can cause eye fatigue. One of the most common causes is extended amounts of reading on screens of digital devices. The problem is growing with increasing number of time that people use smartphones and other hand-held digital devices. Research shows that people hold digital devices closer to their eyes than they hold books and newspapers as they are forced to focus on tiny font sizes.
This effect can be minimized by using dim red lighting in the nighttime bedroom environment. Here comes with the need of having apps on digital devices that can turn the color of display to adapt to the time of, or adding a filter to block or minimize blue light emission. There are some apps that I personally use and enable every day on my digital devices that I highly recommend you using. Additionally, you can also check out Phone Arena’s article on color accuracy for smartphones with suggested that some phones does bias on color reproduction: too red, too blue or too green.
This basic functionality of f.lux is tuning your screen’s color temperature according to time of day, by telling the app where you are located in the world then figuring out the approximate sunset time for your location. It makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day, looking as much as the surrounding lights in your room. Eventually, it aims at helping reduce your brain’s effort to keep you awake at night.
The setup is pretty straightforward. f.lux will request for your geographical location when first launched. Simply turn on location services on your device to let it retrieve the information. Once setup, it will not ask again until you may have relocated to somewhere else in the world, when you need to make a change on it.
You can adjust the color temperature with slidebars for both daytime and night. You can also enable or disable easily within the f.lux app setting interface. For Mac running on OSX Yosemite, you are able to have f.lux turning on “Dark Mode” at sunset automatically.
Here’s the showcase of my MacBook Pro and iPhone before and after enabling f.lux with warmer screen temperature.
If you are not able to get it work, you may check out the Support/FAQ section on f.lux developer website. There are plenty of information that possibly helps.
CF.lumen (rooted devices preferred) [Price; Free, with In-App Purchases, requires Android 4.4+]
CF.lumen is an awesome tool created by famous Android developer Chainfire which performs similar to f.lux but with even more robust and comprehensive settings. It adopts the colors on your Android device based on the position of the sun, or your custom configuration.
When using the default settings, your display will get a warmer tint (lower color temperature) when the sun is down, vastly reducing strain on the eyes. Blue light makes your brain want to stay awake, and a lower color temperatures reduces the amount of blue displayed. There are also additional settings for color filters for daytime and sundown, light sensors that automatically adjusts the color: switch to the sleep filter in full dark, or to the day filter (usually none) under bright lights; and more.
For rooted devices, the KCAL driver mods the device at kernel level that allows color adjustments in the display hardware itself. The performance in terms of speed and display quality will be the best. However, for non-rooted device, the driver installed can only support software color overlay with full-screen rendering. It does not give on-par image quality and performance as rooted devices have. Below is a showcase of my Nexus 7 (2013) with root access. Color of screenshots is also modded and captured as it is shown on the actual device.
There is also a Pro version that you can upgrade via In-App purchase. This unlocks the option to start at device boot, and unlocks notification options. It also enables Tasker integration. In Pro mode, the notification adds convenient buttons to quickly disable the current filter or switch to sleep mode, and you can switch the notification to when enabled mode, which shows the notification only when a color filter is active.
For more details, you can check out the main thread of CF.lumen on xda developer forum.
Too complicated for you? There are a few more decent options in the market that you can apply blue light screen filter easily, with multiple preset filters that you can choose from. You can also check if the filter is enabled on the status bar icon, and preserve settings after rebooting the device.
Still not able to get to sleep? Well, you can try apps playing relax melodies or white noise.
White noise is better noise, at least for some sleepers. Technically speaking, it is a consistent noise that comes out evenly across all hearable frequencies, like the sound emitted by a running fan, or air conditioner in your bedroom that you might have got used to. It creates a masking effect, blocking out those sudden changes that frustrate light sleepers, or people trying to fall asleep.
Here are some good apps for iOS and Android respectively that worth trying out. You can easily select melodies, sounds or combination of natural noise with a few taps. Certainly, you can adjust the volume that you are most comfortable with, and set a timeout that the app will not keep your ear up for whole night long.
Relax Melodies by Ipnos Soft
Select sounds and melodies that you like and combine them to create a mix. Adjust the volume of each sound individually for better results. Lay back, listen, and enjoy falling asleep. Is that simple and it works. Use timers and alarms if needed. Try different and new mixes every time!
Windy and Sunny by Taptanium
Windy is a white noise app which utilizes stereoscopic 3D audio to drown out the noise around you. Sunny is an ocean-themed sequel to Windy.
Windy ~ Sleep Relax Meditate with natural white noise sounds [iOS only, $2.99]
Sunny ~ Sleep Relax Meditate on the Beach with Calm Wave and Ocean Sounds [iOS only, Free with IAP $1.99]
Noisli [iOS only, $1.99]
Noisli is a background noise and color generator ideal for working and relaxing. It includes many high-quality sounds to help you focus while working, relieve anxiety or to just relax while reading or before going to sleep. Noisli also provides a color changing background, bringing to you the healthy benefits of the chromotherapy.
I hope you find the post useful and helpful if you have problem in getting to sleep, due to the effect of blue lights from smartphone or tablet screens. Feel free to share your experience down below in the comment section.