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How to prevent eyestrain from working with gadgets during the night

diciembre 10, 2019

When we talk about modern jobs, the term "working from 9 to 5" is becoming increasingly obsolete. Technology and the Internet have made it easy for people to work with anyone, from anywhere, at any time. In a team composed of people from all over the world, it is impossible to find the right time for each team member. So for us to have a remote meeting or work at unusual times is no longer considered unusual.

While the goal could be increased productivity, these technology-based job trends have some negative side effects. One of these is the unpleasant feeling we have when we look at the computer or the gadget screen at night (or peek in silence on the smartphone screen just before going to sleep). Fortunately, there are ways to solve this problem.

The science behind technology

To be able to address the problem, we need to get to the root of this problem. Many people seem to forget that biologically, the human body is wired to work best during daylight. We've been through millennia of evolution refining our cells to get to that point. This something that cannot be changed in a few decades of work trends. You might think about adapting to the condition, but your body would tell you otherwise.

There are two negative effects of working in front of a bright screen at night. The most obvious is eye fatigue. The gadget screen designed to simulate the bright spectrum of the sun to make it comfortable to use during the day. But after dark, this arrangement causes your eyes to feel tired easily, especially if your work environment is much weaker than the screen brightness. In the long term, this constant exposure to intense light from your eyes during the night will reduce their ability to function normally.

You can avoid this by reducing the brightness of the screen, soften the display light and increase the brightness of the room. It is reducing the contrast ratio between the environment and the screen.

And it turns out that exposure to light from self-luminous displays increases the risk of having a sleep disorder as it shifts the body's circadian rhythm. Or in simpler words: working with your gadgets at night will reduce your ability to sleep well and ruin the body's natural clock. For those who want to learn more about the science behind it, there are several studies on the subject, like this, this, this and this.

And here's the quick explanation. The human body produces a sleep hormone called melatonin. The short wavelength part of sunlight (around the blue spectrum) suppresses the production of this hormone. That is why we are more alert and alert during the day. Because the light of your gadget's screen is designed to mimic sunlight, it also has a similar effect up to a certain level.

Tips and tricks to reduce visual fatigue

There are several ways we can use to reduce the negative effects of working with gadgets at night.

1. Reduce screen brightness

The most obvious solution is to reduce the brightness of your device's screen to the level that does not damage your eyes. Almost every modern machine with a screen equipped with this brightness adjustment function. Some have dedicated buttons to do so; some others rely on software.

If you are using Mac, you can reduce the brightness below the minimum standard level. Using the combination of Shift + Option + F1 / F2, you can increase or decrease the brightness of the screen in a small and precise 1/4 of incremental steps. With this trick, you can go from 1 to 3/4, then 1/2 and then 1/4 of the screen brightness level before it reaches the total black of 0.

2. Go to the dark side

There are several apps, both for desktop and mobile devices, with functionality " night mode ". Usually, they are applications that do not rely too much on colored graphics, something like a text editor or a spreadsheet. There are several variations of the function, but invert the dominant color. The background of the app will use the color pi darker than the foreground, such as white text on a black background.

By activating the night mode, your eyes will have much less exposure to bright light and you will be able to work more comfortably. Unfortunately, the mode is not always available in all apps.

Use of dedicated apps

Since the studies mentioned above have shown us that the culprit of the problem is the blue spectrum of light emitted by the gadget, we can solve the problem simply by eliminating the blue. It will leave your screen warmer and more reddish, which is easier for the eye in the environment without sunlight. Several apps use this principle to help you reduce eye strain and keep your biological clock in check.

f.lux (Mac, Windows, Linux, jailbroken iOS, Android with root)

This app could be the one that started the trend. It was built by two former employees of Google, Michael and Lorna Herf. In the beginning, this couple of husband and wife started building the app for a different reason. Both noticed that the glow of their gadgets at night gave off the "disturbing blue" aspect. So they worked on the solution to reduce the blue, leave the red tint and made the display look better and more natural in the evening light. Then born f.lux.

During the time, f.lux evolves from a simple script that strips the blue from the display, into one that synchronizes with the rising and setting of the sun based on the user's geographical position. Slowly adjust the screen colors to make it easier in the eye based on the time of day.

At the time of installation, f.lux will ask you to choose the color combination and your alarm time. So you can set the app to determine your location automatically or you can search for it manually. So you can forget about it and f.lux do its job silently from the background.

The free app is available for Mac, Windows, Linux, jailbroken and Android devices with root.

Red Shift (Linux and Windows beta)

Red Shift an open source alternative to f.lux. The developer admitted that the app was inspired by f.lux, but wanted to create his own version because he was dissatisfied with the buggy clone of f.lux for Linux called xflux. Although f.lux official now available for Linux, the development of Red Shift continues.

The installation of Red Shift requires having the know-how of the command lines. If you like customizing the app's functionality, you can do it. But not recommended to code blind people like me. Red Shift available for Linux and Windows (beta).

Night Shift (iOS)

Starting from iOS 9.3, Apple has added f.lux-like functionality to the operating system. available for iPhone 5s or later, iPad Pro, iPad Air or later, iPad Mini 2 or later and iPod touch (6th generation).

You can quickly enable the feature by sliding the Control Center from the bottom of your iOS screen. Then touch its icon in the middle (between the Timer and Calculator icons) to activate it.

You can also program it to run automatically every day within a set period and adjust the warmth of the color by going to Settings – Display and brightness – Night Shift. Less warm means more orange while warmer means more red is added to orange.

Keep in mind that the Night Shift mode is not available if your iOS device is in energy saving mode.

Night Shift available only for iOS but can have similar features on Android, that's how .

Twilight or Bluelight Filter (Android)

Non-rooted Android users who want f.lux functionality on their phones can install Twilight or Bluelight Filter. They use the similar principle of reducing the emission of blue light and synchronizing with the solar cycle.

Twilight and Bluescreen Filter are available for Android devices.

Do you work at night or use gadgets before going to sleep? Have you tried one of the apps mentioned above or do you have your favorite apps to reduce eyestrain? Feel free to share using the comment below.

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