The Dark Side of Blue Light

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As IT professionals, Prescient technicians often are required to work on systems during windows that will not disrupt our client’s daytime operations. This requirement is not isolated to IT however. In the ever increasing requirement to stay connected we rely on our screens at all hours of the day and night.

Think of the last time you stayed up late or your alarm went off in the middle of the night to signal the start of a maintenance window … you fire up your laptop, and no matter what your brightness level is set to, you are immediately blinded by your monitor. Once your eyes finally adjust, you work bathed in an eerie blue glow until your task is finished and head back to bed, only to lie there totally awake as those precious minutes of sleep pass you by.

  • The problem may just be blue spectrum light.

Until the advent of artificial lights, the sun was the major source of lighting, and people spent their evenings in relative darkness. Now, in much of the world, evenings are illuminated, and we take our easy access to all those lumens for granted. But we may be paying a price for basking in all that light. At night, light throws the body’s biological clock—the circadian rhythm—out of whack. Melatonin levels and therefor sleep suffers.

But not all colors of light have the same effect. Blue wavelengths—which are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention, reaction times, and mood—seem to be the most disruptive at night. And the proliferation of electronics with screens, as well as energy-efficient lighting (LEDs), is increasing our exposure to blue wavelengths, especially after sundown. (www.health.harvard.edu)  During the day, monitors and smart phones look great, considering they’re designed to look like the sun. But, at 9PM, 11PM, or 3AM (when Prescient technicians do our real magic), you probably shouldn’t be looking at the sun – it messes with our internal clocks (think JetLag).

There are a number of options to filter out the blue spectrum on your screens and over the past few years, most manufacturers have included the feature in their core operating systems. iOS, Android and Windows 10 (as of build 15002) enable the OS to begin filtering blue light to match your timezone. Screens will adapt to the time of day, bright (sunlight) during the day and warm (candle or ember) at night.

For the Windows users out there, open Settings, then Display and look for “Blue” or “Night” light settings (depending on your version of Windows).

Windows allows you to “Turn on Now” or schedule your night light based on sunset / sunrise schedule for your preset timezone.

There are also a number of 3rd party applications that run on top of your core operating system that have a few more features. F.lux is a blue light filter that allows you to set what kind of ambient lighting you have, where you live, and desired night time light temperatures and F.lux will do the rest, automatically, gradually dimming and “reddening” your screen until it reaches the desired setting.

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