I recently wrote an article for my new website venture, Prognosis Hope, that discussed the benefits of utilizing a free computer program called f.lux. As a writer, I found this program to be particularly useful since I do most of my writing at a computer and later in the evening before I go to bed. I wanted to share this little life hack with other authors out there who might get some benefit from it. I am going to re-post the article here and also include a link to the original article on PrognosisHope.com. Please feel free to comment and make suggestions or let me know if f.lux works for you. You can also visit me at PrognosisHope.com to read more articles of mine.
Here’s the link to the original article: http://www.prognosishope.com/2/post/2014/03/life-hack-your-circadian-rhythm.html
LIFE HACK YOUR CIRCADIAN RHYTHM
Studies have shown that increased unnatural light in the evening increases melatonin suppression which decreases sleep. Have you ever noticed that you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep after you have been browsing your Facebook Newsfeed before bed? Do you ever feel unrested or less rested after a full night’s sleep when you fell asleep watching a movie on your backlit tablet? In this age of increasing technology use (and dependence), our natural circadian rhythms are at risk of being thrown off balance by unnatural light. I speak for myself when I say this (but I would venture to say that others can relate), I use my iPhone as an extension of myself. I don’t go anywhere without it and if I do forget it somehow, I feel like I forgot something essential like pants or underwear.
I also have a Microsoft Surface Pro now which I use as my computer/tablet/puzzle board/movie player. When I’m not sitting at my computer at work, I’m sitting at my Surface Pro at home. The increased exposure to the light that is emitted from computer screens and other backlit electronic devices can seriously disrupt my sleep cycle and circadian rhythms. It may not even be noticeable but at the end of a work week I feel absolutely exhausted. I don’t do any manual labor or anything like that but I do sit and look at a computer screen for 9 hours a day. I have had more headaches and my eyesight has even gotten considerably worse.
The American Medical Association (AMA), in a report titled Light Pollution: Adverse Health Effects of Nighttime Lighting, made the following conclusions:
The natural 24-hour cycle of light and dark helps maintain precise alignment of circadian biological rhythms, the general activation of the central nervous system and various biological and cellular processes, and entrainment of melatonin release from the pineal gland. Pervasive use of nighttime lighting disrupts these endogenous processes and creates potentially harmful health effects and/or hazardous situations with varying degrees of harm. The latter includes the generation of glare from roadway, property, and other artificial lighting sources that can create unsafe driving conditions, especially for older drivers. More direct health effects of nighttime lighting may be attributable to disruption of the sleep-wake cycle and suppression of melatonin release. Even low intensity nighttime light has the capability of suppressing melatonin release. In various laboratory models of cancer, melatonin serves as a circulating anticancer signal and suppresses tumor growth. Limited epidemiological studies support the hypothesis that nighttime lighting and/or repetitive disruption of circadian rhythms increases cancer risk; most attention in this arena has been devoted to breast cancer. Further information is required to evaluate the relative role of sleep versus the period of darkness in certain diseases or on mediators of certain chronic diseases or conditions including obesity. Due to the nearly ubiquitous exposure to light at inappropriate times relative to endogenous circadian rhythms, a need exists for further multidisciplinary research on occupational and environmental exposure to light-at-night, the risk of cancer, and effects on various chronic diseases.
In light of these conclusions (pun definitely intended), the AMA stated that it “recognizes that exposure to excessive light at night, including extended use of various electronic media, can disrupt sleep or exacerbate sleep disorders, especially in children and adolescents.” The AMA suggests that the negative effects of this light pollution can be “minimized by using dim red lighting in the nighttime bedroom environment.”The normal light that a computer gives out is actually bluer than natural daylight. The blue light is not necessarily bad for you during the daytime, when you would see a less intense blue light if you walked outside on a sunny day. The blue light can negatively affect you at night when your body needs an adjustment in light to balance its natural circadian rhythms. Ever wonder why you sleep at night and wake/work/play during the day? It’s biological.
“Light is the most powerful stimulus for regulating human circadian rhythms and is the major environmental time cue for synchronizing the circadian clock” (AMA, 2012).
If you find you have trouble with this, there is a life hack that can help at least a little bit. There is a program out there called f.lux that actually adjusts the light being emitted from your computer screen to be warmer in temperature. With f.lux, the temperature of light that is emitted from your computer screen adjusts just like the light in your home would. You may open windows to let in natural daylight during the day but turn on lamps at night. The warmer temperature is better for your eyes in the evening and before bedtime.How do you get f.lux?You simply download the free application to your computer or iPhone/iPad, set your location and type of lighting, and let it do the rest of the work for you. The screen lighting will adjust to the time of day and location so that is brighter/cooler during the day and warmer at night. At night, it has a more amber glow to it, whereas during the day, it looks like a warm daylight. The good thing about f.lux is that you can turn it off whenever you want, in case you are doing something on your computer that is color sensitive.
Here is the link to download f.lux: http://justgetflux.com/
Also, here are several of the studies done on this topic for you to examine for yourself:
Cajochen, C., Frey, S., Anders, D., Spati, J., Bues, M., Pross, A., … Stefani, O. (2011). Evening exposure to a light-emitting diodes (LED)-backlit computer screen affects circadian physiology and cognitive performance. Journal of Applied Physiology, 110, 1432-1438. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00165.2011
Figueiro, M., Wood, B., Plitnick, B., & Rea, M. (2011). The impact of light from computer monitors on melatonin levels in college students. Neuroendocrinology Letters, 32(2), 158-163.
Duffy, J. & Czelsler, C. (2009). Effect of light on human circadian physiology. Sleep Med Clin, 4(2), 165-177. doi: 10.1016/j.jsmc.2009.01.004
American Medical Association (2012). Light Pollution: Adverse Health Effects of Nighttime Lighting. Report 4 of the Council on Science and Public Health (A-12), 265-279. Retrieved from http://www.ama-assn.org/assets/meeting/2012a/a12-csaph-reports.pdf
Disclaimer: We are not affiliated with f.lux in any capacity and do not recommend the product for personal gain in any way. We also don’t encourage or discourage use of the product to help/treat any medical condition. We are not doctors. If you are experiencing medical issues, it is best to consult with your physician prior to doing any life hacks or self-remedies. This is only a suggestion and something that we use in our own personal lives to increase our quality of living. We are simply sharing what we know with you for you to use as you see fit. We also have no affiliation with any of the studies that are listed here. We simply wish to provide some basis and reasoning for our personal use of this life hack.