Your favorite blue web site may be harming your health!
January 8, 2014 7:29 PM   Subscribe

Blue light may be bad for your health, especially at night. You may want to click over to the grey or the green before you go to sleep, or, god forbid, turn off the technology!
posted by HuronBob (61 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite


Or a phone that can completely cut out all but red light (not just apply a red screen filter (only really do-able on OLED's)).

Only using red light when I read on my phone in bed has all but cured my insomnia. I gave a friend some Rubylith to put in her iphone case, and it's helped her out considerably too. It's a thin red film, originally used for masking things in the print industry, and it's very effective at blocking out the wavelengths that tend to mess with your sleep schedule. Astronomers like it too, because a laptop viewed through a film of Rubylith won't mess with your night vision.
posted by FeatherWatt at 7:37 PM on January 8 [8 favorites]

Using fl.ux has made going to bed
so much easief.
posted by griphus at 7:38 PM on January 8 [26 favorites]

...on that note. Off to bed in total darkness, like every night.

Now if science can figure out why I wake up with a different song in my head every morning, I'd be intrigued.
posted by Benway at 7:42 PM on January 8 [4 favorites]

tried both f. lux and rubylith. Rubylith plus red lighting at night is what works!
posted by Flitcraft at 7:43 PM on January 8

And looking at how cheap those RGB LED strips are on eBay, I keep wondering why I'm using actual lightbulbs, as opposed to wiring up the place so I can just, like, make everything red.
posted by FeatherWatt at 7:48 PM on January 8 [3 favorites]

Professional red background pony?
posted by Lutoslawski at 7:49 PM on January 8 [5 favorites]

Make everything red!
posted by oceanjesse at 7:51 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]

f.lux has made my life so much better, you guys. So much. I used to get eyestrain headaches and burning eyes fairly frequently, and now I almost never do unless I'm up really late. f.lux is magical. I haven't noticed much impact on my sleeping patterns though, those evened out as soon as I got out of high school and could reliably fall asleep within 20 minutes and get 8 hours a night.

On the downside, I think f.lux has made me super sensitive to bright blue lights, because driving at night has kind of become an agony what with the proliferation of ludicrously bright halogen headlights. Anyone know of any remedy to this other than switching my rearview mirror to the night setting? That helps some obviously, but it doesn't help me when I'm blinded by oncoming headlights. I've honestly been tempted to put on sunglasses at night sometimes.
posted by yasaman at 7:58 PM on January 8 [3 favorites]

posted by psoas at 8:12 PM on January 8

You should probably avoid Blue Light all day actually. If you are going to drink beer at least drink good beer.
posted by srboisvert at 8:18 PM on January 8 [12 favorites]

Your favorite blue web site may be harming your health!

It's not that kind of 'blue'. Metafilter, on the other hand...
posted by pompomtom at 8:20 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]

Another love for f.lux here. Sooooo much better. Thmefis!
posted by The otter lady at 8:30 PM on January 8

Astronomers like it too, because a laptop viewed through a film of Rubylith won't mess with your night vision.

Yup, my middle-school interest in astronomy taught me that and because of that, I've always bought clock radios with red LEDs (and rued hotels and friends who had green or blue displays).
posted by MikeKD at 8:32 PM on January 8

You shall know me by the overturned clock radios and the tube sock stretched over the face of your obnoxious alarm panel.

That is, if I'm your housesitter.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:40 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]

Rubylith is also very effective at giving old school graphic artists and printers screaming flashbacks and nightmares who used to use it to cut manual color separation stencils for contact frame exposures.

"Oh, God, did I just cut through to the keyline film? That was a fucking master!"

"Come on, damnit, do you really need 1,500 bits of spot color in this print?"

"Oh, Jesus, I just peeled off the wrong patch of ruby! I was almost done, and now I have to start over because I cant remask and block this intricately cut woodblock print!!"

"I can't feel my fingers anymore, and this rush job needs to be finished yesterday! I'm beginning to question if it's wise for the art department to give us razor blades at all, because I'm gonna cut someone real soon now!"
posted by loquacious at 8:44 PM on January 8 [16 favorites]

Okay, can I put this Rubylith on my iPad? Can I put it on at night and then take it off in the morning? Doesn't it mess with the touchscreen? And how does it stay on? (I got an iPad mini retina for Christmas and for some reason it is just murder on my eyes, so I'm very curious about this).
posted by HotToddy at 8:44 PM on January 8

Rubylith comes usually on rolls with a polyester film backing. The "ruby" portion is probably some kind of gelatin laid on the polyester film, though I reckon it may be entirely synthetic now. When I was working with it it was vaguely stretchy and sticky like a thin film of gelatin that wasn't dimensionally stable when stretched, as it wouldn't return to size if stretched beyond x amount, and would easily tear when stretched past y amount.

You could conceivably lay it with the polyester backing intact over a screen and make a sort of sheet you just flipped over the screen or attached with tape. You can also peel off the ruby portion in large sheets and directly apply it to things, we'd make our own photo-safe lights for darkrooms this way by coating tubelights or light filters with it, since it's the exact wavelength we need to not expose graphic arts camera film sheets, and much cheaper than buying photo-safe bulbs or fixtures.

The ruby layer is easily removable and vaguely adhesive, so coating things with it without the polyester base film is easy, but it also tears very easily as it's designed to be cut and peeled away.

I have no idea if it would mess with a touchscreen. I think it would make the touchscreen unusable, because even if you could press through it to activate the touch screen, it would then also activate any regions where it touched when laid across a screen.
posted by loquacious at 8:52 PM on January 8

I was coming here to say f.lux! F.lux is the main reason I jailbreak my idevices, I hate trying to use something without it late at night. I also have it running on my Mac of course, and I'd have it on my Windows box if I had one of those too.
posted by egypturnash at 8:58 PM on January 8

No need to remove rubylith from backing-for the phone l have a little rectangle cut to size and held on with two elastic bands (typing on it now -touch screen works fine, keep the shiny backing outermost) For tablet cut to size, use elastic bands or slide panel of rubylith into case, so case holds it in place in front of screen. For laptop I leant an A4 size piece of perspex over the rubylith. It's not great for intensive work but for reading /browsing it's fine.
posted by Flitcraft at 9:16 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]

I think it takes very little blue light to suppress melatonin production. F.lux makes the computer much easier on the eyes, and when I used it I dreaded having to turn it off to make color choices. But it didn't affect my sleep pattern as far as i could tell. Eventually, and here comes the geeky part, I took the next step and bought a pair of laser safety glasses that block everything shorter than 535nm (even works on iPad!). Wearing the glasses I get sleepier earlier even when I'm at a 30" monitor all evening. Subjectively and anecdotally of course.

You can see how the melanopsin trigger might be very sensitive though, it evolved for conditions where the brightest thing you would ever see at night was the full moon, which is so dim that you can't see colors at all.
posted by nixt at 9:29 PM on January 8 [2 favorites]

Thank you MeFi! F.lux is exactly what I needed, without realizing it! It's great!
posted by StrikeTheViol at 9:31 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]

F.lux looks interesting. Anyone know if there's a version that will work with Kindle?
posted by Ostara at 9:33 PM on January 8

There's also Redshift in case you prefer free software and/or run Linux. Your distribution probably has it in its package repository.
posted by wachhundfisch at 10:14 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]

For Android devices there's Twilight -

Google Play Store Link

I don't know if it's also included on the Amazon store though. It's one of the few things I miss on my iPhone.
posted by meowzilla at 10:17 PM on January 8 [6 favorites]

Thanks for getting my hopes up about F.lux, then letting me find out I'd have to jail-break my iPad first :-(
posted by dg at 10:34 PM on January 8 [2 favorites]

Wow. Just installed xflux on Linux and... it seems to work.

Definitely going to have a look at Redshift though.

Thanks for this post and discussion.
posted by motty at 11:47 PM on January 8

f.lux also works on Ubuntu but there are a few bugs in the GUI version that's in the repos so I would just use xflux from the command line. Works a treat.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:49 PM on January 8

Couldn't this all be greatly mitigated if not done away with completely by taking an appropriate dose of melatonin before bedtime?
posted by bookman117 at 12:01 AM on January 9

Is the inverted blue that you get when you invert the iPad colors--a sort of gross orange--better with respect to getting to sleep?
posted by professor plum with a rope at 12:52 AM on January 9

Thanks for reminding me to reinstall f.lux (windows 8.1 upgrade trashed my installed programs).
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:13 AM on January 9

Oh meowzilla, you have just made my day.

I love using f.lux and it's lovely, and I had been looking for something similar for my phone and tablet (especially since I use the tablet before I go to bed at night to play Tiny Death Star for hours read).

And now I have something! Yay!
posted by Katemonkey at 2:50 AM on January 9

I downloaded and ran the xflux executable for linux, and it tells me it found one screen? Hrrrm... Let's see if redshifts both monitors... There goes this morning's productivity.
posted by mikelieman at 3:05 AM on January 9

One of the interesting things about the blue light regulatory system is that it's not part of the normal retinal receptor mechanism. A whole set of blue light sensitive sensors has recently been (re) discovered in the eye above the rod and cone layers; they (probably) don't have any resolving power, but can operate even in people with no regular eyesight whatsoever.

In one experiment, a subject who'd had no rod or cone cells since birth and had thus been entirely blind for all of her life, was able to tell the experimenter when a blue light was on or off - with no idea how she was doing it...
posted by Devonian at 3:53 AM on January 9 [3 favorites]

Big fan of f.lux here, although it looks like it gets disabled anytime I use hardware acceleration (i.e., 3D gaming, VLC with external decoders, etc). I might have to try Twilight so I can read off my tablet at night.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:05 AM on January 9

Why not just wear red or orange colored safety goggles? Less fussy then a film or app, and sometimes cheaper.
posted by ZeusHumms at 6:28 AM on January 9

For Android devices there's Twilight

I tried installing that, but I have no idea how you're meant to set it up. There's sliders, but I have no idea what they're for, and pressing the buttons doesn't seem to do anything.

A bit more searching turned up Good Sleep, which seems a lot easier to use.
posted by talitha_kumi at 6:38 AM on January 9 [1 favorite]

I'm super sensitive to blue light and love, Love, LOVE f.lux, but am squeamish about jailbreaking. E-ink readers at night, though, seem to not trigger my blue light insomnia/crappy sleep buzz.
posted by skye.dancer at 6:44 AM on January 9

Couldn't this all be greatly mitigated if not done away with completely by taking an appropriate dose of melatonin before bedtime?

Not necessarily. I've been taking melatonin every night for maybe six or seven years and f.lux still made a huge difference.
posted by griphus at 7:02 AM on January 9

I took the next step and bought a pair of laser safety glasses that block everything shorter than 535nm (even works on iPad!).

posted by griphus at 7:04 AM on January 9

> work with Kindle

Kindle is not backlit so it doesn't emit blue light. The characters on the screen are physical dots sort of like an etch a sketch. The Kindle Paper White might be, however it uses a strange unique display technology and would need to research. My guess is not, but even if so it wouldn't be much otherwise the battery wouldn't last so long.
posted by stbalbach at 7:47 AM on January 9

Definity Digitalâ„¢ LED Light Bulbs "World's First Biologically-Corrected LED Light Bulbs"

Not sure about this but looks like there is a market developing for "biologically corrected" LED bulbs.
posted by stbalbach at 7:55 AM on January 9

Kindle is not backlit so it doesn't emit blue light.

posted by stopgap at 7:55 AM on January 9

Oh yeah the Fire is backlit forgot there are multiple versions.
posted by stbalbach at 8:00 AM on January 9

I wonder what the color temperature is of the new kindle paperwhite. I really enjoy reading on it and part of the reason I got it is so that I can read late without being bathed in blue light. But now that I look at it, it's kind of "bluish" in tint. Any way for a person at home to measure it's color temperature?
posted by Brent Parker at 8:45 AM on January 9

The most logical solution, instead of trying to filter each device individually, is to wear the filter. Seems like this would be a super simple product for an existing eyewear manufacturer to market. Just sell readers with special lenses, right? So easy.
posted by HotToddy at 8:46 AM on January 9

Griphus, here are the glasses I wear in the evenings, at the best price I found.

There is some annoying light leakage around the edges so I'd look for the frame style with full rims if I were getting another pair. Also the nosepiece comes off occasionally. But the filter is awesome. I bet there are cheaper alternatives that work, but for experimentation purposes I wanted something that I was sure was going to stop all blue light, not just tint the world orange. You can barely see blue LEDs with these on.
posted by nixt at 9:38 AM on January 9 [1 favorite]

Damn those are pricy. It won't be the same, but does anyone know if layering a cheap pair of safety goggles with rubylith will work, or am I misunderstanding something?
posted by griphus at 10:06 AM on January 9

For Android devices there's Twilight
posted by meowzilla at 6:17 AM on January 9

Thanks for that.
A colleague at work recently watched Terry Wogan's Secrets of the Bodyclock and has been going on (in a good way) about blue light and whatnot.
posted by Fence at 12:15 PM on January 9

So I'm trying Redshift (using a nighttime setting of 4700) and it's working fine, but after an hour or two with it, the colours won't seem to stay still.

Which is to say, my brain doesn't seem to be getting used to the dimming effect and keeps adjusting the colours back and forth in a way which is increasingly irritating.

Has anyone else tried f.lux / Redshift and found this? Could it be because I am red/green colour-blind and the thing simply doesn't work for me? Or am I just being impatient?
posted by motty at 2:05 PM on January 9

I am not colorblind, and use f.lux rather than Redshift, and have always found that my eyes and brain got really used to it really fast, like within one night. I don't notice the difference in color any more unless the screen is at an angle that emphasizes the shift, or if I switch quickly between f.lux being on and off. Do you move your screen around a lot?
posted by yasaman at 2:24 PM on January 9

Oh my goodness. I'm too chicken to try jailbreaking my iPad, but I put f.lux on my laptop and it's like putting glorious soothing artificial tears in my eyes. The relief was immediate. Thank you, thank you, this is a serious life improvement for me.
posted by HotToddy at 4:35 PM on January 9

redshifts both monitors... There goes this morning's productivity.

Yum install redshift got it in. Had to manually edit the config file for lat/long, and then there was an issue with HW cursor not dimming, so I needed to figure out how to get xorg to get the swcursor directive.

But yeah... Soothing.
posted by mikelieman at 4:58 PM on January 9

It's like Botox. Seriously I can feel that wrinkle relaxing. I think I have been scowling at all my devices due to eyestrain.
posted by HotToddy at 6:03 PM on January 9

I installed f.lux and now you're all sepia-toned. It's like I've taken you into an olde timey photo studio.

Sunset was at 4:30 this evening where I live. I'm not sure I need to start getting ready for bed that early... Now, at 6:30, I can see the logic in this.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:24 PM on January 9

Maybe you could buy a pair of cheapie glasses from Zenni Optical and then Rubylith them? Or DIY some of those "clip to your glasses" deals?
posted by en forme de poire at 6:28 PM on January 9

Sunset was at 4:30 this evening where I live. I'm not sure I need to start getting ready for bed that early... Now, at 6:30, I can see the logic in this.

You can set it to gradually change over the course of an hour.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:29 PM on January 9

I don't think that would help, but I do see that I could set the location for somewhere with a decent amount of daylight.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:50 PM on January 9

Anyone know anything about the spectrum of light emitted by the newer energy efficient lightbulbs? The article mentions that LEDs emit more blue light (the kind you want to avoid before bed), but what about CFLs and halogen hybrids?
posted by purple_bird at 8:53 AM on January 10

I wondered about that too - my house is lit entirely with CFLs that are marked as 'cool daylight'. The light does look that very white that's so white it's almost blue, but I don't know how that correlates to actual blue light. If this is related to the Kelvin scale, it appears these are around 6500K, for what that's worth. But the link above seems to talk about blue light and then give figures for brightness only.
posted by dg at 7:18 PM on January 10

So are sheets of Rubylith something I can expect to find at art supply stores?
posted by grouse at 5:47 PM on January 13

Seth Roberts has had a couple of posts recently about orange light before bed and its effect on sleep. (Also honey and sleep, sunlight and sleep, and more.)
posted by Lexica at 8:37 PM on January 13

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