According to the National Sleep Foundation, about 60% of Americans experience sleep problems nearly every night, and part of the blame for that lies at the feet of our iPhones, iPads, and Macs. It’s not just that technology is a bit addictive—it can be hard to resist checking email or Facebook before bed—it’s that our devices emit blue light that that suppresses levels of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin. Other research findings suggest that the use of light-emitting electronic devices before bedtime prolongs the time it takes to fall asleep, delays the circadian clock, reduces the amount of REM sleep, and reduces alertness the next morning. Ouch!
The obvious solution is to refrain from using your devices for a few hours before bed. If you’re shaking your head and thinking, “Yeah, right,” you’re not alone. We know how hard it is, and for many of us, watching a relaxing TV show in the Netflix app on the iPad or reading a book in iBooks on the iPhone is what we do to wind down from the day.
Happily, computers are remarkably flexible, and back in 2009, developers Michael and Lorna Herf came out with a donationware utility called f.lux to address the problem. Compatible with both the Mac and Windows, f.lux changes the color temperature of the computer’s display throughout the evening, based on when the sun sets at your particular location. At sunset, f.lux starts warming up the color temperature of the display, with the goal of making it look like a page of a book under your normal room lights. You can tweak a variety of settings within f.lux to achieve this goal, and if you’re a designer who cares deeply about accurate color (and you have to work at night!), you can always disable f.lux for an hour at a time.
What about your iPhone and iPad? Apple won’t allow f.lux in the App Store, but in iOS 9.3 the company added a feature that mimics what f.lux does. Night Shift, as it’s called, appears in Settings > Display & Brightness, where it offers options to warm the temperature of the screen automatically on a schedule, enable the temperature warming manually until the next day, and control just how warm you like it. In terms of scheduling, the default approach is from sunset to sunrise, but you can also set custom times, which might be useful if, for instance, you work nights and need to flip your sleep schedule.
Night Shift and f.lux are easy to try and absolutely worth testing if you have any problems with going to sleep or waking up in the morning. And, if surveys are any indication, that’s all too likely. If technology is going to be part of the problem, it can also be part of the solution.
Twitter: Having trouble getting to sleep? It might be due to using your iPhone, iPad, or Mac before bed. Find a solution here:
Facebook: If you’re like many Americans, you sometimes have trouble getting to sleep, staying asleep, and waking up feeling refreshed. Part of the problem might be related to using your iPhone, iPad, or Mac too close to bedtime. Find solutions here: