Monday, May 17, 2010

F.lux Screen Tinting: Light and Nighttime Computer Use

I was linked an interesting article last week that highlighted some research on the glow of screens and their impact on our sleep cycle: most notably, on how the light of a computer screen can increase insomnia.

There is a free program that you can download that will automatically alter your computer monitor's settings to a light that is less likely to mess with your internal, hormonal time-clock: reducing the bright blue tint that mimics daylight, without really impacting your ability to use the computer (as long as you aren't doing really color-sensitive work, like photoshop, but even then, you can tell it to turn itself off for an hour to let you work).

Left: Flux evening monitor color; Right: normal "daylight" monitor color
(color change simulated)

I was interested enough that I went and downloaded the software myself and tried it out over the weekend, which included a raid. (F.lux website here)

Based on the research linked on the site, there are several interesting impacts of warmer light:

  • Conflict Resolution:
One study found that people under a warm light were more disposed to collaborating with others to resolve conflicts; those under a cool light were more likely to just avoid resolving the problems and let problems linger.

My take on this: does this mean that a raider is less likely to contribute to strat ideas or confront problems in ICC (a very blue instance) than in Sartharian or Molten Core (firey red/orange hues), before they reach a snapping point?

  • Volunteerism:
A similar study found that those under a warm light were more likely to spend more time volunteering for unpaid tasks; a cooler light shortened the time they volunteered. Providing unexpected gifts (in the case of a game, this would be loot/epics or even offering to pay their repairs) extended the time in both cases, pretty much equally.

My take on this: does this mean raiders have more patience wiping in instances like Sartharian (firey red/orange hues) than in Icecrown (blue)? More patience dealing with people who stand in fire than dieing to Sindragosa's LoS iceblasts, perhaps?

  • Alertness:
They found that "higher colour temperature" (which is more blue, ironically) resulted in higher alertness and mental activity, while lower (reds) result in more drowsiness.

My take on this: this is probably the key to the insomnia, where the daylight of a late-night computer screen will increase your alertness and make it harder for you to fall asleep afterwards. There is a flip side to this, however: are we more likely to be drowsy while raiding in those red-hued instances and firey boss fights than we are when facing down the blue-hued Frozen Throne?

  • Sleep Quality:
Segwaying to the sleep side of things, researchers found that people who were exposed to brighter (blue-daylight-type) lights in the hours before bedtime had less restful sleep than those who spent time before bed under lower "color temperature" lights (warm red/orange). The brighter daylight blue light is known to supress the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates the production of your other hormones, and also sets the rhythm of your 24-hour internal clock.

My take on this: so computer screens themselves (including iPads and TVs) are disrupting our sleep from pre-bedtime light levels, even if we get a "decent" number of hours of sleep. Depending on the type of light bulbs in your home (I'm thinking particularly of the violently bright "daylight" CFLs I have in my garage, for example), these may be exacerbating the problem as well.

My experience:
I've only been trying it for a few days, but so far, I haven't found the program to be disruptive of my late-night websurfing or raiding. I like the program for its ability to cut the sharpness of the screen colors, making it easier for me to get "night vision" and not need so many lights on, or have a computer screen in the early morning hours of dimness hurt my eyes.

Now, since I know it will impact "alertness," that is something I'll need to be mindful of during progression raids. I may need to hit the "off for an hour" if I find myself getting drowsy early.

I suggest giving it a try, and reading deeper into the research linked on the F.lux website if you're interested :)


TechDeft said...

I'm a big fan of stuff like this, the little ways things interact. I often have difficulty sleeping, or getting good sleep, so this is something else interesting to look at.

It's had me sitting her for the last 30 minutes pondering what I'm usually watching/playing before bed. (Don't play as much WoW as I'd like anymore)

Kiryn said...

I'll definitely have to check this out. I can't remember the last time I was able to get a good night's sleep (other than when I sleep in until noon on the weekends) and it usually takes me a good half hour just to fall asleep. Maybe my monitor does have something to do with it!

Kae said...

Same boat I've been in, Kiryn: sleeping til noon (or 4pm) on weekends, and taking 30 minutes to as much as 2 hours to fall asleep at night. I've always been a night owl, so I have that stroke against me as well, especially when I have to be at work at 8am!

Kiryn said...

Blah. At least I don't have to be at work until 10 (though work is 45 minutes away so I still have to wake up at 8:15) but yeah -- tell myself midnight is bedtime, end up actually in bed by 12:30, look at my clock after tossing and turning and realize it's almost 2 AM.

I consider going to bed even earlier to compensate, but then I'd only have a couple of hours of free time every night =/

Niniel said...

This is very interesting! I've tried it tonight and will see if I can tell a difference during the week.

Thanks for the tip!

Charles said...

Ooh, this is cool. I installed this at 11pm so it immediately started a gentle transition to night-time mode. And I felt all... "ahhhhhhh". Like sipping at a hot cup of tea or sinking into a comfy sofa (with said hot cup of tea) - instantly more relaxed. Will be interesting to see if it has any impact in the long term, and if I can stand the impact on colour authenticity in the mornings and evenings - especially when we get to our 6-hours-of-daylight winters!

Kae said...

The site briefly mentions Seasonal Depression, as happens to some people during the long winter darkness. I sent the site on to a friend to get her more experienced viewpoint on that subject, but she hasn't had a chance to look at it beyond letting me know that the sunlamps used to help treat the seasonal depression are of the blueish daylight variety, rather than just warmer tones.

Thus, it may be that a program like this would make seasonal depression worse in the winter months... or at least counteract the good that a daylight glow an unaltered screen puts off, in terms of circadian (hormonal clock) rhythms for seasonal depression.

Fascinating stuff :)

Millia said...

Well...Cataclysm should have plenty of nice, warm lava to look at. Should be a nice break from whites and blues.

Those (anti) seasonal depression lights are probably like the ones they used in some experiment on sleep-deprived teenagers.

You expose yourself to bright light at a fairly early time in the day, even on the weekend.

This helps you wake up, and you now wake up early on the weekends. This eventually HELPS with the rest of the week, and the light gradually resets your body clock to deal with an ungodly waking up time.

Kae said...

Lots of cool underwater zones, too, though! I don't expect very warm tones in the naga cities.

Re: Circadian rhythms, I hadn't heard about that use for the sunlamps, but it does sound about the same. I wonder if the F.lux program has a setting to keep "sunset" and "sunrise" on a summer cycle during the winter months? I didn't see one, but they should probably develop one. Maybe by inverting the coordinates to use the sunrise/sunset times of the equivalent location in the southern hemisphere during the winter months, as judged by distance from the equator?