Unless you have the perfect writing schedule that allows you to spend only daylight hours in front of your computer screen, or you write longhand at night, the chances are your evening writing, research, or social networking sessions are affecting your sleeping patterns and therefore your health.
Research suggests that limiting your exposure to blue-toned (daylight-like) lighting after sunset will reduce your risk of insomnia and other health issues caused by the disruption to your circadian rhythms. Luckily there is a solution in the form of software that can alter your computer’s range of lighting tones from short wavelength (blue-ish) to longer wavelength (red-ish) so that your screen is more in line with the lighting after sunset.
I’ve been trying free software called F.lux, which I’m very happy with. It’s a small program that downloads quickly and, when run, calculates your location and time since sunset, and alters the tones of the screen accordingly (although it hasn’t picked up on our switch to daylight savings time here in Australia). There is nothing I’ve had to enter or calculate myself; the program simply runs in the background. To begin with the changes were most noticeable on the whites of my screen, which gradually turned a pale sepia, but which I found quite pleasant and easy on my eyes. I now barely notice it. Prior to this I had been altering the colour of my page background in Word while writing late at night as the bright white made my eyes water. On the other hand, my husband really dislikes the colourising effect of F.lux, so it is a very personal issue. The level of red tones can be altered, however, if you find it too distracting, by selecting a different lighting style, such as “fluorescent” as opposed to “halogen”. The effect can also be turned off if you need to do colour-sensitive work at night, or if you have a deadline and need to stay alert.
F.lux was developed by a husband-and-wife-team who noticed the dramatic difference in light colour at night and realised how simple the solution would be to program.
This is a little program I’ll keep using, and I think this is a great way to keep writing a bit longer in the evenings without sacrificing health and comfort, or resorting to paper. After all, it should be your plot and characters keeping you awake at night, not your computer screen.
Elsa Neal is a writer based in Melbourne, Australia. Browse through the resources for writers available at her website or follow her writing insights at her Fictional Life Blog.