Thursday, October 6, 2011

Is Your Writing Keeping You Awake?

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.

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  1. Just installed it and it worked immediately, with no setup at all. It didn't take long to get used to and is definitely easier on the eyes. Thank you!

  2. My daughter reminds me now and then about the health hazards (due to change in sleep patterns) of "computering" at night. Were I to mention this little program to her, she would urge me to get it. Maybe I'll surprise her and do it without her urging.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. I just might try that. I have a medical condition that predisposes me to insomnia. I haven't written much over the last few weeks because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to sleep. Baaaad things happen if I don't sleep.

    Thanks for the tip!

  4. Thanks for this - I'm checking it out.

  5. Thanks for the information. I've been having some trouble at night as well and I'm going to download this tonight and try it out.

  6. I'm trying it, too, although I do try to keep away from those lights at night. I don't even have a clock radio in the bedroom and I don't read on the Nook before bed. But recently I was on the computer after dark, and hubbo saw me working through the study window. He said, "you look creepy at night". Well, okay! It's time for a change of lighting, eh? LOL. Will try this.

  7. I did a brief check into the circadian rhythm and how scheduling habits can impact it. However, the information here is rather insightful as well.

  8. Very interesting and helpful post, Elle. I had no idea that the lighting had this effect. I usually turn on my Notebook at night shortly before I go to bed to do one last check of e-mail, so I will download that program to that device. I close down my office computer late afternoon every day and seldom go turn it back on.

  9. How interesting, Elsa! I hadn't heard of the program. I'm going to look into it. Thanks.

  10. I do most of my serious writing during the day lately since I lost my day job. Evenings are for relaxing. Social networking sometimes falls into that category, but I don't always do it nonstop, so it's easier on the eyes.
    Reading sometimes keeps me awake if it's a suspense novel. Then it's hard to turn off the tension.
    Morgan Mandel

  11. Thanks for your comments everyone. Morgan, I'm sorry to hear you lost your job. I hope your writing sales really take off to compensate.

    Funnily enough, I was doing bits and pieces on the computer last night and getting nice and sleepy, so went through to where my hubby was watching TV to veg for a few minutes before crawling into bed. And found myself waking up. Horrible TV screen. Blah.

    HearWriteNow & Blood-Red Pencil

  12. That's sort of amazing. I never even thought about that. I'm lucky to spend most of my time on the computer during the day. Very interesting though.

  13. I'm going to install it now. Thanks so much. My eyes water and I can't figure out why.
    W.S. Gager on Writing


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