Hello Sweet Sweet Sleep, I Missed You

Our Alarm Clock - showing Mele's birthday

Image by japi14 via Flickr

I happened to be reading yet another seemingly ubiquitous commentary on the Kindle Vs. iPad as an ereader about a week ago and someone mentioned how the lack of the bright back-lit LCD screen on the Kindle was better for them because it didn’t disrupt their sleep patterns. That lead me to search for more information about LCD screens and what their effect is on ones sleep.

The bright blue glare of an LCD screen closely mimics the light spectrum of the noonday sun. I already knew that the color temperature of the sun at noon is bluish from my photography experience, but it never occurred to me to draw a comparison of the color temperature of the sun with what my monitor was blasting me with as I worked on my computer late into the night.

Now the issue was being couched in terms of ones natural biological response; as far as my body was concerned, working on my computer at night was essentially the same thing as looking out a window midday and as a result my body was basically saying “Hey there buddy, no need to be sleepy right now, it’s only noon!”.

One solution to this dilemma would obviously be for me to not use my computer at night, but unfortunately that flies in the face of what I do… photosensitive or not, I have to use my computer at night.

Another solution came in the form of a free utility that someone was kind enough to link to called F.lux which is cross platform and works on Linux, Apple OSX and Microsoft Windows. What F.lux does is automatically adjust the color temperature of your screen depending on the time of day. From the normal bright blue during the day to a softer reddish tint at night.

The screen seemed really weird the first night I had it running after installing it. However, from my experience in color calibrating my system for editing photos, I know that after awhile you get used to such color shifts even though it may seem “off” at first.

I also still stayed up a bit late that night, but I attributed that more to habit and the fact that even jet lag takes a day or two to clear ones system. As I can attest from flying hundreds of thousands of miles.

Perhaps I was just rationalizing out of desperation. To say my sleep pattern was in utter disarray is an understatement of magnanimous proportion. I’ve lost count of how many “flip days*” I’ve forced myself to suffer through recently only to revert back within a day or three. And to have a trick that used to work so predictably suddenly just lose all of its oomph is especially rough.

[*What I call a flip day is when I pull an all nighter in an attempt to reset my sleep schedule… or in my case, it would be more accurate to call it an all day-er.]

Regardless of my reasoning though, instead of just saying “yuck” and removing it, I decided to give F.lux a chance by using it for a week or two. That’s because I thought that was how long it would take for it to even start making a dent, if it was ever going to make any kind difference at all. Which although the theory made sense, I was still a little skeptical about. Boy was I ever Dubya Arr Ohh Enn Gee… wrong.

The following night I actually felt legitimately tired for the first time in months and went to bed about 2 hours earlier. That’s also the first time in years my schedule shifted towards normal without an outright flip day reset.

On the third night, I was actually falling asleep in front of my computer by midnight. A-freaking-four-letter-word-mazing!

I can’t remember the last time I felt tired like that, let alone while still actually in front of the computer. I always thought that my lack of tiredness had to do with continuously finding more shiny buttons to click on and keep my interest, but at last light dawns on Marblehead!

Anyways… fast foreward to almost a week later and I actually crawled into bed last night some time between 10:30-11: 00 and woke up refreshed at 7:30 this morning (sans alarm clock!).

Obviously having F.lux running on my system means that editing photographs at night is no longer an option unless I turn it off first, otherwise I won’t achieve accurate colors. But I haven’t been doing a lot of photo editing at night anyways and what I’ve gained far outweighs such an inconvenience. Besides, from what I heard from one commenter who turned it off just to see the difference, they got instant insomnia and that’s a bridge that I don’t ever want to cross lest I find myself stranded on it again.

That’s not to say the jury isn’t still out on whether this is the fix to my sleep trouble, but I have reason to be cautiously optimistic (*knocks on wood*). Besides, at least I can rest easy, and I mean that literally, until something proves otherwise.

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~ by ghendar on January 8, 2011.

One Response to “Hello Sweet Sweet Sleep, I Missed You”

  1. I never found anything that made you sleepy…..
    Sweet dreams.

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