Meet F.lux, the App of Our Dreams

By Alyse Borkan  |  Sep 18, 2014
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Turns out that Timbuk 3 was sort of right when they told the world that the “future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.” But that was 1986. In 2014, you don’t have to wear shades; you should just get f.lux.

Think about your eyes for a second. Do you feel that strain? You do? That’s because you’ve been staring at your computer screen for the past few hours while you’re sitting at work, only taking breaks to check your smart phone. The screens we surround ourselves with are really, really bright. But thats not the only problem — color temperature is a major issue. Visible light is made up of different wavelengths, which our eyes perceive as color. These colors can be thought of in terms of temperature, and measured on a Kelvin scale. As the day passes, the temperature changes. It’s the difference between a cool, crisp morning and a warm, evening sunset.

LCD screens emit a blue light, which is cool, rating around 6,500 Kelvin. It’s like the afternoon sun. It’s totally fine to have this blue light beamed into your face during the day. That blue light gets problematic when the sun starts to set. The quality of the light changes; it gets warmer. Working late on your computer, shooting sun-like blue light into your eyes, fools your brain into thinking it’s earlier in the day than it is, and really messes up your sleep schedule. It’s one of the contributors to a phenomenon called social jet lag (which we’ve already talked about at length in section three of this).

Enter F.lux: an app that “makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day,” as they write on their website. The idea is that, if your computer mimics the change of light throughout the day, it will affect your sleep schedule less.

And it works! It totally works. When you download the app, you’ll be prompted to tell it where you are. It locates you in the world, then figures out when the sun will set. It gradually warms the color of the screen to correspond to the real light around you, growing redder and redder until it finally hits a sort of sepia mini-sunset. It’s really nice. You train the app in settings. You give it your normal wake up and bedtime times, let it know if you sleep in on the weekends, or if you’re a teenager who requires more sleep. It adapts to you, running in the background of your computer. Your screen will gradually warm from 6,500 Kelvin when it’s light out, to 3400 Kelvin at sunset, to 1900 Kelvin at bedtime — equivalent to the light from a candle. Before you know it, you’ll get really annoyed using non-f.lux computers at night.

People didn’t suffer from social jet lag when their main sources of light were candles. That’s the thinking behind f.lux. It won’t fix all your problems, but it’s a start.

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