Ask LH: How Can I Keep My Bright Screen From Blinding Me At Night?

Dear Lifehacker, I like to use my phone and laptop at night, but even with the brightness on the lowest setting, they still hurt my eyes. Are there any tricks to getting the brightness even lower?

Sincerely, Blinded by Blue

Dear Blinded,

Not only is that bright blue light annoying, but it can actually keep you from falling asleep later at night, which makes this a pretty important issue. You have a few options for dimming your screen further.

Raise the Colour Temperature

The thing that makes your eyes hurt so much (and keeps you awake at night) is the blue light coming out of your screen. Just like wearing orange goggles when you go skiing, the best way to alleviate the pain of night-time screen usage is not just to dim the brightness, but to raise the colour temperature. Our favourite way of doing this is to use an app called F.lux, which will automatically detect when it’s night-time, and adjust the temperature of your screen accordingly. You can choose from one of four settings that adjust how heavily it tweaks, the highest setting being a slight orange tint and the lowest setting looking like you’re wearing rose-colored glasses. F.lux is available for Windows, Mac, Linux and jailbroken iPhones and iPads, so you can use it on nearly any device. If you’re an Android user, some custom ROMs (like CyanogenMod) come with built-in filters that let you accomplish the same thing, though without as much control (and you’ll need to root your phone before you can install them).

Lower the Brightness Past Its Minimum Setting

While F.lux is preferable to just lowering your brightness, some people just can’t stand the way it looks. In that case, you might want to try an app designed to lower your brightness past its minimum settings. Windows users should check out Dimmer, and Mac users should check out Shades, both of which add a dark shade to your screen to imitate a lower brightness setting. If you’re on a phone or tablet, check out Dimmer for iOS and Screen Filter for Android. Again, you’ll need to be jailbroken to use Dimmer on iOS, but it’s well worth it. Screen Filter on Android even has a plugin for Tasker, if you want to automate the process and lower the brightness at night time. It’s not as beneficial as something like F.lux, but it will at least keep your screen from blinding you.

Stay Away from Screens Altogether

The best option, of course, is to try and remove screens from your night-time routine. That blue light is going to wreak havoc with your sleep cycle, and switching to something screen-less is going to be much better for your overall health. If you have a Kindle or other e-ink based reader, use that instead, or just read a book. It’s annoying if you’d rather play video games late into the night, but it’s the most reliable way to get you sleeping better if the screen brightness is keeping you up.

These aren’t the only things you can do to stave off overly bright screens (one user over at the Toshiba Thrive Forums recommends putting automotive tint film on your screen), but they’re all quick, easy and free, so they’re good places to start.


PS As always, if you have any suggestions we didn’t mention, let us know about them in the comments.

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