How to use a blue light filter on your PC or Mac

Researchers are continually releasing studies on the potential harm of blue light filters. When you stare at a screen all day and into the evening, it can affect your sleep and disrupt your body’s natural rhythms. For these reasons, blue light filters are incredibly important.

Whether you are spending your day on a Windows PC, Mac, or Chromebook, you should enable their blue light filter to help ease the strain on your eyes. Desktop screens and laptops typically have a built-in filter you can access, and there are downloadable options in case your computer doesn’t have this feature available.

If you’re looking for a blue light filter for your smartphone, however, there are plenty of great apps you can download from the Google Play Store or iOS App Store.

What’s the problem with blue light?

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The reason blue light hurts is purely biological. Sleep is a part of the circadian rhythm, which is the cycle of biological processes that are determined in part by the levels of light and dark exposed to our bodies.

In the most natural setting, which is one where we’re only exposed to sunlight, our retinas sense when the sun descends and the environment grows darker. That induces our hypothalamus to start the process of producing melatonin and other sleep hormones and reducing our body temperature.

When we use artificial lighting to extend our day, however, our bodies get confused and the various sleep signals are disrupted. Even worse is the blue light emitted by fluorescent and LED lights — like those on our various device displays — which cause us to be more alert and produce even less melatonin.

That’s why using a blue light filter is so important.

Windows 10

Microsoft added a blue light limiting feature to Windows 10 in the Creators Update released in April 2017. Called night light, this feature shifts the Windows 10 display to show warmer colors that reduce the amount of emitted blue light. Turning the feature on is a simple process.

Step 1: Right-click on the Start button, and select Settings on the Power User menu. Alternatively, you can press the Windows + X keys and then click Settings.

Step 2: Choose System in the pop-up window.

Step 3: The Display category opens by default.  Scroll down on the right and toggle on the Night Light setting.

Windows 10 Night Light Setting
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To configure the night light feature, click the Night Light settings link located under the toggle. Here, you’ll find options for turning the night light on immediately, adjusting the strength, and scheduling when the night light turns on and off.

Windows 10 Night Light Strengh
Kevin Parrish / Digital Trends

To set the schedule, toggle the Schedule Night Light option to on. Then, you can either choose to let night light turn itself on at sunset and off at sunrise — automatically determined by your location — or you can set the time manually by clicking Set Hours and choosing when the feature should turn on and off.

When you first turn the feature on, you’ll notice the color shift immediately. After a while, your eyes will adjust to the change and it should be less obvious. By reducing the amount of blue light, however, the night light feature will then limit the impact of using your Windows 10 PC late at night — you could find it easier to get to sleep, and your sleep might be deeper and more restful.

MacOS

MacOS 10
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First introduced in iOS, Apple brought Night Shift to Macs in MacOS Sierra in March 2017. As with Windows 10, the feature is easy enough to turn on and configure to your tastes.

Step 1: Click the Apple logo in the top left corner and select System Preferences on the drop-down menu. Alternatively, click the System Preferences icon on the Dock.

Step 2: Select Displays in the pop-up window.

Step 3:  Click the Night Shift tab in the following pop-up window.

Here you can configure when Night Shift automatically runs, turn it on until the next sunrise, and set your preferred color temperature. For scheduling, you can let MacOS turn it on and off at sunset and sunrise based on your location, or you can set a custom schedule.

Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

As with Windows 10’s Night light feature, Apple’s Night Shift makes your display’s colors warmer and reduces the amount of emitted blue light. Give it a try to see if it improves your sleep habits and lets you be healthier, more productive, and generally a happier Mac user.

Chromebooks

Chromebook Turn Night Light On
Kevin Parrish / Digital Trends

Devices based on Google’s Chrome OS have a built-in blue light filter called Night Light. The simplest way to enable this feature is to click on the System Clock followed by the Night Light button on the pop-up menu. The screen is automatically washed with a dark amber hue.

For more control over Night Light, do the following:

Step 1: Click on the System Clock and select the Gear icon on the pop-up menu. This opens the Settings window.

Step 2: Select Device listed on the left.

Step 3: Select Displays listed on the right.

Chromebook Adjust Night Light
Kevin Parrish / Digital Trends

Step 4: Click on the toggle located to the right of Night Light to enable this feature.

Step 5: Move the slider between Cooler and Warmer to adjust the blue light level.

Step 6: Next to Schedule, click the down arrow to select Never, Sunrise to Sunset, or Custom.

Step 7: If you select Custom, a timeline appears from 6 p.m. to 6 p.m. Select the duration by moving the start and stop times accordingly.

External displays

Acer Display Blue Light Controls
Acer

While you can change the level of blue light on the software side, external monitors may include a blue light filter you can manage with integrated On Screen Display (OCD) controls.

For instance, press the OCD button on Acer’s SB220Q 21.5-inch display and a control panel appears on the screen separate from the PC’s desktop. As shown above, it includes options for adjusting the brightness, sharpness, and blue light adjustment. You can manually switch between 50% to 80%. You will get more blue light as you increase this value.

Adjusting the blue light level on the OS side can be a little less cumbersome than doing it on the monitor. But changing settings directly on the monitor might be easier in the long run if you’re using the monitor for different devices, whether they’re PC, Mac, or Chromebook.

Third-party alternatives

F.lux — F.lux utilizes innovative technology to monitor the sun within your area. Available for free for Windows, MacOS, and Linux, this adjusts your monitor’s color temperature depending on the light level you’re in. You can also pair this tool with a smart lighting system and use it to adjust the lights in your home. Don’t worry about it affecting things like photo editing settings, though – you can turn the app off at any time with the flip of a switch.

Iris mini — An ultra-lightweight blue-light filter application, Iris mini has no UI, no buttons, and no confusing extra options. Just the ability to adjust your monitor’s coloring to protect your eyes from glare and harmful blue light. You can adjust the settings manually or let the automatic mode handle it. The automatic mode sets your screen’s colors depending on the time of day. Iris mini has versions for Windows, Mac, and Linux, so you’ll be able to take advantage of it no matter what platform you’re using.

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