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 PC or a Mac, you should have a blue light filter installed on your computer to help ease the strain on your eyes. A PC or Mac should have a built-in filter for you to 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 Night light feature on is a simple process.

Step 1: Click the Start button followed by the “gear” icon located on the Start Menu. Alternatively, you can press the Windows key and X 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
Kevin Parrish/Digital Trends

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 intrusive. 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

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

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.

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
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.

Third-party alternatives

F.luxFree for Windows, MacOS, and Linux, f.lux is a filtering tool that tracks the sun in your local area to make sure that the color monitor’s temperature matches the local light level. It features the option to turn it off for fullscreen apps so games and photo-editing aren’t overly affected. It can even integrate with smart lighting systems if you want to automatically tweak your room lighting at the same time.

Iris mini — A truly lightweight blue-light filter application, Iris mini has no UI, no buttons, and no “confusing options,” just the ability to adjust your monitor’s coloring to best protect your eyes from glare and harmful blue light. You can manually control it if you wish, but the automatic mode will keep up with where the sun is in relation to your location and automatically adjust your screen’s coloring accordingly. It has versions for Windows, Mac, and Linux, so no matter what platform you’re using, you’ll be able to take advantage of it.

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