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19Feb/123

F.lux

I've never been one of those people who falls asleep the moment their head hits the pillow. For as long as I can remember -- yes, even as a little kid -- I've needed about 30 to 45 minutes, on average, to fall asleep. And I don't mean "reading in bed for half an hour" and then drifting off to sleep, either; I mean, from the moment I stop reading or watching TV or using the computer or whatever it is I was doing, turning the lights off, closing my eyes and deciding to go to sleep -- from that moment onward, it's always taken me about 30-45 minutes to actually get to sleep.

It's not as if I'm worrying or stressing out about stuff either, as people sometimes suspect. No, my mind isn't a complete blank either -- I figure that'd be pretty hard to accomplish unless you're an expert at meditation -- but my nighttime thoughts are neutral to pleasant, I allow them to wander freely instead of actively trying to work stuff out while trying to fall asleep, etc. So I'm pretty sure that isn't it.

In fact, for quite a while now, I've suspected my body simply doesn't produce melatonin as easily as the average person (that is, those who generally fall asleep in under 5 minutes. I honestly have no idea if those even are the average ones :P). Melatonin is that hormone that makes you feel sleepy at night, and is induced by the absence of light. Now, I have even more trouble falling asleep if I leave any lights on at night, and I think the last time I successfully took a nap in the middle of the day (with bright sunlight out) was literally when I was about four years old. (Seriously. I seem to be completely incapable of taking naps. Even if I'm super tired and/or ill, and close the blinds and lie there with my eyes closed... it just doesn't happen.) So, given those things, combined with always taking quite a while to fall asleep, I figured my body is all like "any lights = no melatonin for you!"

And, you know what, I've always been fine with that. Well, I mean, I hardly even know any better. Sure, I occasionally feel a slight pang of envy at those people who just drift off instantly, but taking about half an hour, on average, to fall asleep has never really bothered me. But over the years, that time gradually increased. It went from "about half an hour on average, to occasionally some 45 minutes" as a kid/in my early teens, to about 45-60 minutes in my late teens, to "about an hour on average" in my early twenties... and over the past year or so, I'd pretty much gotten used to falling asleep in under an hour being a rare occasion, and needing 1h15 to an hour and a half to fall asleep really not being such a rarity at all. With those kinds of delays, it does start getting a bit annoying. Not even so much the lying awake part -- I still didn't mind that much, most nights -- but the "needing to lie in bed for 9.5+ hours just to make sure you'll get your 8 hours of sleep" part. I.e., I'd know I needed to be up at 7 so I'd go to bed all nice and early at 10.45-11pm or so... only to not fall asleep until about 0.30am, and still only get 6.5hrs of sleep.

And then I saw someone, on some forum, recommend f.lux. This is a tiny and free application that really only does one thing: at the time of sunset (in your timezone/country), it automatically adjusts your computer monitor's colour temperature/brightness. See, what your monitor does all day is emit very bright blueish light, that is actually specifically designed to imitate daylight in terms of colour and intensity. So, if you're using your computer until just before you go to bed, you're basically staring into the sun at 11pm, which isn't exactly natural. F.lux automatically adjusts your settings so your screen emits a nice soft orangey light instead, and then turns them back to default by sunrise next morning.

Now, I have to admit I was pretty skeptical this would actually do anything. Sure, the colour is a bit nicer to look at, at nighttime, but you're still staring into a pretty bright lightbulb and all. But still, it couldn't hurt to try, right? No harm, no foul, and all that. So I've been using it for the past couple weeks... and I'm suddenly falling asleep within 30-45 minutes again. Okay, maybe not every night, but on average, yeah, I think it's pretty close. Also, apparently the colour temperature of the light may be even more important for melatonin production than its brightness/the actual amount of light (see here and here for instance). So there's definitely some logic behind the functioning of this f.lux program. And, well, it's free, anyway! So if you use your computer a lot in the evening, I would definitely suggest trying it out.

Comments (3) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Are you still using it after 8 months and did it help to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep even further?
    Could it be your biological clock is delayed? (as described in http://www.uitzendinggemist.nl/afleveringen/1295283)

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