Flickering article: http://www.eizo.com/library/basics/eyestrain/
Blue light article: http://www.allaboutvision.com/cvs/blue-light.htm
Blue light Screen Protector https://www.amazon.com/Protector-Accurate-Films-Diagonal-Hazardous/dp/B00OL26BVK
There are amber colored glasses Gunnar: https://gunnar.com/shop/?gclid=Cj0KEQiA5vXEBRChycOl36LPn5EBEiQAJV2-bEbcS9e3mPXNQ9u1ULnw_mIMyuUQAmKPgb-jCEDrB7EaAnSr8P8HAQ
F.lux Software: https://justgetflux.com/
Iris Software: https://iristech.co/
Noelle: Welcome to E-Commerce Q&A. Today is yet another lifestyle podcast. This is our second recording on our series with digital eyestrain. Today we’ll be delving a bit deeper, as we discuss monitors, how they could potentially induce eyestrain, and what we can do about it. The information below is from our own basic research and practices. We invite you to research everything for yourself, and most importantly, support yourself by getting checked by an eye doctor.
I’m Noelle, and today I’m joined by Michael Bauer. Michael, thanks again for being on the show.
Michael: Yeah, it’s great to be here.
Noelle: Jumping right in here, I’ve heard the most common issues with monitors and our eyes are related to undetectable flickering and color temp. Michael, I’m going to let you handle the hardest thing here and talk about the flickering. Can you fill us in on what is the deal with the flickering?
Michael: Yeah, for sure. We’re reading our screens here and trying to figure out how we should be reading our screens. Yeah. There’s a few different types of monitors and the different types of flickering problems, depending on the type of monitor that you’re looking at. We’re all familiar with the old school CRT monitors that had the huge screens, and they were very three dimensional. This huge box that took over your whole desk and weighed like five million pounds. Nobody has those anymore, at least I really hope you don’t. Those have their own issues.
Noelle: It’s like wearing whitey tighties, I’m sorry. It’s like we have when you’re wearing whitey tighties.
Michael: Oh wow.
Noelle: Sorry. Go ahead.
Michael: Okay. You just offended like, whatever percentage of our audience wears whitey tighties.
Noelle: It’s okay. I think it’s hilarious. Okay, sorry. It’s just the picture that came to mind. Go ahead.
Michael: I used to have these two huge monitors and they were the best because back in the day they were really high end professional monitors that had been used for video production and back then the screen refresh rate of LED monitors or LCD monitors wasn’t that great. That leads me to the second type of monitor which is LCD monitors, liquid crystal display.
That refers to the way that the colors that are shown on your screen are using a completely different technology. The deal is with those, they have to have a backlight so the light has to shine through and show the colors so, if you’re looking at any kind of a flat screen, it’s actually got two layers. It’s got the backlight layer and then it’s got the color layer.
Now, there’s two types of backlights. The first one which was used a little while ago was CCFL, which I totally can’t remember what that means but those really aren’t used that much anymore. It’s mostly LED backlights now. Those are more energy efficient and generally brighter. Now, as you know with LEDs, they can get pretty bright, right? So, manufacturers, when they’re trying to get you to buy a screen, they try and make their monitors as bright as they can typically and as contrasty and then when you get them and take them home it’s like, “Wow.” Too much usually. People will back that off a bit.
Assuming that you have an LED monitor, which you probably do, there’s two types of ways that the brightness can be produced on that monitor, on the monitor hardware itself. Some monitors use PWM which stands for Pulse Width Modulation which is basically they turn that backlight on off, on off, on off, on off really fast and that’s fine as long as it’s fast enough but it can cause eye strain if it’s not fast enough, if the on off isn’t fast enough.
Basically … I mean, if you look at your screen right now, even if it is using PWM and it has a slower flicker, you’re still not going to see it. It’s not directly perceptible but the issue would be perceptible if you use a couple of ways that you can test for it and that’s what I wanted to talk about. There’s also another type of monitor that doesn’t use PWM which doesn’t have this problem. The point is, we want to rule out whether or not our monitors have this problem and I’m going to tell you how to do that.
The first way to do it is to use a fan. So, if you have an office fan, a floor fan, something like that. Something that you can stick in front of your screen and then turn it on and then look through the fan and if you can see a flicker then that means that your screen flickers kind of too slow and you might have a problem. I don’t have a fan in here so I was trying the second option and reading these options off from a an article that I’ll share in the show notes.
The second way you can do it is you can use your smartphone on your camera. You turn on your camera app, point it towards your keyboard and I’ll tell you why in a second. Then, turn it toward your screen really fast and see if you can see a flicker kind of running from the left to the right. If you can’t see that flicker then that means the LEDs in the backlight of your screen are running at too low of a frequency and could be causing eyestrain. Reason you got to point it towards your keyboard first is because a lot of modern phones are smart enough to know when they are looking at a screen to eliminate the flicker.
Noelle: Hang on. When you point it towards your screen and then … I mean, your keyboard and then you point it towards your screen, if you see flickering that means it’s too slow and that’s when you need to fix it.
Michael: Right. Yeah.
Noelle: Cool. All right. I’m going to jump in here with blue light and color temperature.
Michael: Which I think is just as complicated as the flickering.
Noelle: Eh, well feel free to jump in. Before we delve into blue light and monitors, I would like to just touch a bit on blue light itself and again, I’m going off another article I found, which will be in the show notes below, that highlighted several helpful tips, some of which I’m going to share with you right now.
First of all, blue light is everywhere. We’re getting it from our monitors, from all our digital devices, inside, as soon as we go outside, we get it from the sun. Something like one third of all visual light is blue light so this is something we’re getting readily exposed to. On the light spectrum, blue light is closest to the ultra violet radiation. Just a reminder, it goes ultra violet radiation, blue light, green, yellow, red and then infrared.
So, with blue light being the closest to UV it has some similar functions. Just like UV can be damaging, it also has its benefits in that it helps us produce vitamin D. Blue light also, though it has its downsides, also has its benefits. A few are, it promotes energy, promotes well being, helps our bodies be in sync with the circadian rhythm.
If blue light is so predominate in nature and if its not all bad, why the fuss? What’s the problem with it? In short, the problem … There’s two problems. The first is that our eyes do not have a filter for blue light and we are being exposed to massive amounts of it.
Michael: Yeah, especially when we’re sitting so close to these big screens.
Noelle: Yes. A little background. Again, we’re going to jump to UV light. With UV light, our cornea and lens literally block it’s rays from reaching our retina at the backs of our eye. These built in guards we have are so effective at preventing the UV radiation from hitting the retina that only 1% of that UV radiation ever hits the back of our eyes.
The cornea and lens, however, are not effective at blocking blue light. With the amount of blue light that we’re getting, it’s just all going straight in, straight into the back of our eye. Some of the rays of blue light are so damaging that they can actually lead to age related macular degeneration. Big picture here is we have no guard against the blue light and we are exposed to large amounts.
Michael: I don’t- Can I just jump in?
Michael: I can’t imagine that it’s actually bad to see some blue light. It just seems like it’s too much.
Michael: It’s like an over abundance of a good thing.
Noelle: Right, right. The second thing with blue light that is difficult for our eyes is that blue light is a short wave length that scatters more easily than other visible light. Basically, blue light reduces contrast causing our eyes to over work. This scattering of the blue light literally causes visual noise so, if we’re looking at our screen, we got the black text, we’ve got the white background but we’ve also have all these undetectable sparkles or sprinkles or whatever you want to call it of blue light that’s distracting our eyes!
Michael: I think we should use that as a show note, as the title of the show.
Noelle: Sparkles and sprinkles.
Michael: Blue light sprinkles.
Noelle: That’s something my daughter would have said, sorry.
Noelle: Yeah, basically our eyes are constantly distracted and it’s just causing our eyes to over work which leads to fatigue and digital eye strain. Okay, so if we don’t have the built in protection we need to access external protection. We also need to support our eyes from the distraction that blue light brings. Michael, I’m going to let you take this. What are things that we can put in place or practices we can do to support our eyes and filter some of that blue light?
Michael: Well folks are going to like this one because it’s all things you can buy and just drop in. You don’t have to change your lifestyle at all. No just kidding. You should still really get outside like we talked about last week but here are the things that we found that you can actually do to help your screen, your big ole screen sitting in front of you not be causing so much eye strain and messing up your sleep.
First, you can put a shield in front of your screen. We found one on Amazon. Haven’t tried it, seems fine. Second, you can get amber colored glasses and gamers will already know about this. I used to have a Fay pair, I think I still do but it’s not prescription. Gunners is the main brand that I’ve used and they’re highly reputable but we found another pair on Amazon for 25 bucks, seems fine, highly rated. Both those things will cut down on the amount of blue light coming into your retina.
Another thing you can do is to put a software base solution in place which will change around your screen color temperature and color temperature again is, is it skewing towards the blue light really bright or really kind of harsh, if you will, cool side of the spectrum, or is it going more towards the warm, the red. The way it works is the software figures out what time of day it is and then it changes your screen temperature based on that. I haven’t actually used that but a colleague of mine has and he said that it was great. In general, his comment was that he really felt like he doesn’t get as tired when he uses it. The only issue that he had was that when people see his screen they think it’s broken which just goes to show how much blue light we’re generally getting and how much it might help to reduce that.
Noelle, I think you found another …
Noelle: Yeah, so I found another similar software. It’s called Iris. No one in our team has tested it but it did look cool so I will link that in the show notes below.
Okay folks, that is it for today. Thanks for being with us. Michael you were awesome.
Michael: Why thank you.
Noelle: Make sure to subscribe on Itunes and Stitcher or however else you take your show. If you enjoyed this podcast, please leave us a five star review on Itunes. Show notes for today are at E-CommerceQA.TV and if you have any questions or comments, send us a message to Podcast@Sellry.com. That is S-E-L-L-R-Y dot com. Take care of your eyes!