6 Blue Light Filter Applications to Reduce Digital Eye Strain

Save your eyes from the effects of blue light emitted from your devices

Photo © Getty Images

Does staring at a screen hurt your eyes after a while? You're not the only one.

Digital eye strain is caused by prolonged exposure to blue light-emitting devices like desktop computer monitors, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. According to The Vision Council, staring at screens for too long without periods of rest can result in physical eye discomfort that may also trigger headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes and pain in the neck and shoulders.

Besides putting an uncomfortable strain on your eyes, research has shown that excessive blue light exposure can also throw off your circadian rhythm by making it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. The circadian rhythm is influenced by blue light, so staring at blue light-emitting devices that mimic natural daytime light during the evening hours prior to going to sleep can trick the body into thinking it's still daytime, thus delaying sleep onset.

Taking breaks from staring at screens as well as limiting use of these devices in the evening hours is a good idea, but installing an application that tints your screen to neutralize the blue light is another fast and effective option you have to instantly reduce exposure to blue light. It can make a big difference when you can't afford to take too many breaks or when you need to use your devices during the evening hours.

Here are six tools worth checking out that you can install on compatible devices to reduce the amount of blue light they emit.

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Screenshot of f.lux

F.lux is one of the most popular tools for reducing blue light exposure, and best of all, it's totally free to download.

The tool is designed to match the amount of light according to the time of day it is by taking your geographical location, day of the year and time of the day into consideration. With this information, the app determines when the sun is scheduled to set and them adjusts your screen to a warmer, slightly amber-tined hue that minimizes blue light.

As you're using your device, you may notice the color of your screen automatically change as f.lux kicks in during a certain evening hour.

F.lux Compatibility

  • Mac OS X
  • Windows
  • Linux
  • Jailbroken iPhones/iPads
  • Some Android devices
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Redshift is another popular blue light-reducing application that adjusts the color of your screen according to the position of the sun in your location.

In the early morning hours, you'll see your screen start to transition from a nighttime to daytime color very slowly to help your eyes to adapt. When night arrives, the color will slowly readjust itself again so that it matches the light from the lamps and other artificial lighting from the room you're in.

The source code for Redshift is available on GitHub. Here's how to install the software if you're unfamiliar with using GitHub.

Redshift Compatibility

Screenshot of Skytopia.com

SunsetScreen may have one big advantage over f.lux—it keeps the screen brighter in the winter months rather than transitioning too early with the sun. While this may not count as much of an important feature for everyone, some people may benefit from being exposed to brighter blue light at 5 or 6 o'clock in the evening during the winter months even after the sun has gone down.

With SunsetScreen, you have the option to customize your sunrise and sunset times, select a precise color you want for your screen, disable the app temporarily if you need to and so much more.

SunsetScreen Compatibility

  • Windows
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Screenshot of IrisTech.co

Iris is a cross-platform application designed to detect whether it's daytime or nighttime and adjust the color of the screen accordingly to reduce blue light. The tool has a wide variety of customizable options such as color temperature, brightness, manual/automatic settings and lots more.

Unfortunately, Iris is not totally free. To get all of the advanced features, you'll need to pay a small price. Luckily, this tool is not terribly pricey at just $5 for Iris Mini Pro or $10 for Iris Pro.

Besides all the amazing customizable options made available by Iris, perhaps the best thing about this tool is that it's available for most major desktop and mobile platforms. 

Iris Compatibility

  • Windows
  • Mac OS X
  • Linux
  • Android
  • iOS
  • Google Chrome web browser
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Screenshot of UrbanDroid.com

If you have an Android smartphone or tablet, you're in luck—there's a great app out there that's built to neutralize blue light coming from your device's screen, and it's called Twilight.

The app allows you to set the color temperature, intensity and screen dim to automatically turn off and on whenever you want. Set it up to be activated from sunrise to sunset, according to your alarm or from a custom setting.

The app also includes information on more of the science of how blue light impacts your body and your sleep so you can gain a better understanding of how device use affects your health. 

Twilight Compatibility

  • Android
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Night Shift
Screenshot of Night Shift for iOS

Night Shift isn't exactly an application you can download, but it's an iOS feature worth knowing about if you regularly use your iPhone or iPad in the evening.

If your Apple device is running on iOS 9.3 or later, you can simply swipe up from the bottom to bring up the control center and then tap the sun/moon icon to turn on Night Shift. You can optionally choose to turn it on for the time being until 7 AM the next morning or schedule your settings so that it automatically turns on and off at specific times every night.

In addition to scheduling specific times for Night Shift to turn on, you can also adjust the warmth of the screen tint, brightness level and more. Anytime you want to temporarily turn Night Shift off, just swipe up to access the control center and tap the sun/moon icon so that it's no longer highlighted.

Night Shift Compatibility

  • iOS