Over the last couple years I’ve experienced some symptoms of eye strain after a long day at the computer. I spend most of my day in front of the computer and I want my setup to be as healthy for my eyes as possible. I began reading what I could find on the topic. I wrote this post to document the things I learned and the changes I made as a result.
Reducing Blue Light
It’s been widely known for some time that blue light can negatively affect the eyes and circadian rhythm. I’ve been a user of f.lux and Redshift and have every computer I use configured with warmer colors at night. I spend much of my time at the computer staring at my terminal with the Solarized dark color scheme. Solarized dark has a blue background and many cooler colors so it is a big source of blue light. I started looking around for a nice color scheme with a warmer palette and found Gruvbox. It turns out I am not the first to switch to Gruvbox for this reason. I actually think I like the look of Gruvbox better than Solarized now that I have been using it for a while.
Another way to reduce blue light is to calibrate your monitors to match your working environments. Chances are your monitors are a cooler color temperature than the ambient light in your working environment. By calibrating your monitors you may warm up the colors a bit and reduce the amount of blue light your screen emits.
While I was using Gruvbox dark I began to read some articles about how dark mode may not be superior to light mode as some have claimed. A darker screen certainly feels less harsh than plain white, but research clearly indicates that light mode is superior for a number of reasons. The Nielsen Norman Group’s article on the topic states:
Results showed that light mode won across all dimensions: irrespective of age [of the individual], the positive contrast polarity [light mode] was better for both visual-acuity tasks and for proofreading tasks.
Blue light is harmful but light mode is better than dark mode for the eyes. I have often thought of light mode and blue light being related to each other. But that doesn’t have to be the case. A light mode color scheme with a very warm background color may not emit much more blue light than a dark mode color scheme with a cool background color. And if you are already using Redshift or f.lux blue light output will be further reduced. I switched to Gruvbox light based on this information.
Lighting in the working environment also affects your eyes. From what I’ve read there are two main things to do:
Eliminate screen glare. Light reflecting off your monitor can make seeing your screen more difficult. Ambient lighting is good.
Have a well lit environment. The room should be well illuminated but not so bright that it makes your screen harder to see.
This was easy to address. Since I live in Florida my office was already pretty bright but now I keep my blinds open more.
It may be anecdotal but it does seem like these things have reduced my eye strain somewhat. While work at the computer doesn’t feel more pleasant on my eyes, my eyes do not feel tired at the end of the day.