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How Your Computer Monitor Is Slowly Killing Your Eyes, And What You Can Do About It.

Published on September 24, 2016

Click here for the full written transcript of this podcast episode.

Do you ever get headaches after working on a computer for a long time?

Eye strain?

Mild irritation?

Brain fog?

It's not all in your head.

See, just like most televisions, computer monitors “flicker”.  Monitors have been flickering for many years, but most people don't realize this because the flicker is invisible. However, the flicker is still very hard on your eyes and is just one of the computer monitor issues responsible for the growing epidemic of near-sightedness and myopia – also known as “computer vision syndrome“.

Even fancy, modern PC LCD monitors are not flicker-free, even though many people think they are. These LCD monitors originally started out by using something called CCFL (cold cathode fluorescent lamps) as a backlight source for the monitor, but in recent years manufacturers have shifted to using LEDs (light emitting diodes). If you have one of those thin monitors, then you probably have a LCD monitor with LED, and if you are unsure, you can check the model number on the backside of the monitor and Google it.

The use of LED has numerous benefits, including lower power consumption, far fewer toxic substances due to the absence of the cathode and some fantastic picture quality advantages, but along with all these benefits come potential eyestrain issues that can damage and destroy your eyes over the long term.

See, when your monitor is set to maximum brightness, the LEDs are glowing at full 100% strength. If you reduce the brightness setting in the menu, the LEDs need to omit less light, and this is accomplished by inserting small breaks, or pauses (flickers!) in which the LEDs turn off for a very short, nearly invisible time. When you reduce the brightness setting of your monitor even more, the breaks become longer.

This creates a frustrating catch-22: a bright screen can strain your eyes, and the flicker created by a less bright screen can also strain your eyes. Compared to old-school CCFL monitors, the newer LED-based monitors carry the greatest risk of giving you eyestrain, tired eyes or nasty headaches. You can read more about this issue in the article “LED Monitors can cause headaches due to flicker“.

My guest on today's podcast has figured out how to tackle this issue, and has invented a special piece of software called “Iris” that controls the brightness of the monitor with the help of your computer's video card, allows you to have adequate brightness without the flicker, and even automatically adjusts your computer monitor's settings based on the sun's position wherever you happen to be in the world.

His name is Daniel Georgiev, and he is a 20 year old computer programmer from Bulgaria. Before he learned to code, Daniel was a rower in his country's national team for more than 5 years, and participated in the 2012 World Rowing Junior Championship. During our discussion, you'll discover:

How Daniel got kicked off his soccer team, and within two years qualified for the Bulgarian National Team in rowing…[11:20]

-Why Daniel programmed his computer monitor to freeze and stop his work every 30 minutes…[19:45]

-Why Daniel doesn't like the computer program “Flux” for decreasing blue light on your monitor…[21:45]

-The link between color “temperature” and the amount of blue light a computer monitor creates…[29:52]

-How to convert a glossy computer monitor screen into a matte computer monitor screen…[33:50]

-Why you should use font rendering technologies to change the type of font you are looking at when you read on a computer monitor…[39:00]

-How to automatically invert colors on a screen or change the screen to grayscale when you are working to reduce eye strain and improve your ability to sleep…[46:25]

-Why you blink 66% less when you are working on a computer (and why yawning when you work on your computer is actually quite important)…[50:00 & 54:50]

-How to set up your computer monitor to force you to take automatic “Pomodoro” breaks, and get instant reminders for eye exercises, neck exercises and back exercises…[56:10]

-And much more!

Resources from this episode:

Iris software

Anti-glare screen protectors

The Eizo FlexScan Monitors Ben prefers

The BenQ Monitors that Daniel talks about

Do you have questions, comments or feedback for Daniel or me? Leave your thoughts below and one of us will reply!


Also published on Medium.

23 thoughts on “How Your Computer Monitor Is Slowly Killing Your Eyes, And What You Can Do About It.

  1. Hi

    I installed the free Iris software on my iMac to reduce eyestrain but what it has downloaded and installed is a continued flicker which is quite disconcerting.

    Help please

  2. Hey Ben, love this podcast!

    I wish i’d listened to it at the time but i’m working through a podcast backlog. I work as a trader and on my longest days I have almost unbroken eye contact with my four monitors for 14 hours (normally midday to 2am), other than bathroom breaks.

    I started using flux as a colleague recommended it on day 1, but last week I had my first ever migraine, which is almost certainly linked to my screen time. I also have to go from 100% concentration at 2am to ready for bed at 2.01am, is there any sort of mental warm-down you can recommend to switch my brain from on to off?

    Just wondering what other tips you might have for those of us who really can’t afford to lock our screens for any sustained period of time? It was interesting you mentioned exercise intervals, was that specific to eyes or more to break up prolonged sitting? I have an adjustable desk so I can switch to standing, but i’m not confident enough to break into a set of jumping jacks every hour.

    I’ll start yawning regularly and make a conscious effort to blink more, and I try to use the rule of 20 (stop and focus on something 20 metres away for 20 seconds every 20 mins) as that’s meant to be beneficial to avoid nearsightedness, but in reality I only manage it every few hours.

    Cheers

  3. My daughter’s school district distribute a google chromebook computer to every student. She is forced to do her homework via internet using the computer. I tried to install the iris for google chrome but it was blocked by the administrator. I was wondering if I can get some kind of shield to physically put on the screen. Please help.

  4. This podcast was great! Our eyes are so important! I just bought 2 screen protectors. But I had a few questions:

    1. How do I select to use a “simple font” on my Mac? Does Iris have this option?

    2. I agree that the full Iris software is a bit pricey… Does the Mini version have the 30 minute breaks?

    3. When I use the brightness control on the Iris Mini, is that the same as using the brightness control from my keyboard? (Meaning, does the Iris Mini brightness control also make the screen flash more slowly, which is bad for your eyes?)

  5. The iris website seems to be down/offline and has been for at least a week. Is anyone else getting the same issue? I’d like to try out this software.

  6. Only tried the light version but it is not working. My monitor is flashing and if I click the desktop icon it says its already running and nothing opens. Good idea and nice guy but my impression it that this is crap. f.lux works and its free, you pay $2 for this and you’ll uninstall it immediately.

  7. I bought the version for Designers since I have been looking for something like this for a while. At first the download didn’t work, but Daniel just emailed me a link with a huge thank you and “I love you I love you I love” since I happened to copy and paste the error code into my email to him once the download failed! Seems like a genuine guy.

    The software looks basic and in the early stages of development. There was some issues installing it on a mac — but there’s nothing else out there for designers that is attempting to preserve color accuracy and save your eyes too. Looks like he is adding some info boxes and the ability to switch back and forth between color tempts, so when you don’t need color accuracy you can save your eyes the strain. Totally worth the $10 and the knowledge that you’re supporting a good human being!

  8. Great podcasts– his story and path to this company was very interesting. Ben love your stuff. My only critical feedback for you is that I don’t think you should emphasize the accent so much. He spoke (and writes) very well in English and at times I almost felt like you were harping on him for having an accent (e.g. he apologized for ‘not speaking English well and you said ‘that’s ok’ He speaks well and shouldn’t apologize!). Reason i bring this up is because I wish you had more experts like him from around the world — don’t let accents get in the way of your selection criteria! No need to coddle us Americans with non-accent people, we can handle it :)

  9. The subscription model is too confusing IMHO. Month and annual recurring (auto-renew) is the common accepted practice these days. Help him out Ben!

  10. Loved this podcast! Despite the accent the information was clear and actionable. Plus Daniel seems to be just a good (and hard working) person. Thank you to both of you!

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