LED screens make me sick

I recently started working a full-time job (yay!) and on my first day I had to go home early because I had a splitting headache and nausea. I threw up three times after I got home, and overall it was a terrible experience.

The culprit? The 27-inch iMac they put me on.

Although I sometimes suffer from headaches while working on my 13-inch MacBook, this was another level entirely. Googling “iMac screen headaches” got me over a million results, and there were many forum threads that went on for scores of pages. Many, many people are affected by LED lights.

Here are my suggestions for coping with LED screens:

  • Don’t turn down the brightness!
  • It was my first instinct to turn down the brightness of the screen, but that will actually make your headache worse. LED lights aren’t dimmable, so the effect of a dimmer light is achieved by flickering the lights – kind of like slowing the frame rate of a movie. It happens too fast for you to consciously notice, but some people’s brains do pick up on it (like mine) and then we get headaches. You might want to wear sunglasses at your computer if tinting it pink (see below) doesn’t work.

  • Tint your screen pink
  • The more blue light assaulting you from an LED screen, the more bright and vivid the images – and the more hazardous for your eyes. Blue light in general can be detrimental, especially in the evenings – see f.lux’s page on blue light research for more.

    To remedy the blue light, see if you can tint your screen pink via your display settings, or download f.lux – it’s free. Go to your preferences, make sure “daylight” is selected, and turn the slider down to at least 5000K. I have mine at 3400K, which is halogen level. This is what helped me the most – basically, f.lux saved my job!

    f.lux is easy to turn off temporarily, if you need to work with colors – you can disable it for an hour or you can disable it for the particular program you’re working with. When I’m painting digitally, I set up my color palette when the screen is normal; the colors will stay the same regardless of what tint the screen is.

    You could also wear blue-tinted glasses to block out the light, but I would try tinting the screen pink first; some blue light is beneficial to you, especially in the morning.

  • Sit farther away from the screen
  • Apple recommends you sit 18 to 28 inches away from an iMac.

  • Increase your refresh rate
  • Even if your brightness is all the way up, the LED lights may still flicker because the refresh rate of your screen is too low. Turn your refresh rate above 60 Hertz and see what happens. Unfortunately not all computers allow you to do this.

  • Switch to a non-LED monitor
  • If none of the above suggestions work, you will probably have to quit using that screen. For iMac users – since the computer and the screen are one unit – you can connect an external non-LED monitor.

Remember, there are LED televisions, too! Avoid those if LED computer screens give you troubles.

On a non-LED note, I also increased the screen resolution so that my eyes weren’t straining to see the tiny icons and type – going from a 13-inch MacBook to a 27-inch screen iMac was a big change for me. (But I love coming home to my little MacBook – now it seems so cute!)

I hope this is helpful to you, and I sincerely hope that if you’re reading this because you had a bad reaction, it wasn’t as bad as mine!


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