the IT city, the I.T. Baby


29 days without insomnia

Lap cat is not impressed by your insomnia
Lap cat is not impressed by your insomnia

So this is something I’ve been telling my kid-possessing friends at work about to stop insomnia and bedtime troubles, and it’s something I’ve been experimenting with rather successfully. I’ll go into some history here.

Oh, side note, nothing mentioned here costs anything, advertises to you, spies on you, disturbs your cat, or will tell anyone who you are. I’m really mostly interested in knowing how this works on anyone beside me.

I’m an IT guy, before that I was a programmer. Since I was 12 I’ve been in front of a computer at some point nearly every day of my adult life. Since I have memories (5ish?) I’ve remembered being awake at night wondering how I could possibly get to sleep.

While I was homeschooled for most of my education, I did go to public/not home school for a couple of years, and I remember being so tired that I could almost sleep during classes.

I guess it didn’t help matters that I was smart enough that I didn’t really need my eyes open or to be awake to deal with the first few grades of school, but that caused me to not get any help.

When I turned 23 after years of rejecting it I went down the pharmaceutical path and became an Ambien zombie. Those who met me at 23 met a different person than I had been. They also met someone who couldn’t remember anyone’s name.

Ambien didn’t work (they also give people a LOT lower dosage now,) Trazodone had crazy side effects, I went for about a year bouncing from one drug to the next and then stopped as I was a worn out exhausted sick drugged out zombie who just forgot he hadn’t slept and was wondering why he was so freaking tired all the time.

All this time I’m writing code, running a BBS, watching TV, playing video games, surfing the net, running an internet radio station, writing, going to places where I’m not actually doing any of that but there’re screens around (*cough* bars *cough*,) looking at my cell phone. I’m living in a blue light world.

I started last year back on the pharm train since we’d maxed out our deductible due to Maggie, figured might as well attempt to fix this so I wouldn’t be sleepy dad nonstop. It didn’t work. My doctor gave up. He wanted me in a sleep study that I couldn’t get into until I once again had to pay. Being a new parent and having tenants who I had to evict, it was pretty freakin’ tight money times.

ITMama suggested randomly last month to try a program called f.lux. While they don’t make it for Android they do make something basically the same called Twilight. I installed it on my phone, I installed f.lux on my computer and iPad 2, and based on the writing about lighting, I disabled or turn off the lights I have that are in the blue spectrum.

Last night I had insomnia and got about three and a half hours of sleep. It was the first time in 29 days where I wasn’t nearly passing out at ~10:30 and I don’t know why I was up.

To put this in perspective, I had insomnia an average of four days a week for 29 years. I didn’t want to be the exhausted friend after work who needed to sleep, but I’d slept an average of two to three hours the night before. I didn’t want to be the exhausted dad, but I sat in bed leg twitching (RLS, twitchy leg, whatever,) and it took me two hours on average to get to sleep.

Blueish light hits a photoreceptor in your eyes that causes your brain to delay natural production of melatonin by up to two hours. Guess what I was usually looking at for a while before going to sleep? Happy blue screens. Happy bluish lights.


I’m 40 now, I spent 29 years of sleeping like crap. I bought the world’s most comfy (to me,) bed because I thought that would help. It didn’t. I’ve done diet, exercise, and I even spent a couple of months without a TV after ~8 but I had lights still around that evidently fall into the wakeup factor…

It’ll be interesting in the next month to see how this plays out. This hasn’t been a particularly good month to try this as I’ve been quite sick with one or another thing. There was also no particular reason for last night’s insomnia – I didn’t slip up and watch the Smurfs movie or Avatar, just happened.

I mentioned this to a co-worker who is now taking away his kid’s access to the iDevices well before bedtime. I’ll see where he’s at sometime soon.

Perhaps in a month when I have a good idea of exactly how this works on me normally I’ll come back and say it’s BS. But for now, I’m kind of surprised. I’m also surprised my TV’s default seems to be warm light instead of cool blue.

All the apps are all free, not even advertising or data mining. The only thing that might cost you to try is locating the lightbulbs in your house that are in the spectrum that wakes you up and moving them.

Probably can’t hurt to try, and to slap on any device your kid might be looking at near bedtime.

f.lux for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS can be downloaded here, although be aware you have to be jailbroken to use it on any portable iDevice. Twilight for Android here.

4.5 / 5 stars     

Paul King

Paul King lives in Nashville Tennessee with his wife, two daughters and cats. He writes for Pocketables, theITBaby, and is an IT consultant along with doing tech support for a film production company.