Written By: Vered Hazanchuk
Reviewed By: Raj K Maturi MD
May. 07, 2019
You may have experienced trouble falling asleep after staring at your phone or other digital devices right before bed. Blue light—whether from the sun or from the screens we use—wakes us up and stimulates us. This also means too much blue light exposure late at night from phones, tablets or computer screens can disrupt our ability to fall asleep.
Because blue light has been proven to affect the body’s circadian rhythm, our natural wake and sleep cycle, limiting screen time to one to two hours before bed and using night mode on electronic devices is a good idea for minimizing blue light exposure affecting our ability to fall asleep.
What is Night Mode?
Night mode, or dark mode, is a setting offered on many digital devices to decrease screen brightness and reduce eye strain in the process. Instead of featuring a predominantly white background with black text, the typical dark mode displays a black background with white or colored text or shifts lighter colors more toward pink and red instead of blue. The contrast and colors used in night mode reduce glare and help our eyes adjust more easily to surrounding light, leading to less eye strain and easier, comfortable reading.
Why Do People Use Night Mode?
When a person is exposed to bright lights at night, their body can react as if it was exposed to sunlight: the brain stops producing melatonin, the sleep hormone, and we feel more awake. The warm colors of night mode don’t confuse the body about what time it is and make it easier to fall asleep than it would be if looking at a device using a regular display mode.
In addition to disrupting the sleep cycle, too bright of a screen in a dark room may cause digital eye strain. Night mode reduces the stark contrast between the screen and dark room, and can reduce some of the symptoms that contribute to the feeling of eye strain.
Is Night Mode on My Phone or Computer Better for My Eyes?
“There are many important benefits to blue light exposure. Various studies explore how a healthy dose of blue light could help maintain mental performance, decrease nearsightedness in children, etc.,” said Raj K. Maturi MD, an ophthalmologist and clinical spokesperson for the Academy. “Although blue light exposure is important to some degree, it is true that sleep cycles may be disrupted if not handled in moderation at night. Studies show young people are particularly susceptible to blue light affecting sleep. Luckily, our technology has adapted. A simple way to avoid both sleep disruption and eye strain is to turn on night mode on our iPhone or Android devices.”
If putting down your phone or computer one to two hours before bed and/or switching to night mode settings does not eliminate eye strain or problems sleeping, talk to an ophthalmologist to find out if any other conditions could be contributing.