Why Apple's Night Shift in iOS 9.3 will help you get a better night's sleep

Posted:
in iPhone
It's easy to dismiss Apple's new Night Shift mode -- introduced in iOS 9.3 -- as a gimmicky bolt-on, but it's actually a helpful feature rooted in years of sleep science.


Composite series showing iPhone 6s running iOS 9.2 atop iPad Pro running iOS 9.3 with Night Shift.


Night Shift performs essentially the same function on iOS devices as desktop apps like f.lux long have on the Mac: as your bed time approaches, it automatically shifts the color temperature of your display toward the warmer end of the spectrum. You might not know what color temperature is, exactly, but you've probably heard of it -- whenever someone describes a smartphone display as "more yellow" or "more blue," they're talking about its color temperature.

Just like traditional color theory, color temperature in lighting is expressed on a warm-to-cool scale. Yellows and reds are warm, while blues and whites are cool.

LED-based lightbulbs are a great analog: LED bulbs that appear harsh white have a cool temperature, while those that seem more like a traditional incandescent bulb are warmer.

So why does this matter to Apple? Because years of scientific research has concluded that light has a noticeable impact on brain function, especially sleep.

Human beings fall asleep courtesy of a chemical called melatonin. Meltaonin is light-sensitive; when your eyes detect light, melatonin production is suppressed, making it more difficult to nod off.
Night Shift's warmest setting approximates the color of the setting sun.
Studies have shown that when it comes to melatonin suppression, all lights are equal -- but blue lights are more equal than others.

In one study highlighted by the National Institute of Health, "exposing healthy subjects to 30 minutes of 500 lux polychromatic blue light an hour before bedtime, in their natural home environment, delayed the onset of rapid eye movement sleep by 30 minutes."

"I'm pretty sure that at least many of the sleep disorders we are facing epidemically are related to evening or nighttime light," said Dieter Kunz, former director of the Sleep Research and Clinical Chronobiology Research Group at Berlin teaching hospital Charite-Universitatsmedizin.

Another joint study concluded that "the use of these devices before bedtime prolongs the time it takes to fall asleep, delays the circadian clock, suppresses levels of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, reduces the amount and delays the timing of REM sleep, and reduces alertness the following morning."

Many professionals go so far as to recommend that people who have trouble falling asleep avoid all contact with backlit electronic screens for an hour before going to bed. Unfortunately, that's simply not realistic in the days of eBooks and the internet, which is where Night Shift comes in.

By shifting the color temperature of the display automatically, Night Shift reduces the amount of blue light emitted by your devices. While this won't entirely solve the problem, it does help a great deal -- a success that multiple members of the AppleInsider staff will attest to.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 13
    Night Shift - A no show feature for my iPhone 5 iOS 9.3 en_GB. Where's it hiding? Certainly not under Settings/Display & Brightness/ it is not ☹️
  • Reply 2 of 13
    ceek74ceek74 Posts: 313member
    Night Shift - A no show feature for my iPhone 5 iOS 9.3 en_GB. Where's it hiding? Certainly not under Settings/Display & Brightness/ it is not ☹️
    Outta luck dude.  "Night Shift is available on iPhone 5s or later, iPad Pro, iPad Air or later, iPad mini 2 or later, and iPod touch (6th generation)."  In the fine-print here: http://www.apple.com/ios/updates/?cid=wwa-us-kwg-features&cp=ios9.3
  • Reply 3 of 13
    ditto - nothing on the 5c I carry for work.   My personal 6s: warm hues to read my last tweets and emails.
  • Reply 4 of 13
    I used Night Shift last night and it was game changing. Not only does it produce a warm light, it decreases the perceived brightness. I read for a while as my wife slept away beside me without being waking up. I didn't have to crank the system brightness down too much and I was able to more comfortably read. This feature alone had me smiling.
    lostkiwirazorpitargonaut
  • Reply 5 of 13
    sirlance99sirlance99 Posts: 1,083member
    ceek74 said:
    Night Shift - A no show feature for my iPhone 5 iOS 9.3 en_GB. Where's it hiding? Certainly not under Settings/Display & Brightness/ it is not ☹️
    Outta luck dude.  "Night Shift is available on iPhone 5s or later, iPad Pro, iPad Air or later, iPad mini 2 or later, and iPod touch (6th generation)."  In the fine-print here: http://www.apple.com/ios/updates/?cid=wwa-us-kwg-features&cp=ios9.3
    Yep, older models don't always get the latest software features but hey, you're on the latest software version.
  • Reply 6 of 13
    icoco3icoco3 Posts: 1,425member
    ceek74 said:
    Outta luck dude.  "Night Shift is available on iPhone 5s or later, iPad Pro, iPad Air or later, iPad mini 2 or later, and iPod touch (6th generation)."  In the fine-print here: http://www.apple.com/ios/updates/?cid=wwa-us-kwg-features&cp=ios9.3
    Yep, older models don't always get the latest software features but hey, you're on the latest software version. the FBI can't hacked you.
    Fixed it... wink 
    edited March 2016
  • Reply 7 of 13
    FBFB Posts: 1member
    The ideal color temperature for humans to view images is 5000K. This is the wavelength that allows our eyes to see clearly with the lowest quantity of light. Some call this a warm white. When using lighting fixtures producing light at this wavelength, there is a significant reduction in electrical usage. So wise architects and environmental designers have been doing this for years. By setting your displays color temperature to 5000K, you can reduce eye strain, and forget Apple's app. Just leave it at 5000K if you want maximum visual acuity. If you want the "daylight to dusk" effect, there are apps that do this better than Apple's. One of them is f.lux. It adjusts the color temperature of your display in accordance with the suns position automatically. The color temperature is adjustable, as well. There is also a defeat function that allows you to to view images at 6500K for color matching work for one hour at a time, if you wish. The notion that Apple discovered something new, or that their misguided app will help you is laughable.
  • Reply 8 of 13
    This feature shifts the color spectrum of your iPhone or iPad display at night but it changes the color display to orange and the viewing quality is not that good if you're gonna watch a video or play a game on your cellphone. What I'm currently using is ocushield screen protector. It acts as a normal screen protector that blocks harmful bluelight which causes eye damage. It helps reduce eye strain and disruption of sleep patterns.
  • Reply 9 of 13
    lostkiwilostkiwi Posts: 570member
     I don't remember reading anywhere that Apple said they were the 1st to do this. 

    Personally this is the function I was most looking forward to with 9.3  and it certainly delivers.  I use f.lux on the Mac and have done for years. 

    One thing for people to keep in mind however is that the actual act of surfing the Internet stimulates your brain as well.  Nightshift will help you get you to sleep but it won't solve the problem entirely.  

    jfc1138argonaut
  • Reply 10 of 13
    FB said:
    If you want the "daylight to dusk" effect, there are apps that do this better than Apple's. One of them is f.lux. The notion that Apple discovered something new, or that their misguided app will help you is laughable.

    f.lux is mentioned in literally the second sentence. jesus.
    jfc1138argonautjony0
  • Reply 11 of 13
    I use Twilight on my android, and based on that experience, I highly recommend this (it accomplishes the same thing). I've been telling all my iPhone-using friends and family to turn it on, especially my wife who has sleep issues. In the 4 months since I've been using it, I've been sleeping better than I have in a few years. I occasionally toggle it off in the evening if I want to see a photo better or take a screen shot, and its like someone turning on a bright light in a comfortably-lit room. Big difference. The phone is way more relaxing to look at with the feature on. Just give it a couple days to get used to it. One thing though, if you live in higher latitudes, you might not want to use the dawn-to-dusk setting in winter, I have mine come on at 9:30pm
  • Reply 12 of 13
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member
    Night Shift - A no show feature for my iPhone 5 iOS 9.3 en_GB. Where's it hiding? Certainly not under Settings/Display & Brightness/ it is not ☹️

    argonautbirkork
  • Reply 13 of 13
    curt12curt12 Posts: 39member
    FB said:
    If you want the "daylight to dusk" effect, there are apps that do this better than Apple's. One of them is f.lux. The notion that Apple discovered something new, or that their misguided app will help you is laughable.

    f.lux is mentioned in literally the second sentence. jesus.
    Is f.lux still available for install on iOS?
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