Study upends theory that 'night mode' UIs are good for sleep patterns

Posted:
in General Discussion edited December 2019
New research suggests so-called "night mode" user interface designs like Apple's Night Shift and Dark Mode for iOS are detrimental to getting a good night's sleep, upending marketing claims to the contrary.


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


According to research conducted by Dr. Tim Brown, recently published in Current Biology, brightness levels are a more effective at stimulating the body clock than color. Perhaps more crucially, the study implies blue light is less impactful to a user's circadian rhythm than previously thought, reports The Guardian.

It should be noted that the study involved mice, not human subjects. That said, the information could upend foundational research that prompted years' worth of investments and development into night mode interfaces.

Dark UIs have become all the rage after Apple and other leading manufacturers built in specialized screen light management features designed to cut down on blue light emissions. Companies are working on the theory that blue light disrupts sleep patterns because it suppresses the natural production of melatonin by mimicking hues seen during daytime hours.

To counter the supposedly ill physiological effects of blue light emitted by devices like iPhone, Apple introduced a feature in iOS that automatically shifts display colors to warmer temperatures later in the day. Called Night Shift, the display management feature rolled out with iOS 9.3 in 2016.

"There was definitely a valid scientific idea about why those things would work," Brown said.

He explained that research some 20 years ago linked melanopsin, a light-sensitive protein found in the eye, with body clock regulation. As melanopsin better detects short-wavelength photons, the system was thought to be more sensitive to blue light. Brown said cone cells in the retina, responsible for detecting color, are now thought to play a more substantial role in natural sleep rhythms.

"The melanopsin system is fundamentally there to detect brightness," he said.

In effect, the study suggests brightness levels are more important than color temperature, the report said. Further, at identical output levels, blue light is more relaxing than yellow as blue hues imitate a palette of colors typical to twilight.

Whether the research will lead to new revelations in human sleep science remains to be seen. In any case, iOS and macOS device users appear to be satisfied with the effectiveness of Apple's Night Shift and Dark Mode, placebo or no.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 35
    mobirdmobird Posts: 687member
    Congratulations to Appleinsider for updating their app to version 3.0.2 yesterday to include "Dark Mode". The first update to the app in a year...
    edited December 2019 caladanianrazorpitsandorwatto_cobrarevenant
  • Reply 2 of 35
    Funny that AppleInsider just updated for dark mode today 😂
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 35
    Yes, I am only one data point, but I concur with the findings of this study. I find the night mode distracting and weird. I think it’s simply a question of what the eye is used to.
    mwhitewilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 35
    Yes, I am only one data point, but I concur with the findings of this study. I find the night mode distracting and weird. I think it’s simply a question of what the eye is used to.
    I rather prefer night mode at night, makes the eye strain way less. I drive Uber and Lyft and Uber has a dark mode and makes it way easier to  drive relaxed while Lyft doesn’t have dark mode and is blinding me when I drive even with the brightness turned down. 
    anantksundaramsvanstromrazorpitkurai_kagejahbladeStrangeDaysgilly33
  • Reply 5 of 35
    Yes, I am only one data point, but I concur with the findings of this study. I find the night mode distracting and weird. I think it’s simply a question of what the eye is used to.
    I rather prefer night mode at night, makes the eye strain way less. I drive Uber and Lyft and Uber has a dark mode and makes it way easier to  drive relaxed while Lyft doesn’t have dark mode and is blinding me when I drive even with the brightness turned down. 
    Light text on dark background increases eye strain and reduces productivity. 

    See this article snd in particular the references attached to it:

    https://tidbits.com/2019/05/31/the-dark-side-of-dark-mode/
  • Reply 6 of 35
    chasmchasm Posts: 2,467member
    I like Dark Mode, but the point that both the study and users seem to be missing is that you should put down all screens at least an hour before bedtime -- like when Apple's Bedtime feature tells you to wind down (if you've set it up to remind you and hour before ...).

    I have no doubt whatsoever that using Bedtime to achieve a regular sleep schedule, and shutting off the screens before bed, will aid sleep.

    edited December 2019 caladanianmdriftmeyerrazorpitmuthuk_vanalingamMacQcdysamorialollivergilly33watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 7 of 35
    This is about Night Shift, not Dark Mode no?
    why everyone comment on Dark Mode?
    edited December 2019 n2itivguysvanstromrandominternetpersonllamadysamoriaStrangeDayslollivergilly33watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 35
    > Whether the research will lead to new revelations in human sleep science remains to be seen. /Line Feed/ That would require studies with human subjects methinks, I hope those will be done in the future. /Line Feed/ > In any case, iOS and macOS device users appear to be satisfied with the effectiveness of Apple's Night Shift and Dark Mode, placebo or no. /Line Feed/ I certainly am very happy with Night Shift and Dark Mode.
    edited December 2019 lolliver
  • Reply 9 of 35
    Why is it impossible for me to have formatting in my comments? /Line Feed/ When I do a [/Line Feed/] it simply doesn't register and all sentences are put into one paragraph. I see everybody else using line feeds, so what is different on my machine (Safari on Catalina MBP)? I have seen complaints in the past about this here, but I haven't seen any solutions. I now put in [/Line Feed/] where I want a /Line Feed/ , but it's ridiculous......... Also anything between arrows is deleted.
    edited December 2019
  • Reply 10 of 35
    When it comes to science, don't get too excited by a single study. There are significantly more studies about short wavelength (i.e. blue light) and evening alertness.

    Additionally the complexity of implementing this in Apple's OSs is trivial, it merely actions existing frameworks that are already utilised by accessibility features.
    dysamoriaStrangeDayslolliverjony0
  • Reply 11 of 35
    Sorry, AI, but this is really a terrible article.

    You conflate Night Shift with Dark Mode. They're completely separate things. And even assuming this new research is correct, Dark Mode does exactly what they say you want for better sleep: Lower the total brightness of the screen.

    Edit: Not that I'm advocating for Dark Mode - I don't use it, and "Godofbiscuits" above provided an extremely good link (https://tidbits.com/2019/05/31/the-dark-side-of-dark-mode/) which has a lot of good data on why it's usually a bad idea. But *if* this research is correct, it in fact says that Dark Mode will be good for your sleep, directly contradicting the first sentence in this article.
    edited December 2019 llamadysamoriaStrangeDays
  • Reply 12 of 35
    I read books before going to bed and I appreciate iBooks switching to white letters on black background. With brightness all the way down it works well for me. Better than not switching. And actually even better than keeping lights on for a paper book. In any case, reducing blue light with Night Shift won’t hurt.
    dysamoriawatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 35
    chasm said:
    I like Dark Mode, but the point that both the study and users seem to be missing is that you should put down all screens at least an hour before bedtime -- like when Apple's Bedtime feature tells you to wind down (if you've set it up to remind you and hour before ...).

    I have no doubt whatsoever that using Bedtime to achieve a regular sleep schedule, and shutting off the screens before bed, will aid sleep.

    Yes, of course, a published doctor doing research into the facts about situation A, B, C absolutely completely failed to realise that their research was unnecessary as they should have just told people to put down their phones, get a good nights sleep, always wear a warm jacket when it's cold, and don't forget to eat your veggies.

    Silly doctors doing actual research into how the brain/body works instead of asking in webforums how one should live a happy life.
  • Reply 14 of 35
    I read books before going to bed and I appreciate iBooks switching to white letters on black background. With brightness all the way down it works well for me. Better than not switching. And actually even better than keeping lights on for a paper book. In any case, reducing blue light with Night Shift won’t hurt.
    That fits in with the research though. Essentially you're minimising the total amount of light that hits you.

    As far as it being harder to read white characters on a black background that depends, in part, on what you're used to; AND… on good design.

    If you talk to a nerd having spent a great deal of time coding you'll often find that they use editors with bright text on a dark background; but they don't just flip the colors, they use typefaces (and interfaces) specifically designed for that.

    What we're seeing now is that when people can do "@media (prefers-color-scheme: dark) {…}" to start doing webdesign based on people's preferences, then all they do is flip the colors; and that so very easily becomes an unreadable mess. That strains a persons eyes, and can result in both headaches and people having a harder time falling asleep than with a regular brighter display.
    edited December 2019 dysamoriaStrangeDays
  • Reply 15 of 35
    spice-boyspice-boy Posts: 1,448member
    I'm waiting for a study on how much eye strain is incurred when using "dark mode"? Seriously white body text on a black background?
    edited December 2019 dysamoria
  • Reply 16 of 35
    svanstrom said:
    chasm said:
    I like Dark Mode, but the point that both the study and users seem to be missing is that you should put down all screens at least an hour before bedtime -- like when Apple's Bedtime feature tells you to wind down (if you've set it up to remind you and hour before ...).

    I have no doubt whatsoever that using Bedtime to achieve a regular sleep schedule, and shutting off the screens before bed, will aid sleep.

    Yes, of course, a published doctor doing research into the facts about situation A, B, C absolutely completely failed to realise that their research was unnecessary as they should have just told people to put down their phones, get a good nights sleep, always wear a warm jacket when it's cold, and don't forget to eat your veggies.

    Silly doctors doing actual research into how the brain/body works instead of asking in webforums how one should live a happy life.

    I am not sure why you are so aggressive against chasm's practical, real world advice. I completely agree with him, and to me, it sounded like a good reminder of what I need to do regularly.
    Phobos7dysamorialolliver
  • Reply 17 of 35
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,471member
    It's nice to have a choice so no harm done.  Meanwhile my pet mice have switched night mode off on their iPhones and iPads.
    randominternetpersonlolliver
  • Reply 18 of 35
    spice-boy said:
    I'm waiting for a study on how much eye strain is incurred when using "dark mode"? Seriously white body text on a black background?
    I’ve been reading AI in white text on black background. And I use MS OneNote with black background and varying text colors. In broad daylight, and at night. 

    For the same reason I like blackboards over whiteboards. Black does not reflect where white does. 


    dysamoria
  • Reply 19 of 35
    jcs2305jcs2305 Posts: 1,262member
    svanstrom said:
    chasm said:
    I like Dark Mode, but the point that both the study and users seem to be missing is that you should put down all screens at least an hour before bedtime -- like when Apple's Bedtime feature tells you to wind down (if you've set it up to remind you and hour before ...).

    I have no doubt whatsoever that using Bedtime to achieve a regular sleep schedule, and shutting off the screens before bed, will aid sleep.

    Yes, of course, a published doctor doing research into the facts about situation A, B, C absolutely completely failed to realise that their research was unnecessary as they should have just told people to put down their phones, get a good nights sleep, always wear a warm jacket when it's cold, and don't forget to eat your veggies.

    Silly doctors doing actual research into how the brain/body works instead of asking in webforums how one should live a happy life.

    Huh?  I am having a hard time understanding what you are getting at through all the sarcasm.. sheesh.

    I agree with the OP honestly.. all this research is fine..but the bottom line is put the screens away and give yourself a chance to wind down...at roughly the same time every day. Get in a good sleep pattern and give your body a chance to properly rest and repair itself.

    Common sense stuff if you actually think about it.. B)
    muthuk_vanalingamdysamoriaStrangeDayslolliver
  • Reply 20 of 35
    This article totally misunderstands a key difference between "dark mode" and "night shift."  Please amend your article as readers will leave with the wrong idea. Dark mode is merely working on contrast, which may assist in reducing eye strain, but it isn't meant to affect sleep.  On the other hand, "night shift" and other similar products are designed to gradually reduce the amount of blue light, reaching your eyes, mirroring what happens in nature as the evening wears on, thought, with some supporting research to reduce the stimulating effect that blue light has on the brain.
    dysamoriaStrangeDays
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