Your smartphone may have a "dark mode" or "night mode" setting that alters the view on your screen. This changes most phone apps from black text on a white background to a black background with white text. Some people change their phone view to dark mode permanently, while some prefer to use it only at night. Some prefer not to use it at all.
Though it may seem easier to read on a dark theme, it’s hard to tell if dark mode is actually beneficial for your eyes. Luckily, the experts at Nationwide Vision are here to discuss the potential benefits and pitfalls of using dark mode.
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Many people choose to use dark mode in the evening, when they're outside on a dark night, or when they're sitting indoors in a dimly lit room. Looking at a screen with a dark background may feel more comfortable because you'll see less glare in dark mode. The night-friendly setting reduces the overall brightness output from the screen, making less of a contrast with the world around you.
Dark mode makes it easier for your eyes to adjust between dimly lit surroundings and your phone screen. This can reduce eye strain and minimize eye fatigue. This is why car navigation systems and GPS devices switch to dark mode after sunset. It's safer for drivers to periodically glance at a darkened screen while they're traveling along dark roads, rather than a fully lit device, which would require the eyes to adjust to the brightness, then readjust to darkness when they look back at the road.
But is dark mode better for your eyes? Very little research has examined the benefits of choosing dark mode, possibly because it's a relatively new feature for phones. Much of the research has focused on dark mode's ability to help people fall asleep more easily. “Light mode” has been shown to disrupt the natural circadian rhythm people have when they use their phones before bed. However, dark mode has been shown to help encourage nighttime melatonin production. This is because it reduces exposure to blue light in the evenings. Blue light from phones mimics sunlight, and it can delay the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin as bedtime approaches.
Spending too much time looking at bright screens throughout the day may lead to digital eye strain, with symptoms like eye fatigue or blurry vision. Screen brightness is only one factor — people tend to blink less frequently when looking at screens, which may lead to dry or strained eyes. Blinking more frequently helps to reduce symptoms, but no research has shown that viewing devices in dark mode encourages more frequent blinking.
People who spend all day looking at computer and phone screens may benefit from using dark mode, especially in the evening. You may be at greater risk of eye strain or fatigue if you use devices for several hours every day. Looking at text on a darker background may give your eyes a rest from the bright light of a white background, which may help to prevent or relieve discomfort. Using dark mode alone may not eliminate device-related eye strain or fatigue. Combining this practice with eye-friendly habits, may prevent eye strain and other eye conditions.
For people with certain eye conditions, looking at white text on a dark screen may cause a halo effect. A halo effect iswhen a blur of light surrounds the brightness amid the darkness. This may affect people with myopia (nearsightedness), astigmatism, ,or presbyopia. The halo effect isn't exclusive to smartphones and other digital devices; any bright light that's viewed within a dark field of vision may cause this effect. For example, some people who have myopia, astigmatism or presbyopia see halos around headlights or streetlights when they drive at night.
If you experience the halo effect when you put your smartphone on dark mode, it may not be for you. You may see things more clearly if you switch to regular mode and turn the brightness down during evening hours.
If you are experiencing eye discomfort, it may be time for a comprehensive eye exam. One of our specialists will assess your eyes and form a treatment plan to suit your needs. Schedule an appointment today.