Why dark mode isn't actually better for your eyes

Ashley Laderer,Benjamin Bert
·4 min read
dark mode better for your eyes
Putting your devices on dark mode at night may help you fall asleep faster. Luis Alvarez/Getty Images
  • There is no evidence to prove that dark mode helps relieve eye strain or protects your vision in any way.

  • However, dark mode may help you sleep better if you are accustomed to using electronic devices before bed.

  • Dark mode may also help you save battery life, reduce screen glare, and make it easier to adjust to the screen when you're looking at your device in a dark room.

  • Visit Insider's Health Reference library for more advice.

If you're worried about the health of your vision, chances are you've been told to put your electronic devices in dark mode to protect your eyes. But making the swap to dark mode may not be doing much to help your vision.

Here's what you need to know about whether dark mode is really better for your eyes.

What is dark mode?

Dark mode allows you to change the usually white or light-colored background on your devices to be darker, usually black. The background will be dark and the text will be light, opposite from how it normally is.

In order to put your device into dark mode, go into your device's settings where the display and brightness settings are. This is where you will be able to switch to dark mode. Some apps also have their own dark mode, which can be found in the app's own settings.

Is dark mode better for your eyes?

Although you might feel like dark mode may be a little easier on your eyes, it is unlikely to prevent symptoms of eye strain like headaches and dry eyes.

"Dark mode will reduce the levels of blue light that are emitted from the electronic device's screen, but probably not to an extent that will influence any damaging effect of blue light on the macula," says Brian M. DeBroff, MD, the director of cataract and intraocular lens implant surgery at Yale Medicine Ophthalmology.

The macula is located in the center of your retina and is crucial for healthy eyesight. Age-related macular degeneration is one of the most common causes of vision loss.

Debroff says that the typical levels of blue light coming from consumer electronics is insignificant in terms of risk of harm to the retina or macular degeneration. Plus, there is no scientific evidence that has proven dark mode can help reduce eye strain. Serious eye damage or complications are not really a risk with device usage.

The benefits of dark mode

Though dark mode may not help to protect vision, it may help you fall asleep more quickly if you often use electronic devices before bed.

Using devices emitting blue light at night may increase your alertness, making it harder for you to fall asleep. Since dark mode aims to reduce blue light, it may be especially beneficial at night.

This is because blue light is believed to suppress melatonin, a hormone that helps you sleep. One small 2012 study, for example, found that blue light suppressed melatonin for twice as long as green light. However, more research and larger-scale studies are needed to solidify this claim.

"Whether the blue light can affect melatonin production and circadian rhythms is a popular claim, but also yet to be scientifically proven," says DeBroff.

Though there aren't many other science-backed health benefits of dark mode, it may also:

  • Help you save battery life

  • Reduce screen glare

  • Make it easier to adjust to the screen when you're looking at your device in a dark room

Insider's takeaway

Dark mode may be a personal preference for some, but it isn't necessarily better for your eyes.

It also isn't a substitute for better methods to reduce eye strain, DeBroff says. To prevent and treat eye strain, he recommends:

  • Giving your eyes a rest from screens every 20 minutes

  • Adjusting the size of the text on your screen so it's easier to read

  • Wearing the proper glasses for your eyesight

  • Using artificial tear drops to prevent dryness

If these tips do not relieve your eye strain, you should consult an eye doctor.

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