We spend hours upon hours each day staring at screens. At work, they’re usually our big, bright computer displays, but when we aren’t looking at those, we’re often looking at the little screens in the palms of our hands. Smartphone usage is through the roof these days, and that actually represents a bit of a problem once the sun goes down.
The light that our phone screens emit might look white, but there’s actually a lot of blue in there, not unlike the light that comes from our friendly nuclear reactor in the sky: the sun. See, evolution hasn’t quite caught up to the world of smartphones yet, so when those blue light waves hit our eyeballs, our bodies think, “Ah, good! The sun is still out. I’ll make sure to keep our energy levels up so we can stay awake throughout the day.” Or, if you want to get nerdy about it, it disrupts the body’s natural circadian rhythm, which is the process that tells you when it’s time to start winding down for sleep.
While there’s no magical button on your phone that can make it stop emitting blue light altogether, the companies who make the software for nearly every smartphone on the planet—Apple and Google—recognize the problem, and have integrated a “dark mode” into current iOS and Android phones. Dark mode changes the color scheme of a lot of the apps you commonly use, flipping the bright whites to blacks and grays instead. While this doesn’t completely eliminate blue light, it does greatly reduce the total amount of light coming out of your phone, which may help you ease into your bedtime routine.
Both iPhones and Android handsets have settings in their main menus that allow you to turn dark mode on across a large number of applications. This may not apply to applications made by third-parties (we’ll get to those in a second), but it should work for a large number of the native apps made by Apple and Google. Here’s how to do it:
1. Open Settings
2. Go to Display & Brightness
3. Tap on Dark Mode
That should make just about every Apple-made app dark, including iMessage, Mail, Maps, and more. If you decide you want to switch back, just follow steps 1 and 2 again, and then click Light Mode.
1. Open Settings
2. Click Display
3. Tap the toggle switch by Dark theme
It’s nice that you switched your overall system settings to dark mode, but not every app on your phone is going to get the message. Some of them you’ll just have to do manually. Each application is different in the way it’s laid out, but generally you’ll want to open the Settings menu within the app and look for something that references the “theme.” Some are even more complicated. For example, in the Amazon Kindle app, you can go into Settings and then Color Theme, but that only changes the color of the app, not the actual book you’re reading. To change it for the individual book, hit the Aa button, and then choose between White, Black, Green, or Sepia.
Again, this will not completely eliminate all blue light, but it should help you start to wind down. There are also built-in and third-party features that will help shift your phone’s display to more red light ahead of bedtime, but ultimately, the best thing you can do is put your phone down altogether. Right after you finish reading this, I mean.