Study: The “Night Shift” Setting on Your Phone Doesn’t Actually Do Anything

New research suggests your smartphone settings have nothing to do with sleep issues

A woman in bed at night with her smartphone. New research suggests "night modes" on phones don't really help with sleep.
A new study suggests your phone's night settings won't help you sleep better
Yiu Yu Hoi / Getty Images

Like any big tech brand, Apple can be hit or miss. Their new do-no-track iOS update? Nearly 100% of users seem to like this. Their podcast app redesign? Not so much.

But an older feature on iPhones and iPads is getting some new scrutiny, and it’s unfortunately falling into the “miss” category. As reported by SlashGear, a new study suggests the “Night Shift” function doesn’t help you with sleep.

This BYU study focused on blue light from phones, which disrupts melatonin secretion and sleep cycles. In 2016, Apple introduced Night Shift, which adjusts your screen’s colors to warmer hues after sunset. For the new research, BYU psychology professor Chad Jensen and researchers from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center compared the sleep outcomes of 167 individuals (ages 18-24) who used their phone at night with Night Shift turned on, those who had it off and users who didn’t use a smartphone before bed at all.

Apple's Night Shift screen in Settings
Apple’s Night Shift screen in Settings

All of the participants spent at least eight hours in bed and wore an accelerometer on their wrists to record sleep activity (an app was also installed to monitor phone use). Total sleep duration, sleep quality, wake after sleep onset and the time it took to fall asleep were some of the measurements taken.

There was one finding: People who don’t use their phone before bed slept a bit better. Other than that? “In the whole sample, there were no differences across the three groups,” Jensen said. “Night Shift is not superior to using your phone without Night Shift or even using no phone at all.”

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