One of the most popular trends in software and app updates is the addition of a "dark mode." If you haven't tried out the feature, or seen anyone else use it, it basically inverts your screen. A traditionally white screen becomes a dark blue or black, and text becomes white.
It feels like every app and operating system is racing to launch new dark mode features. For example, Microsoft Outlook, Reddit, YouTube, and Gmail have all added the feature recently. New operating systems like MacOS Mojave and Android Pie are also getting on board.
So what's got everyone going to the dark side? It turns out there are quite a few positives to operating on dark mode. Benefits include:
- Decreased eye strain
- Less sleep disruption
- Save battery life
- Some medical conditions are less aggravated
Let's dig deeper on some of these benefits.
Have less eye fatigue
For about as long as computers have been mainstream, health officials have been concerned about eye strain from looking at screens for too long. Our time spent looking at screens has only increased in the last 20 years. Compared to the nine hours per week Americans spent looking at screens in 2000, we now spend about 24 hours per week.
All that time spent looking can have serious side effects on the eyes. Martin Banks, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley studies visual perception in virtual environments. Banks says a potential issue is damage to eye growth which can lead to myopia or nearsightedness.
"Looking at tablets, phones and the like, there's pretty good evidence that doing near work can cause lengthening of the eye and increase risk for myopia," Banks said. "We're all worried that virtual reality might make things worse."
While running apps in dark mode isn't a free hall pass for your eyes, it does reduce some of the fatigue experienced otherwise. In dark mode, paragraphs are easier to read with a tinted gray background with black text, or a black background with gray text. This is because white reflects all wavelengths of light and stimulates all three types of visual receptors in the human eye.
Dark mode also helps users with low vision problems and color-blindness.
Bright screens can disrupt natural sleep cycles. Artificial light dampens sleep-inducing neurons and triggers the ones that wake you up. With melatonin, the body's sleep hormone is suppressed and the body's natural clock gets pushed back.
Losing a few hours of shut-eye might not seem like a big deal, but it adds up. Long-term sleep loss raises your risk of obesity, heart disease, and depression. In children, instead of becoming tired, they get hyper. Charles Czeisler, director of sleep medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston in the US said this is sometimes mistaken for ADHD.
Again, it's not a green light to go screen-crazy when you should be sleeping, but dark mode could mean less disruption to circadian rhythms.
Save battery life
Operating in dark mode can save battery life, if a smartphone uses an AMOLED display, the black pixels remain off and unilluminated, and it uses hex black (#000000) for most of the dark mode.
Android Central reports that if your screen isn't using hex black, then the entire screen is typically illuminated and drawing power. Anything used above hex black turns every pixel on and draws power on an AMOLED screen.
Running an app in hex black has a trade off though. You get better battery life, but sacrifice smooth scroll and swift movements through your phone. Instead, things might look more pixelated and jittery.
Improve some medical conditions
Dark mode can benefit some users with specific health conditions that are irritated by bright lights.
Photophobia is a condition that makes people very sensitive to light. By activating a blue light filter on smartphones or having a dark mode option, users with Photophobia can be a little more comfortable.
Using dark mode can also help those who suffer from migraines.
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- Dark mode capabilities have become increasingly popular and common on operating systems and apps, and it does have documented benefits.
- Using dark mode can result in decreased eye strain, better sleep, can ease some health issues, and save phone battery.
- The #SelfCare app lets you take a digital mental health day
- Over half of US teens have decided to limit their smartphone and social media use
- How Android 9's Digital Wellbeing tool helps control your app time
- Apple helps you kick iPhone addiction with iOS 12 (CNET)
- Windows 10 File Explorer: Microsoft shows off dark theme you can expect this fall (ZDNet)
- Why Microsoft and Apple are scrambling to release dark mode apps and services (TechRepublic)