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Is Dark Mode Better For Your Eyes?

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A woman holding onto a smartphone, the screen shows her phone brightness

With how much time we spend in front of screens, we’re always seeking ways to limit the disruption the bright lights cause our eyes. When dark mode was introduced, it quickly gained popularity as claims of lessening digital eye strain flourished. But does dark mode actually benefit your eyes?

There’s no conclusive evidence to suggest that dark mode helps digital eye strain, but it may help reduce blue light, potentially affecting sleep quality.

What is ‘Dark Mode’?

Dark mode is a setting on smartphones, tablets, and some computers that swaps the typical white background for black. When devices started offering this setting, social media apps, browsers, and websites followed suit.

Changing your screen to show white font on a black background is a popular aesthetic choice for some smartphone users. However, there have been claims that dark mode has health benefits, too.

Is ‘Dark Mode’ Better for Your Eyes?

Many people may assume that dark mode can help with symptoms such as:

  • Dry eye
  • Eye strain
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty with sleep

Screentime taking over our lives is relatively new, and there’s no definitive evidence that dark mode does any of these things. However, the blue light that radiates from screens is better understood. 

What is Blue Light?

Blue light waves come through devices’ screens. There’s much still to learn about blue light and its effects. Blue light may be confusing your brain since the same light also comes from the sun and can signal to your brain that it’s daytime.

If you’re using your devices well into the night, the blue light may inhibit your body’s ability to produce melatonin, the sleep hormone. Disruption in its production can make it more difficult to fall asleep. While many are buying their melatonin over the counter, preliminary evidence suggests that blue light is affecting your circadian rhythm or your internal clock, and it may impact your sleep cycle.

It’s been suggested that dark mode isn’t enough, and what makes the difference is dimming the screen’s brightness setting.

Does ‘Dark Mode’ Help Digital Eye Strain?

The blue light you’re exposed to from screens isn’t enough to damage your eyes. Your ocular structures typically aren’t at risk. However, screens can cause your eyes discomfort.

Digital eye strain is becoming a prevalent eye condition. It may be as high as 50% among computer users. The most common symptoms of digital eye strain include the following:

  • Dry eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Watery eyes
  • Headaches

Some people claim that dark mode does help their eye strain, but studies have yet to confirm it

A woman sitting at a desk while she takes off her glasses and rubs her eye due to eye strain from her computer

How to Relieve Digital Eye Strain

Instead of relying on dark mode settings on your devices, there are more proven methods to treat the symptoms of digital eye strain.

Blink More Often

A significant contributor to digital eye strain is blinking. Typically, people blink roughly 15 times a minute. However, when using digital devices, you blink only 5 to 7 times a minute when using digital devices, depriving your eyes of much-needed lubrication.

Use Artificial Tears

To relieve dry eye resulting from digital eye strain, artificial tears are a simple way to rehydrate your eyes. Artificial tears are generally safe, but if you wear contact lenses, consult your optometrist before using them.

Follow the 20-20-20 Rule 

Regular breaks with the 20-20-20 rule allow your eyes to rest and reset during extended screen use. Every 20 minutes, shift your eyes to look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.

Adjust Brightness & Contrast 

You should adjust your screen for brightness and contrast as the light conditions change throughout the day. You can quickly dim the brightness and adjust the contrast to warmer light as it gets dark so your screen doesn’t irritate your eyes.

Keep a Distance from Your Screen

It’s easy to lose your posture, start leaning into your computer screen, or hold your devices closer than needed. Keeping a distance of 25 inches or an arm’s length between your device and your eyes can help reduce strain.

Wear Glasses

If you wear contact lenses, switch to your glasses for long computer days. Contact lenses can cause discomfort and dryness faster when looking at your screen.

Manage Your Digital Eye Strain

Dark mode may look better or make texts easier to read, but it hasn’t been proven to help diminish digital eye strain. If you or your child are experiencing symptoms of digital eye strain, schedule an appointment for an eye exam to assess your eyes thoroughly.

Our team can suggest methods to manage your digital eye strain, including possible computer glasses.

Written by Dr. Heather Cowie

More Articles By Dr. Heather Cowie

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