Earlier this year, Apple gave iPhone and iPad users a big treat in the form of Night Shift, a new software feature which should, by reducing the blue light emitted by the device’s display, encourage better sleep.
It appears to have scientific backing, but there’s another question that has been comparatively overlooked: could Night Shift also mean better news for eye health?
How you can play around with Night Shift
Night Shift is available on all Apple devices running at least iOS 9.3 and released in 2013 or later; so, that’s all iPhones from the iPhone 5S onward, all iPads from the iPad Air and iPad Mini 2 onwards, and the sixth generation iPod Touch.
On a compatible device, you can find the Night Shift options by heading into Settings, then Display & Brightness and then Night Shift. This is the resulting screen:
You can fiddle around with these settings as you see fit. As a general rule, however, the warmer display you are exposed to in the late hours, the better you should be able to sleep that night – at least in theory. Still, we’re more interested in how Night Shift could affect your eyes specifically…
Feeling blue? Don’t look at blue
There is some anecdotal evidence that Night Shift could indeed be relatively eye-friendly; Tech Insider’s Dave Smith reports, from his personal experience, that “using Night Shift is definitely easier on the eyes”. However, reactions from eye health experts have been more mixed…
Andy Morgenstern, who chairs the American Optometric Association’s recently-formed technology committee, has cited blue light as a source of eye strain. He has further explained to The Verge that, while blue light doesn’t strictly harm the eyes like UV light, which can lead to cataracts, using Night Shift to lower it could result in fewer instances of headaches, blurry vision and dry eyes.
Nonetheless, Morgenstern has warned that the optimal level of blue light for relieving eye strain is unclear. Therefore, using Night Shift to lower the concentration of this light only incrementally could barely address eye strain at all. “Imagine adjusting your medicine to compensate for flavour,” he says.
An eye for an iPhone
Also, the excitement around Night Shift could distract from other, arguably bigger risks to eye health arising from avid use of smartphones and tablets. Both Morgenstern and Geoffrey Goodfellow, an associate professor at Illinois College of Optometry, have pointed out that a major cause of eye strain is spending too much time looking at objects at overly close range.
Goodfellow explains that our eyes have a default focus of about 20 feet ahead, and “weren’t meant to stare at something a foot and a half away for hours and hours and hours”. The increasingly common practice of constantly looking up close at things has, Morgenstern says, led to nearsightedness rates going “through the roof” during the last two decades.
Night Shift: worth giving a try?
Still, for all we’ve just said, there doesn’t appear likely to be any harm in using Night Shift regularly, should you have a device that can draw upon it. While using it hasn’t been strictly proven to prevent eye strain or such associated side-effects as headaches, it could still be worth a shot – particularly if you’re having trouble sleeping, the main issue that Night Shift is intended to tackle. And there’s certainly evidence that a lack of sleep can adversely affect your eye health, too.
Of course, you can also keep eye strain at bay by, whenever you are preparing to look at your iPhone or iPad’s screen for an extended length of time, putting on glasses with lenses built to your most recent prescription. You can obtain a copy of your prescription from your optician before making an order for stylish spectacles from our generous stock here at SelectSpecs.