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  • Writer's pictureAtanas Bogoev M.D. and Maria Cholakova

The Pros and Cons of Using Dark Mode for Your Eyes

Updated: Jan 20

Dark mode is a display setting on many computers and smartphones. It changes the default black text on a white background to white text on a black background. Some people prefer to use dark mode because they think it reduces eye strain, especially at night or in low-light environments. But is there any scientific evidence to support this claim? And what are the advantages and disadvantages of using dark mode for your eyes?

Here we will explore what dark mode is, how it affects your eyes, and what the research says about its benefits and drawbacks. We will also provide some tips on how to use dark mode effectively and safely.

Table of Content:

What is Dark Mode?

Dark mode, also known as night shift, negative contrast polarity, or dark theme, is a display option that inverts the colors of your screen. Instead of showing dark text on a light background (light mode), it shows light text on a black background. Some apps and websites also use other dark colors instead of black shades, such as gray, navy, burgundy, or purple.

The dark mode is designed to reduce the amount of blue light that comes from your screen. Blue light is a type of visible light that has a short wavelength and high energy. There are a variety of sources that emit it, including the sun, but also artificial sources such as LED lights and digital devices.

Blue light has some positive effects on our health and mood. It can help us stay alert, boost our memory and cognitive performance, and regulate our circadian rhythm, which is our natural sleep-wake cycle. However, too much exposure to blue light can also have slight negative effects on your eyes, especially at night or in dim settings.

Blue light from screens may lead to eye strain and eye fatigue. But the good news is, there is no serious long-term threat to your eyesight and your visual acuity from digital displays and monitors. The dark mode is just an effective way to provide more eye comfort when spending time on your electronic device or watching TV.

How Does Dark Mode Affect Your Eyes?

Understanding the Computer Vision Syndrome

As mentioned above, one of the main reasons people use dark mode is to reduce eye strain. Eye strain is a common condition that occurs when your eyes get tired or irritated from looking at something for too long or too intensely.

Some of the symptoms of eye strain include:

  • Dry or watery eyes

  • Blurry or double vision

  • Headache

  • Neck or shoulder pain

  • Sensitivity to light

  • Difficulty focusing

In the case of eye strain from staring at digital screens, we are talking about computer vision syndrome (CVS).

The causes of CVS are factors like poor lighting, glare, screen brightness, contrast, font size, color, and distance. Your individual eye health may also influence the severity of the eye strain. That is especially true for nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, presbyopia (age-related loss of near vision), or dry eye syndrome.

Dark Mode as an Eye Strain Remedy

Dark mode can potentially help with some of these factors. By reducing screen brightness and glare, it becomes easier for your eyes to adjust to the surrounding light. Also prevents them from getting too dry. This display settings mode is a simple but effective way to reduce eye strain and improve your digital well-being.

Try it out and see if it makes a difference for you, personally.

To enable dark mode on your device, you can go to the settings menu and look for the display or appearance options. Some apps and websites also have their own dark mode settings that you can toggle on or off. You can also use extensions or plugins that automatically apply dark mode to any website you visit.

Here is how to activate Dark Mode on your phone:

Activating Dark Mode on iOS (left) and Android (right)
Activating Dark Mode on iOS (left) and Android (right)
Please note that some people may find dark mode harder to read or less aesthetically pleasing. Dark mode may also cause some issues with color accuracy or the visibility of elements. Therefore, you should experiment with different modes and find the one that best suits your preferences and needs.

The Dark Side of the Dark Mode

Dark mode is not a perfect solution for everyone. Even though it seems like a great solution for most people, it can also result in minor discomfort and drawbacks for your eyes.

Visual acuity

Visual acuity is the ability to see fine details clearly. When you look at dark text on a light background, your pupils constrict (become smaller) to provide sharper vision. When you look at light text on a dark background, your pupils dilate (become larger) to let more light in. This can make it harder to focus on the text and for some people cause a slightly blurry vision. This is especially true for people with farsightedness or presbyopia.

Eye fatigue

Eye fatigue is the feeling of tiredness or discomfort in your eyes after prolonged or intense use. When you use dark mode on your screen, your eyes have to work harder to adapt to the low brightness of the screen. For some people, this can cause more fatigue than using light mode. We suggest that you try out both and see what works best for you.


Some people may find it harder to read white text on a dark background. Especially if they have a cloudy lens (cataract), macular degeneration, or other vision problems. This is because the pupils dilate in low light conditions, making it more difficult to focus on the text. Dark mode may also reduce the contrast between text and background, which can affect readability for some users.

is dark mode better for eyes

What Does Research Say About Dark Mode?

Does a dark mode really work? Here is what some studies and publications have found:

A 2019 research examined the effect of Apple's night shift feature, which adjusts the color temperature of the screen to reduce blue light. The study found no significant difference in melatonin production (a hormone that regulates sleep) between people who used the night shift and those who did not. The authors assert that the night shift alone is not enough to restore circadian rhythm. And that reducing screen brightness may be more beneficial.

In a 2020 article by Nielsen Norman Group, they claim that visual performance tends to be better with light mode for people with normal or corrected-to-normal vision, because it provides more contrast and reduces spherical aberrations. On the other hand, some people with low vision or cataract may perform better with dark mode, because it reduces glare and increases visibility.


The benefits of dark mode may depend on personal preference and environmental factors.

Some people may find it more comfortable and relaxing, while others may experience more eye strain and headaches. The best way to find out if it works for you is to try it and see how your eyes feel after extensive screen use.

For more information about eye health and eye care, read our ophthalmology blog.

All medical facts in this material are checked by Atanas Bogoev M.D.

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