The dark mode option in apps, laptops, cellphones and other devices has been widely praised by users who feel that it’s easier on the eyes than the standard setting. However, you might be surprised that several studies indicate otherwise — dark mode might actually be doing your eyes more harm than good.
According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), light mode remains the better option if you’re reading or writing on a computer or smartphone for long periods. Your local eye doctor at Clearfinity Eyecare Optometrist shares more information below.
Dark Mode: A Brief History
Light mode is the default on most devices today. However, you might be surprised to learn that the displays of early user terminals and personal computers in the ’60s and ’70s did not have white screens dotted with colored words and images. The digital screens of the past resembled the predominantly black high-contrast themes that are considered an add-on feature today.
In recent years, many popular apps, websites and operating systems have rolled out darker versions of the traditional light themes and layouts in order to meet the needs of light-averse users and to make the devices more accessible to the visually impaired.
Apple’s System 7 OS was one of the first to offer a darker alternative to the black-on-white theme. This was launched in 1991, and it featured an optional accessibility program called CloseView, which enables users to switch between the traditional black-on-white theme and the white-on-black one.
Later on, Windows 95 released a High Contrast toggle that was similar to CloseView. Then, in 2001, Windows XP came loaded with multiple high-contrast themes and the option to change the color of the user interface. This allowed for a more natural appearance that’s similar to the few well-designed dark modes today.
Over the past couple of decades, many similar features have been introduced to a variety of devices and platforms. Most of these dark modes can be categorized into inverted color schemes (which simply invert the color scheme of the one currently on-screen) or designed dark modes (which feature a white-on-black theme that does not transform images and videos into awkward colors).
The Appeal of Dark Mode to Users
Dark mode offers a refreshing break from the blinding white that you see on most websites. People with light sensitivity or visual impairments often find it easier to look at a screen in dark mode. Gamers, who typically play late into the night, are mostly dark mode aficionados as well since they often have another website up (like Reddit) while playing. Without dark mode, the bright white background of the site could be distracting or uncomfortable to the eyes.
But apart from meeting the needs of night owls, gamers and visually impaired users, dark mode is also sometimes applied to save batteries. According to Android, the maximum white uses up six times the battery power as the maximum black. This is a practical feature that allows devices to last longer on battery power.
Reasons Why Dark Mode Could Actually Be Bad for Your Eyes
Although dark mode is popular, your optometrist might advise against exposing your eyes to white-on-black screens for long periods of time. Here are three reasons why you should reconsider spending too much time in dark mode:
Color Contrast – Dark mode typically features white text on a black background, which is excessive contrast. When the contrast is too high, this can cause strain on the eyes. If you’re really keen on dark mode, experts suggest applying a theme that uses white text on a dark blue background, not pitch black. This results in a contrast that’s easier on the eyes than white on black.
Light Scattering – This occurs when the white text on a black background casts light and creates a halo effect, which can make reading an unpleasant or uncomfortable experience for users. Black text on white background does not usually produce this effect, so it’s actually easier and healthier for the eyes.
Focusing – This depends on the amount of light that your eyes are exposed to. For example, when there’s a good amount of light that enters your eyes (such as in light mode), your pupils contract. This reduces the light that actually comes in and creates a wide depth of field, enabling you to have clearer focus on the objects you are looking at. But when your eyes are exposed to a small amount of light (such as in dark mode), your pupils dilate and produce a shallow plane of focus. This forces your eyes to work harder to focus, and, after a while, it can put a lot of strain in your eyes. This is how digital eye strain commonly occurs.
Of course, when you start experiencing eye strain, make sure to rest by taking your eyes off the screen for a few minutes. If the pain or discomfort persists, visit your optometrist as soon as possible. They may perform an eye exam and ask you questions to learn about your computer use or habits. This will enable them to provide a tailored approach to treating your symptoms.
How to Prevent Eye Strain
Generally, it’s okay to use the dark mode, but not for long periods. Dark mode is most deal for brief browsing interludes or computer activities that don’t require much reading. If you will be reading long articles or e-books on your phone or computer, it’s better to use the traditional black-on-white theme. If the light from the screen bothers you, remember that you don’t have to turn the light of your device to the maximum. You can adjust the brightness to a more comfortable level.
To prevent eye strain, you can wear eyeglasses with a protective film. This will guard your eyes against the light that comes from digital screens. You can also practice the 20-20-20 technique: look at an object that’s 20 feet away from you for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. This gives your eyes regular breaks, helping to prevent digital eye strain. You should also consult with your eye doctor so that you can get personalized recommendations based on the health of your eyes.
Contact Clearfinity Eyecare Optometrist Today
Clearfinity Eyecare Optometrist is a reputable eye care specialist that provides eye exams, eyeglasses, contact lenses and complete eye care services. We ensure that every patient receives personalized care and all their needs are adequately met. Call us at (703) 293-5222 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment. We serve clients in Newington and Lorton, VA.