Apple’s iOS 9.3: How It May Help You Get Better Sleep
Apple recently released the preview of iOS 9.3, the latest version of its operating system for the iPhone and iPad. With the new release, it’s introducing a feature called Night Shift, which will make using your late-night iPhone or iPad usage easier on your eyes, plus less likely to keep you awake with that glowing blue light.
Night Shift uses the clock and geolocation of your iOS device to determine when the sun sets in your location. Then, it automatically shifts the colors in the display toward the warmer end of the spectrum, stopping the device from exposing you to cool, blue light. In the morning, it returns the display to its default settings.
According to Apple Insider, you’ll be able to turn on Night Shift once you upgrade to iOS 9.3 by navigating to the Display & Brightness settings menu and looking for “Blue Light Reduction.” Night Shift will be off, by default, but when you turn it on, you can dynamically preview cool and warm tones via a slider control. The exhibited setting will only be applied when Blue Light Reduction is toggled on. Apple Insider notes that the slider’s midpoint isn’t actually the factory iOS setting. Sliding all the way to the “Cooler” end of the spectrum brings you to the display’s normal operating color temperature, and the slider midpoint falls halfway between that setting and the extreme “Warmer” setting opposite it.
For users who are familiar with the Kelvin-based color temperature index, Apple Insider reports that Night Shift’s warmest settings appears to border on a CCT of 2,700K, a level normally associated with warm white LEDs — or a “deep yellow-orange or ochre sky at sunrise or sunset.” You won’t be able to make that many customizations with Night Shift, at least in iOS 9.3. You will, however, be able to schedule when your device makes color changes from sunset to sunrise, or create a customized schedule.
Night Shift’s functionality probably sounds familiar because it serves the same purpose as f.lux, an app that enables your device’s display to “adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day,” all while avoiding the “eerie blue glow” that you’re probably familiar with if you find yourself texting or scrolling through Facebook late at night. The developers behind the app have tried repeatedly to get it into the iOS App Store, but Apple shut the app down for using private APIs. As the app’s website explains, “To make f.lux work on iOS, we’ve had to go outside the bounds of what apps are normally allowed to do. Currently, iOS does not allow developers to access the Private APIs we need to make f.lux work on iOS.”
As The Cheat Sheet reported recently, Apple has seemingly copied numerous iOS features from other tech companies, both large and small, so it should surprise no one that Apple is paying attention to the ways that users want to customize their devices, and slowly adding support for the capability right in the operating system. After f.lux was banned from the App Store, many speculated that Apple would built support for the functionality into iOS.
The blue light emitted by our favorite electronics has been repeatedly blamed for disrupting our circadian rhythms and triggering insomnia, particularly among users who read on those devices late in the evening or right before going to bed. (Less-conclusive evidence has also linked blue light exposure with age-related macular degeneration.) Research published last year by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that evening exposure to blue light suppresses the production of melatonin, the hormone that promotes sleep, which, in turn, reduces the amount and delays the timing of REM sleep and reduces alertness the next morning.
Night Shift will help in curbing your nighttime exposure to blue light. But you probably can’t expect it to solve all your problems, because it’s not just the blue light that can keep you awake. Clinical psychologist and sleep therapist Dr. Michael J. Breus told Digital Trends last year that “there’s a second factor that people aren’t really talking about that much, and that is the level of engagement in whatever the device is.” He explained, “If you’re playing your favorite game, or whatever it is you like to do before you go to bed, you’re mentally engaged in that act.” In other words, if you’re reading a suspenseful novel on your iPad, or if you’re getting competitive in an iOS game, Night Shift is unlikely to help you sleep much better.
Nonetheless, Night Shift may make a little light iPhone or iPad use easier on your eyes, and less likely to disrupt your bedtime routine. If you can’t wait until the final version of iOS 9.3 arrives, you can sign up for Apple’s public beta program using your Apple ID. No major bugs have been reported yet, but you should bear in mind that most beta software will have at least a few minor glitches. Most users will want to think twice about downloading beta software on their primary device.