PROVO, Utah (ABC4) – Do you find yourself lying in bed scrolling your phone when you should be sleeping? 

A new study out of Brigham Young University, BYU, conducted a study about the “night shift functions” on your phone and how they affect your sleep. 

The study, “Is Night Shift really helping you sleep better?” by Cami Buckley, asks if it has ever been harder for you to fall asleep after scrolling through your phone before bed. 

According to the study, it is widely believed that the emitted blue light from phones disrupts melatonin secretion and sleep cycles. In an effort to reduce this blue light emission and the strain on the eyes, Apple introduced an iOS feature called Night Shift in 2016. 

The feature adjusts the screen’s colors to warmer hues after sunset. Soon after, Android phones soon followed with a similar option, and now most smartphones have some sort of night mode function that claims to help users sleep better, the study shares. 

According to the study, claims of better sleep due to Night Shift have been theoretical. “However, a new study from BYU published in Sleep Health challenges the premise made by phone manufacturers and found that the Night Shift functionality does not actually improve sleep,” as stated in the BYU study. 

To test the theory, BYU psychology professor Chad Jensen and researchers from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center compared the sleep outcomes of individuals in the following three categories: 

  1. Those who used their phone at night with the Night Shift function turned on
  2. Those who used their phone at night without Night Shift 
  3. Those who did not use a smartphone before bed at all

“In the whole sample, there were no differences across the three groups,” Jensen shares. “Night Shift is not superior to using your phone without Night Shift or even using no phone at all.”

The study included 167 emerging adults ages 18 to 24 who use their cell phones every day.

The individuals were asked to spend at least eight hours in bed and wore an accelerometer on their wrist to record their sleep activity. Those who were assigned to use their smartphone also had an app installed to monitor their phone use.

The study measured sleep outcomes of total sleep duration, sleep quality, wake after sleep onset and the amount of time it took to fall asleep.

“After not finding significant differences in sleep outcomes across the three categories, the researchers split the sample into two separate groups: one which averaged about seven hours of sleep and another that slept less than six hours each night,” as stated in the study.

The study concluded that those in the group that got seven hours of sleep, which is closer to the recommended eight to nine hours a night, saw a slight difference in sleep quality based on phone usage. Those who did not use their phone before bed experienced superior sleep quality relative to both those with normal phone use and those using Night Shift, the study shares.

Within the group of people who slept six hours, which had the least amount of sleep, there were no differences in sleep outcomes based on whether the participants used Night Shift or not, the study shares.

“This suggests that when you are super tired you fall asleep no matter what you did just before bed,” explained Jensen. “The sleep pressure is so high there is really no effect of what happens before bedtime.”

The results of the study suggest that it is not blue light alone that creates difficulty falling or staying asleep. 

“While there is a lot of evidence suggesting that blue light increases alertness and makes it more difficult to fall asleep, it is important to think about what portion of that stimulation is light emission versus other cognitive and psychological stimulations,” Jensen shares in the study. 

“Night Shift may make your screen darker, but Night Shift alone will not help you fall or stay asleep,” the study concludes.