Dark Mode vs. Night Light: Which Should You Use in Windows 10?

Gavin Phillips 07-06-2017

The Windows 10 Creators Update introduced a significant number of shiny new features Do This After Installing the Windows 10 Creators Update The Windows 10 Creators Update will soon roll out to a computer near you. Once you've upgraded, go through these settings to configure new options and restore your privacy preferences. Read More . One new feature is the Night Light, an option to reduce the amount of blue light emitted by your screen — this in an attempt to help you drift off to sleep after an exciting evening browsing MakeUseOf.


Windows 10 also has an integrated Dark Mode. This transforms Windows 10 into a dark, sleek environment, but isn’t technically designed to help you sleep.

Should you use Night Light over Dark Mode or vice versa? Or should you be using both modes simultaneously for the best effect? Let’s take a look.

Your Sleep Is Being Disturbed

Screens emit bright white light. Part of that bright white light is actually blue. The blue light spectrum is actually closer to what the sun produces in the morning (by the evening, it has changed to a more gentle red hue).

Scientists reason that the prevalence of blue light in our homes throughout the evening is disturbing our natural circadian rhythm. That is, staring at Reddit in bed for hours before trying to sleep might be disrupting your natural melatonin production, in turn keeping you tossing and turning at night.

Research shows that reducing the amount of blue light during the evening can have a positive effect on sleep patterns 12 Bad Habits That Are Making You Tired at the Office Office fatigue is a common feeling these days. If you feel tired while in your office, look into these causes and their solutions. Read More , and you can start doing this with any of a number of free blue light filtering apps What Is a Blue Light Filter and Which App Works Best? These blue light filter apps for Android will help you get a better night's sleep, even when using your device at night. Read More .


What Is Night Light?

Night Light is the Microsoft answer to a popular screen light filtering tool called F.lux Can F.lux and Night Shift Really Improve Your Sleep Habits? Excessive use of computers, tablets, and smartphones can lead to deteriorated sleep quality -- but do apps like F.lux and Night Shift really counteract those effects? The science is pretty clear on this. Read More . Windows 10 users now have an integrated option.

To access Night Light, ensure you’re running the Windows 10 Creators Update (Version 1703, builds later than Then browse to Settings > System > Display.

windows 10 night light

Select Night light settings. You can now select from several options including the Night Light timer, the color temperature, and an ongoing schedule.


windows 10 night light schedule

I would suggest playing with the Color temperature at night slider. Select Turn on now. Now, move the slider up and down the spectrum, and watch as it alters the red hue on your screen.

windows 10 night light mode comparison

And that’s it. Basic, but it seems to get the job done.


How Does Dark Mode Differ?

Windows 10 has an integrated Dark Mode for its apps. This changes the visual appearance of all Windows apps to black. And it is very black. There is also an option to use a High Contrast Black mode Enable the Hidden "High Contrast" Dark Theme in Windows 10 Looking for a dark theme in Windows 10 that's easy to set up? Here's one that you can install in just a minute and tweak to your liking. Read More . This introduces bright colors alongside the black theme, instead of your standard theme colors.

Unfortunately, Dark Mode doesn’t apply to all windows. Your Windows apps, such as the Settings panel, will be completely black. But when you open a new Windows Explorer window, it’ll be the same as usual. In this, Dark Mode doesn’t entirely deliver on the promise of a dark Windows 10.

windows 10 dark mode bright window

If you want a Windows 10-wide dark theme, check out options 3-5 in our list of dark themes The Best Windows 10 Dark Themes for Your Eyes Windows 10 has its own dark theme now. But try these other Windows dark theme customizations too and prevent eye strain. Read More . Penumbra 10 is my favorite.


Do I Need Both?

I’m not so sure. I have long used the Twilight app on my OnePlus One smartphone, exactly for the reasons laid about in the first section. It does have an effect — at least, it does on me. F.lux users are positive about their experiences, too. The use of Night Light and Dark Mode are subjective, so I’ll lay out when it is best to use either one.

When to Use Night Light

Night Light comes with an integrated scheduler and a timer, so you can set it up to turn on at the specified time you start winding down. Users of other similar tools suggest turning Night Light around sunset, as your body naturally begins to produce melatonin around this time. F.lux, for example, automatically adapts its cycle to your time zone.

Night Light is handy if you have been staring at a Word document or Excel spreadsheet all day, browsing the web, researching online, and so on.

When to Use Dark Mode

There are two major differences between Dark Mode and Night Light.

First, Dark Mode is a theme that alters the appearance of Windows 10. You can easily navigate the operating system throughout the day with Dark Mode enabled. It might even reduce your eye strain How to Change the Look and Feel of Your Windows 10 Desktop Want to know how to make Windows 10 look better? Use these simple customizations to make Windows 10 your own. Read More .

Second, Dark Mode isn’t designed to help you sleep in the same way as Night Light. It might reduce your eye strain, and Windows 10 will be a darker environment Prefer Dark Themes? 7 Tips to Make Your Windows Desktop Even Darker Dark colors can help with eyestrain and they're stylish too. A dark Windows theme is a good start. We show you how to make your Windows desktop as dark as possible. Read More , but because it isn’t synchronized throughout the entire operating system, you’ll still run into (basic) situations where you’re exposed to bright white light.

The Answer

I’m slightly biased because I find the official Windows 10 Dark Mode garish. It doesn’t make me want to use it. Night Light is much better if you’re struggling to sleep due to the alterations in light frequency, rather than altering the aesthetic of the entire operating system.

Conversely, Dark Mode doesn’t suffer from some of the “blips” that affect Night Light (and other similar products). For instance, Night Light can affect how certain games perform, while some simply reset it. Alt + Tab can cause Night Light to flicker, letting the bright white light through again.

Overall, Night Light wins for me. There are several Windows 10 dark themes that make the operating system look fantastic, without switching every window to #000000.

But don’t let me sway you. Give both a try throughout the day and into the evening, and see what helps you sleep. It could be that you need to try it for a week or so for an accurate reading. Try pairing your Night Light experiment with a sleep tracking app The Best Sleep Apps for Tracking and Improving Sleep Learn how to improve your sleep quality using sleep tracker apps, blue light filter apps, and sleep meditation apps. Read More , then you can check over your sleep data at the end.

Good luck, and sweet dreams!

Image Credits: Dewayne Flowers/Shutterstock

Explore more about: Sleep Health, Windows 10, Windows Customization.

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