How to use Night Shift for Mac and reduce exposure to sleep-disrupting blue light

Night Shift for Mac requires macOS Sierra 10.12.4 and a 2012 Mac computer or newer.Night Shift for Mac is a great feature for all users, not just for people with vision problems.

With Night Shift for Mac, your computer changes the color temperature of the display towards the yellowish part of the color spectrum. Filtering blue wavelengths from the display effectively cuts down bright blue light that’s known to disrupt your sleep.

The feature is similar to the functionality that the app f.lux provides.

About Night Shift for Mac

Apple has created Night Shift to help users get a good night’s sleep.

What this handy feature does is automatically shift onscreen colors to the warmer end of the color spectrum after dark. In the morning, your screen returns to normal settings.

Apple, along with other computer makers, claims studies have proven that exposure to bright blue light emanating from computer screens can affect our circadian rhythms.

Our body is this perfectly organized machine based on 24-hour cyclical rhythms which are driven by a circadian clock running in the background of our brain.

But first, watch our hands-on video walkthrough of Night Shift for Mac.

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That internal clock in our brain is responsible for, among other things, cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals. Because bright blue light has shown to affect the circadian clock, it can easily mess up our sleep/wake cycle and make it harder to fall asleep.

If you use your Mac in the evening, do yourself a favor and set up Night Shift.

Night Shift for Mac prerequisites

As explained earlier in the tutorial, the Night Shift feature uses your Mac’s clock and geolocation to determine when it’s sunset in your location. If you disable Location Services in System Preferences → Security & Privacy → Privacy, Night Shift won’t work properly.

Night Shift for Mac: enable Location Services in System Preferences

Be sure to enable Location Services…

Also, be sure macOS is permitted to use time zone information to derive your location from. Go to System Preferences → Security & Privacy → Privacy → , then click Details next to System Services at the bottom of the righthand list and tick the box labeled Time Zone

Night Shift for Mac: enable Setting Time Zone in System Preferences…and the Setting Time Zone option or Night Shift won’t work properly.

Night Shift can be controlled manually but you’ll need to remember to turn it off.

If you use Night Shift in manual mode, your computer won’t use its clock and geolocation information to determine when the sun sets down in your current location.

Night Shift is also supported on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

Night Shift for Mac system requirements

According to Apple itself, Night Shift for Mac requires a relatively new Mac computer manufactured in 2012 or later and the Sierra 10.12.4 software update or newer.

The feature is officially supported on the following Mac notebook and desktop models using either built-in or external displays:

  • MacBook models from early 2015 or later
  • MacBook Air models from mid 2012 or later
  • MacBook Pro models from mid 2012 or later
  • Mac mini models from late 2012 or later
  • iMac models from late 2012 or later
  • Mac Pro models from late 2013 or later
  • Apple LED Cinema Display
  • Apple Thunderbolt Display
  • LG UltraFine 5K Display
  • LG UltraFine 4K Display

Night Shift relies on Apple’s Metal graphics framework.

To verify that your computer is compatible with Night Shift, confirm that it supports Metal.

1) Hold down the Option (⌥) key on the keyboard while clicking the Apple menu in the Finder, then select the option labeled System Information.

2) Click Graphics/Displays in the lefthand section of the System Information window.

If your Mac has discreet or integrated graphics that’s compatible with the Metal framework, you should see Metal: Supported in the righthand section.

macOS System Information Metal is supported

If your Mac supports Metal, it should support Night Shift as well.

How to set up Night Shift for Mac

By default, Night Shift is enabled automatically at sunset and turned off at sunrise, but you can also toggle it on and off on a custom schedule or at will, plus adjust its intensity.

1) Open System Preferences from the Apple menu or the Dock.

2) Click the tab labeled Displays.

3) Click the Night Shift tab.

4) Adjust your Night Shift features:

  • Schedule: Click the Schedule pop-up menu, then choose an option:
    • Off: Tell macOS you don’t want Night Shift to come on automatically.
    • Custom: Create a schedule for when Night Shift should turn on and off.
    • Sunset to Sunrise: Have Night Shift turn on from sunset to sunrise.
  • Manual: Control Night Shift manually.
  • Color Temperature: Drag the slider to change the color temperature Night Shift uses.

5) Close out the System Preferences window.

Warmer color temperatures show more yellow and less blue

You can set a custom schedule for Night Shift and still turn it on or off manually.

Controlling Night Shift for Mac manually

This is helpful if you prefer scheduled Night Shift mode but at the same time want to be able to freely turn the feature on or off at will, for example, when in a darkened room.

You can turn Night Shift on or off manually by ticking or unticking the Manual checkbox.

Tick the Manual checkbox to keep Night Shift on until 7am the next day. If you’re using a schedule, Night Shift automatically turns off at the scheduled time.

If Night Shift is on, deselecting the checkbox turns it off. If you’re using a scheduled Night Shift mode, the feature turns on again at your designated time.

Accessing Night Shift for Mac from Notification Center

Night Shift can also be toggled on or off manually from your Notification Center.

1) Swipe left with two fingers from the right edge of the trackpad to invoke Notification Center or click the Notification Center icon in your Mac’s menu bar.

2) Swipe down to reveal the hidden Night Shift button at the very top.

3) Toggle the feature between on and off states by clicking the Night Shift button.

TIP: You can also ask Siri to turn Nigh Shift on or off for you.

The Schedule feature is what most people will be using.

About scheduled Night Shift

Similar to a scheduled Do Not Disturb mode, this permits you to create a custom Night Shift schedule or have your Mac turn on the feature automatically from sunset to sunrise.

As mentioned earlier, choosing the Sunset to Sunrise option prompts your Mac to use your location in order to determine when it’s nighttime for you. To use this option, you must turn on the Location Services and Setting Time Zone features as outlined earlier in this tutorial.

Otherwise, the Sunset to Sunrise scheduling option won’t work properly.

Your two cents?

As there have been no large studies to assess if software like Night Shift really works, some folks tend to avoid such features. Others may dislike the resultant orange tint of screens.

Me, I have no issue with any of that.

I actually find yellowish tint easier on the eyes, especially when reading lots of text at night or in low-light conditions. The only time I temporarily disable Night Shift is when I need precise color reproduction in situations like working on some designs or editing my photos at night.

Both anecdotal evidence and my own personal experience strongly suggest that, yes, exposure to bright blue light in the evening can in fact make it harder to fall asleep.

TUTORIAL: How to use Night Shift on iPhone and iPad

And how about you? Do you use Night Shift on your Mac? If so, has your sleep improved even the slightest bit as a result of using it, do you think?

Let us know in the comments!

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