How to use Night Shift on Mac to adjust the color temperature of the display and reduce blue light emission

Prolonged screen time can have negative effects on our health, particularly due to blue light emission. To address this, Apple introduced a feature called Night Shift, which adjusts the color temperature of your Mac display to reduce blue light emission, and allow for better sleep.

In this guide, we will learn how to use Night Shift on Mac as well as its benefits for your overall health and sleep.

Displays settings on MacBook

About Night Shift for Mac

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. 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.

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 been shown to affect the circadian clock, it can easily mess up our sleep/wake cycle and make it harder to fall asleep.

Apple created Night Shift to help users get a good night’s sleep. When enabled, the feature adjusts the color temperature of your display to reduce the amount of blue light emitted, which can interfere with sleep patterns and cause eye strain. Night Shift uses the time and location of your Mac to automatically shift the color temperature from cooler to warmer as the sun sets, mimicking natural changes in outdoor light.

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

Related: How to use Night Shift on iPhone and iPad

Night Shift for Mac system requirements

Night Shift relies on Apple’s Metal graphics framework and works on Mac desktops and MacBooks manufactured in 2012 and later running macOS Sierra 10.12.4 or later.

Note that it works even on Mac mini, Mac Studio, and Mac Pro connected to Apple Studio Display or other third-party monitors.

Set up and enable Night Shift from System Settings

1) Click the Apple icon  and select System Settings.

2) Choose Displays from the left sidebar.

3) Next, click Night Shift. From here:

  • Turn on until tomorrow: Turn it on to use Night Shift till tomorrow morning.
  • Schedule: Click its drop-down menu and select Sunrise to Sunset. Alternatively, you can also select Custom and define your preferred times.
  • Color temperature: This slider lets you adjust the intensity of Night Shift. By default, it’s set in the middle, but you can make it more warm (extra orangish) or less warm.

4) Finally, click Done.

Night Shift in Mac Display Settings

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

Access Night Shift from Control Center or Notification Center

Night Shift can also be toggled on or off manually from your Mac’s Control Center. On macOS Catalina and earlier, you can access it from the Notification Center.

Access the Control Center: Click the Control Center icon from the top right of the menu bar. Next, click the Display arrow and use the Night Shift button.

Night Shift in Mac Control Center

Access Notification Center: 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 to open the Notification Center and access the Night Shift toggle.

Ask Siri

Invoke Siri on your Mac and ask it to Turn on Night Shift or turn it off.

Unable to use scheduled Night Shift?

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 set the correct time zone if not already.

Enable Location Services on Mac: System Settings > Privacy & Security > Location Services and make sure Location Services is turned on. After that, click Details next to System Services and enable the switches for Setting time zone and System customization.

Location settings for System Services on Mac

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. I personally have no issue with any of that.

I actually find the 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.

But 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!