4 ways to be a considerate late-night iPhone or iPad user

Keep your iPhone or iPad dark and quiet by switching to dark mode in Safari, inversing screen colors, tweaking your Do Not Disturb settings, and more.

4 ways to be a considerate late-night iPhone or iPad user
Credit: Ben Patterson

There’s nothing like a late-night chapter of a Kindle book to put me right to sleep, but the glow of my iPhone’s screen tends to keep my wife awake—and if a jarring iOS notification sounds or buzzes, well, that certainly doesn’t help her slumber.

While the new Night Shift mode (which finally works even when iOS’s low-power mode is enabled) will supposedly help you sleep by filtering out the brightest colors from your iPhone or iPad’s display, it won’t do much good for a bedfellow who sleeps best in total darkness and silence.

I’ve collected a quartet of tips that’ll take Night Shift one step further by dimming your iPhone or iPad screen as much as possible while you read, as well as silencing any intrusive alerts or buzzes.

Browse the web in dark mode

Even with Night Shift mode turned on, your iPhone or iPad display will still throw off an impressive amount of light during a late-night web browsing sessions. If you want to wade into an epic feature story on the Safari web browser without keeping your significant other awake, here’s a handy trick.

Browse the web in dark mode Ben Patterson

Safari’s Reader mode boasts a way to switch to white text on a black background, which dramatically dims the display

First, activate Safari’s Reader mode by tapping the three-line button at the left end of the address bar. Reader mode strips out extraneous page elements while keeping the text intact, although it won’t do much to dim the screen...well, not yet, anyway.

Next step: With Reader mode activated, tap the font button in the right side of the address bar (it’s the “aA” one), then tap the dark, right-most circle in the pop-up window.

Presto! Your reader-friendly webpage will have switched to white text on a dark background, slashing the brightness of your screen in the process.

Turn on dark mode in iBooks, Kindle, and other dedicated reader apps

If curling up with a good digital book is your favorite way to doze off, there’s an easy way to do it without lighting up the bedroom late at night.

Turn on dark mode in iBooks, Kindle and other dedicated reader apps Ben Patterson

iBooks for iOS can keep the screen dim automatically if you enable the Auto-Night Theme setting.

If you’re cracking open an iBook, tap the font button in the top corner of the screen (the same “aA” button as in Safari) and tap the darkest circle for white text on a black background. There’s also an Auto-Night Theme setting that automatically turns on night mode if iPhone or iPad’s ambient light sensor thinks it’s dark enough.

Got the Kindle app? Tap the “aA” button in the bottom corner of the screen and tap the big Black button for white text on a dark background. The Kindle app also has its own screen brightness slider that works independently of the main iOS brightness setting, perfect for making the screen ultra-dim. (I typically drift off about five minutes after starting to read a Kindle book at the lowest brightness setting and with the black background on.)

Many other popular iOS readers have their own night modes, too. For example, you can tap the “aA” button in Instapaper to change the background setting; same thing in Reeder (the excellent iOS RSS reader). For Pocker, tap the three-dot button in the bottom corner of the screen, then tap Display Settings.

Reverse the colors on the screen

Unfortunately, not all reading apps have a “night mode,” including some of the most popular newspaper and magazine apps (and yes, I’m looking at you, New York Times). You’ll also strike out if you’re looking for a night-mode setting in the Mail app, meaning you’ll be lighting up the whole room while checking your inbox.

Reverse the colors on the screen Ben Patterson

iOS’s Invert Colors setting results in groovy-looking images, but it also makes for a handy, de facto dark mode.

There is a way, however, to be a considerate late-night iPhone or iPad reader even when there’s no dark-mode feature in sight.

Tap Settings > General > Accessibility, then toggle on the Invert Colors setting. When you do, all the colors on your iOS display will reverse themselves, resulting in some very groovy visuals on the home screen and in your photos albums.

Neat, but beyond its novelty value, the Invert Colors setting also acts as a de facto night mode. Jump to your Mail inbox, the New York Times app, or any webpage in Safari that doesn’t support Reader mode and you’ll see what I mean; yes, we’re talking white letters on a dark background.

Bonus tip: You don’t need to jump through three iOS settings screens to get to the Invert Colors toggle. Instead, just set up a shortcut. Tap Settings > General > Accessibility, scroll all the way down and tap Accessibility Shortcut, then select Invert Colors. Now, just triple-tap the Home key to turn the Invert Colors setting on and off.

Turn off silence-shattering notifications

It’s late at night, you’re reading your iPhone with a dark-mode setting on and your partner is dozing contentedly beside you.

Turn off silence-shattering notifications Ben Patterson

Do Not Distrub mode won’t silence notifications on an unlocked iPhone or iPad unless you set the Silence setting to Always.

All is well with the world—and then, without warning, your iPhone buzzes to remind you of a friend’s birthday tomorrow, and now your bedmate is stirring. But wait, you have Do Not Disturb mode enabled. How did that happen? 

Even when it’s active, iOS’s Do Not Disturb mode will still allow notifications and alerts to fire when your iPhone or iPad is unlocked. That’s handy if you’re expecting an important call or iMessage, but not when you’re trying to read without making a peep.

Try this: Tap Settings > Do Not Disturb, scroll down to the Silence setting, then check the Always option.

Once that’s done, Do Not Disturb mode will muzzle all iOS notifications even when your iPhone or iPad is unlocked.

Note: Under certain circumstances, Do Not Disturb mode may let a call through even with Always selected under the Silence setting. Tap Settings > Do Not Disturb, then check your Allow Calls From and Repeated Calls settings. If you don’t want any calls getting through, change the Allow Calls From setting to No One and turn off Repeated Calls.

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