How Nightstand Mode Works on the Apple Watch

Did you know your Apple Watch can double as a bedside clock while it’s charging? It’s called Nightstand mode, but there are some caveats you should know about before you get rid of your traditional alarm clock.

What Is Nightstand Mode?

When you put your Apple Watch on its charger and place it upright, it will automatically go into Nightstand Mode, which switches the screen from your usual watch face to a big digital clock that takes up the whole screen. This is to mimic what a traditional bedside clock would normally do.

Then, when you take your watch off of the charger, it will automatically exit Nightstand Mode and go back to displaying your normal watch face.

Most of the time, your watch can sit upright when it’s connected to the charger, but if the specific wristband you have doesn’t allow you to do this, you can buy a cheap Apple Watch charging dock that sit your watch upright for Nightstand Mode instead.

How to Enable and Disable Nightstand Mode

Nightstand Mode is already enabled by default when you first set up your Apple Watch, but if you ever want to disable it (or enable it if it was disabled by chance), you can do so in the Apple Watch app on your iPhone.

Start by opening up the app, scrolling down, and tapping on “General”.

Scroll down on the next screen and locate “Nightstand Mode”. Tap on the toggle switch off to the right to enable or disable it.

What Nightstand Mode Doesn’t Do

Nightstand Mode seems pretty handy, but there are a lot of things that it doesn’t do, which can make it less useful than you might expect.

First off, when you have your Apple Watch in Nightstand Mode, the screen doesn’t stay on. Instead, it shuts off after a few seconds. To turn the screen back on, you just have to give the watch a light tap anywhere and it will illuminate for another few seconds.

This can be really inconvenient when you wake up in the middle of the night wondering what time it is, only to realize you have to reach over to turn the watch’s screen on while you’re half asleep.

You also can’t adjust the brightness of the screen whenever it does kick on. It’s fairly dim, but I wouldn’t be surprised if many others thought that it was a little too bright when it’s pitch black in the room and the screen sort of blinds you as it turns on.

Hopefully these subtle features get added in a future update update, but for the time being, it puts a huge damper on Nightstand Mode and prevents your Apple Watch from becoming a true alarm clock replacement.

Craig Lloyd writes about smarthome for How-To Geek, and is an aspiring handyman who loves tinkering with anything and everything around the house. He's also a mediocre gamer, aviation geek, baseball fan, motorcyclist, and proud introvert.