It is often a good idea to let your Mac sleep after a period of time when you are not using it, but how the latest versions of macOS present sleep options in System Preferences feels counter-intuitive. How to arrange it.
First a note on sleeping Mac laptops
Mac laptops automatically sleep when you close the lid to save battery life. Unfortunately, there is no setting in System Preferences to change this. If you want your MacBook to stay awake when it is closed, you must connect an external monitor or use a third-party tool.
RELATED: How to keep your MacBook awake when it̵7;s closed
For automatic sleep on a timer, visit Energy Saver
If you are looking for a way to configure when your Mac is asleep after a certain period of time, you must visit the “Power Saver Mode” panel in “System Settings”. Click on the “Apple” logo in the upper left corner of the screen and select “System Preferences”.
Click “Energy Saver Mode” in System Preferences.
When you try to configure your Mac to automatically sleep, confusion often occurs because the option is not spelled in the power save settings. Earlier versions of macOS included two sliders in this settings window: one to set when the screen turns off and one to set when the computer goes to sleep. At some point, Apple combined these sliders into one to encourage people to let their computers sleep by default, thereby helping to save energy.
Unfortunately, in newer versions of macOS (like macOS 10.15 Catalina) it is no longer immediately obvious how to get your Mac to sleep after a certain amount of time.
But do not be afraid; we’ll fix it. What you do next step in the Energy Saver settings depends on whether or not you want your computer to sleep after a certain amount of time. Let’s cover the options.
Set your Mac to sleep automatically after a period of time
If you want your Mac to go into sleep mode automatically after a certain period of time, find the slider labeled “Turn off screen after” in the power save settings.
Drag the slider to match the desired sleep time. Also make sure that the “Prevent the computer from sleeping automatically when the screen is off” option is not selected.
Then close System Preferences. After the time period you selected, the screen goes dark and the Mac should go to sleep shortly afterwards – unless something is going on in the process. In this case, see the troubleshooting section below.
To automatically turn off your Mac’s screen without sleeping
If you want your Mac screen to turn off after a certain time but do not want your computer to go to sleep, use the “Turn off screen after” slider.
And here’s the key part: Make sure the “Prevent your computer from sleeping automatically when the screen is off” option is enabled by selecting a check mark next to it. This is what prevents your computer from sleeping when the screen is off.
Once you have selected the “Prevent Sleep” setting, macOS warns you that your computer “may be using more energy” in a pop-up dialog box. Click “OK”.
As a third option, if you never want your screen to turn off – and you never want your Mac to sleep – set the “Shut Down” slider to “Never”.
What to do if your Mac refuses to sleep automatically
If your Mac does not go to sleep after the time you set in the Energy Saver settings, it is possible that network activity or an active process (such as an application or system background task) keeps it awake.
One way to search for an active process that can prevent sleep is to use macOS ‘built-in Activity Monitor tools. Open the “Activity Monitor” and click on the “Energy” tab. Look for the “Prevent Sleep” column.
If any item in the list says “Yes”, your Mac will not sleep automatically while that process is running. You can either wait until the task is complete, end the process, or force End the process if it does not respond.
There is also a way to dig deeper into what may be preventing your Mac from sleeping with the Terminal application and a command line program called pmset, but it requires more knowledge of how the Mac works under the hood than the Activity Monitor method listed above. Good luck!
RELATED: How to figure out what prevents your Mac from sleeping
After sleep comes standby
After a period of hibernation, your Mac enters “standby mode”. It acts as a sleeper on Windows computers. The Mac saves the contents of the disk memory to save extra power, but it takes longer to resume from standby than to wake from sleep.
How to customize when your Mac goes into standby.
RELATED: Here’s how to choose when your Mac is in sleep mode (or “going to sleep”)