For the past few months, I have struggled with an issue that would prevent both my iMac and MacBook Pro from going to sleep or activating the screen saver.
The fact that the display on neither of my two Macs would turn off after a set time drove me nuts, but the worst thing was that none of the solutions that have worked for other users fixed the problem on my machines.
But since issues related to sleep or wake can have numerous causes, the below tips and tricks on how to fix Mac sleep issues cover every solution I have come across. I hope that one of them will fix the problem on your Mac!
Symptoms Of Mac Sleep And Wake Issues
Before we dive into the potential solutions of Mac sleep and wake issues, let’s discuss how those symptoms present.
On my iMac, Bartender prevented the screensaver from coming on and the display from dimming and, ultimately, turning off. On my MacBook Pro I experienced the same issues, but additionally, my computer also refused to go to sleep, unless I closed the lid.
Besides consuming more energy than necessary, my primary concern was “display burn-in,” which is still an issue on LCD panels.
What Can You Do If Your Mac Doesn’t Go To Sleep?
The good news is that in many cases, the cause of a Mac refusing to go to sleep is incorrect configuration settings. So let’s cover the basics first before we jump into more advanced troubleshooting techniques.
Energy Saver Settings
Open System Preferences and navigate to the Energy Saver settings to confirm that:
The three settings above can prevent or disrupt your Mac from going to or remaining in sleep. Additionally, you might want to click on the “Schedule…” button to make sure you haven’t accidentally set a schedule for when your Mac goes to sleep or wakes up. Worst case scenario, hit the “Restore Defaults” button to restore all settings to their default value.
NVRAM and SMC Reset
Identify Apps That Prevent The Mac From Sleeping
If none of the above has worked, chances are, that an application on your Mac is preventing it from going to sleep. To help you identify what app that might be, launch the Activity Monitor and make sure you have checked “Preventing Sleep” in the View > Columns menu. Once you added that column, you’ll see it in the Activity Monitor, and you can sort by it.
In my case, the only process that had a “Yes” in the Preventing Sleep column was hidd, which is the Human Interface Device Daemon. As a result, I initially thought that there was something wrong with my keyboard or trackpad that prevented my Mac from sleeping. The actual culprit, Bartender, did not show up in that list at all.
To further narrow down what app might be causing the issue, you can boot into Safe Mode, which prevents any app from automatically launching. If the incorrect behavior doesn’t persist in Safe Mode, you’ll know that one of the applications that automatically launch when your Mac boots up was causing the problem.
Alternatively, you can close all apps and confirm that your Mac goes to sleep, before launching your apps one by one. It’s a tedious process, but it’s effective.
Bartender and Location Services
In my case, I first thought the issue was related to macOS 10.14 Mojave, but since I couldn’t find any other reports and user complaints, I concluded the problem might not be widespread. As a result, I suspected an app being the culprit but finding out which one is a tedious endeavor. After updating to the latest beta version of macOS Mojave on my iMac, I noticed two things:
After some additional testing, I confirmed that both sleep, screen dimming, and the screensaver would work as expected while Bartender wasn’t running. As soon as I launched the app, the problem would return, and my Mac would not go to sleep or turn off the screen.
I sent an email to the developer of Bartender, and he immediately replied and suggested changing a setting related to how and when the app hides the Location Services menu icon. I hide most of the icons I don’t need on a daily basis, but I also enabled “Show for updates,” which temporarily shows the respective icon in the menu bar whenever there is an update related to the app/icon. For example, the Dropbox icon would appear in my menu bar while the app is syncing, and the Location Menu shows when an app uses my location.
As it turns out, enabling “Show for updates” for the Location menu was what prevented both of my Macs from going to sleep. As soon as I disabled “Show for updates,” my problem was resolved!
Update (Dec, 2018)
Despite that I had “Show for updates” disabled for the Location Services, the described issue re-appeared on my new iMac Pro. I contacted Ben from Bartender again and he suggested to not hide Location Services at all. Once I made the change, the issue went away again.
What is Bartender?
Bartender is one of I my favorite Mac apps because it allows me to clean up the ever-growing number of menu bar icons on top of the screen. Every app these days has a menu bar icon, and while some apps allow you to disable the icon, not all do. Plus, there are a bunch of Apple-provided icons that I’d like to keep in the menu bar, but I don’t need to see them continually. Bartender enables me to hide individual icons entirely, or tuck them away behind the special Bartender icon.
Update (Apr, 2019)
Bartender 3.0.65 fixes the sleep issue related to Location Services – see below release notes.
In macOS Mojave the location menu item has changed its behaviour, and will now forget its position whenever it leaves the menu bar. This, along with settings in Bartender to hide the location menu item would cause Bartender to move it every time it showed. If the user ran anything which would show/hide the location menu item regularly this would prevent the screen saver from activating. This has now been fixed.
And the screenshot below shows how neat the menu bar can look with only a few, visible icons.
Google Chrome and YouTube
I have heard from some of my readers that their Mac doesn’t go to sleep when Google Chrome with YouTube.com being opened.
That seems to be an issue with either the YouTube web application or Chrome itself and Google has to fix it. The only workaround is to not use Chrome for watching YouTube videos.
More Advanced Troubleshooting Tricks
Your Mac supports different sleep and standby modes, and you can set them independently of each other using the pmset tool on the command line.
Before you start messing with these settings, I recommend you take a look at what those parameters are currently set to. To do so, open a command line and issue the following commands:
The standbydelay shows the number of seconds before your Mac goes into standby mode – or deep sleep.
The sleep and display sleep parameters determine after how many minutes your Mac and display go to sleep. As you can see in the screenshot I took on my iMac, my Mac’s screen goes to sleep after ten minutes. The zero (0) next to sleep indicates that the Mac never goes to sleep. It also gives you an indication of what processes are preventing your Mac from sleeping. But again, Bartender never showed up in that list.
To make changes to these settings, you can use the pmset command with the “-a” argument (instead of -g). Note that you need to have superuser or administrative rights to do that:
sudo pmset -a standbydelay 86400
sudo pmset -a sleep 10
sudo pmset -a displaysleep 10
The three commands above set the standby delay to 24 hours and the sleep (including display sleep) to ten minutes. On a portable computer, such as a MacBook (Air/Pro), you would probably want a lower standby delay.
Potential Hardware Problems
On MacBooks, there is a sensor built into the lid that leverages magnetism to detect if your lid is opened or closed. Your Mac uses that sensor to turn off its screen when you close the lid instantly. You can interfere with how that sensor works if you position another magnet too close to where that sensor is located. Something as simple as a loudspeaker might cause interference, even though I have never tested or seen that in real life.
Also, the sensor or the cable connecting the sensor to the logic board of your Mac might be defective. I learned about that by watching an entertaining video on YouTube from Apple repair master Louis Rossmann.
Other Tips For When A Mac Doesn’t Go To Sleep?
I hope the steps above helped you fixing your Mac’s sleep or wake issues. If my tips didn’t help, let me know by leaving a comment below. If you came across another solution that worked for you, let me know as well, so I can update this article.
I’m a healthy living and technology enthusiast.
On this blog, I share in-depth product reviews, actionable information and solutions to complex problems in plain and easy-to-understand language.
I have a Mac Pro Mid 2010 running mac OS Mojave 10.14.6
I recently changed the original hard drive to a SSD for better speed, everything is fine but i can’t send it to sleep from the apple menu or from the schedule sleep, the screens go off but it just sits there.
Does the issue also occur in safe mode? Have you tried killing all third-party apps and processes to see if that makes a difference?
Just wanted to say that I have the same issue and haven’t found a solution yet. I’m going to try if it occurs in safe mode too.
Thanks for this elaborate overview of possible solutions.
Just to help others that ran into this issue, as I did, I will tell you what helped in my case. In Activity Monitor the ‘Preventing Sleep’ column showed ‘No’ for all apps that were running. Yet If I brought the Mac to sleep, it woke up after about a second, and from itself it never went to sleep. Michael’s solution that helped me was to one by one quit all apps. The devil turned out to be Word 2016. This app often behaves quirky, like opening at starting up although the ‘Open at login’ option is disabled.
What I learn(ed) from this and other Mac troubles that might be app-related (like when wanting to save a document in a specific folder it is being saved in the Home folder), to first suspect the Office apps, as they are often the source of the troubles (at least in my case).
“Your Mac uses that sensor to turn off its screen when you close the lid instantly. You can interfere with how that sensor works…” This did it!!
I had my 2020 MacBook Air propped up on two rectangular braces so the camera would be at my eye level for all the meetings, and it must have interfered with the lid closing all the way. The minute I set it back on the desk and closed the lid, it went to sleep.
Thank you for being so detailed!!
Thank you so much. This on-sleep due to bartender has been a problem I experienced that caused me to go back to High Sierra as my computer would not sleep or hibernate. I can finally return to Catalina.
I have an iMac mid 2011.
Sleep was working fine in High Sierra.
I downgraded the GPU for an ATI Radeon HD 4850 in order to be able to use a patch allowing to install Catalina on unsupported macs (from Dosdude1).
Now sleep won’t work. Even in safe mode. Even when I select sleep from the apple menu or after pressing the power button and clicking sleep.
No idea what either the downgraded GPU or custom patch did to macOS.
I have had this problem on both my 2017 iMac & 2018 MBP, both running Catalina. On the iMac I went through all the troubleshooting I could find, turning off settings in energy saver, iCloud, etc. On the iMac, the thing that seemed to fix it was turning on the Wake & sleep schedule. Once the scheduled sleep time passed, the iMac went to sleep like it should. Then I woke it back up, turned off the setting, and now the sleep works like normal. Now on the MBP, I tried that fix first and it didn’t do anything. Something that did pop up on both in turmoil doing the peseta -g assertions command, was the powerd process was preventing sleep with the the “com.apple.powermanagement.wakeschedule”. I read this had something to do with the reminders app, but that didn’t do anything. _What did do something_ was _turning on_ the system schedule for waking the computer at a specific time. Having that on, and only having that on (don’t need the sleep schedule set), the computer will sleep normal. This also stopped the fans from going crazy and draining the battery. Not sure why all this going on and wish there was an easier thing to do, but this seemed like a fairly easy fix with little change to my usage (I just set the computer to be started up/wake when my computer would usually be on and awake when I’m using it.
Thank you Jeff for sharing, this fixed my problem. I am so grateful.
My iMac Pro would not go to sleep. The tip about “Preventing Sleep” led me to the right place. I’m a developer, and the iPhone Simulator was running two processes, assertiond and searchd, were preventing sleep.
I quit the simulator, the processes exited, and now my iMac sleeps when desired.
Hello, Michael. Great article BUT my late 2013 MacBook Pro Retina still doesn’t go to sleep! Well, it does only in Safe mode. I tried all the methods here but nothing works. So if it does only go to sleep in safe mode, am I right to assume it’s not a hardware issue?
This problem started after I installed a new battery. Otherwise, the computer works great. I contacted the battery seller but they haven’t got back to me yet.
I tend to agree with your assessment that if the MacBook goes to sleep in Safe Mode, it’s likely a software issue. Have you tried quitting all 3rd-party apps and disconnecting all peripherals?
Hey what a great Website,
I don’t know whether resetting the Hardware solved the Problem or Clearing the Printer queue. Anyway it helped and I am happy again. THank you so much.
@Alex I just wanted to thank you for posting about the stuck job in the print queue preventing sleep. That’s exactly what happened to my Mac and I was prepared to roll back to a previous backup in case a recent update screwed up sleep.
@Alex I too was stumped with no sleep possible in my 2019 iMac 27 inch. Called Apple yesterday and went through all the perfunctory solutions.
So searched more on my own today and found the printer queue solution! That was it!
Was trying to print with wifi and it didn’t work so connected usb and forgot about the initial job. Cleared it and now perfect. Thank you to everyone here!
Well, how interesting that the moment I posted my iMac sleep question (after hours of trying to figure it out) , I have found the problem. The other night, when I was trying frantically to submit my corporate taxes before the deadline, my printer broke. Obviously, the last print job has never completed, hence print queue kept looking for the printer (which I turned off for obvious reason), and that prevented the sleep sequence from completing. Insane. Hopefully, this helps someone from losing their mind.
Michael, thank you for the post. I have done all the steps previously, and repeated them again following your article, however the issue is not going away.
I have iMac27, and the issue is that it does not go to sleep, when manually induced by either the power button, or the drop-down menu Sleep command. It’s never been a problem, however I noticed it just a few days ago.
The auto settings execute fine, meaning the sleep sequence is initiated, as it is initiated when I press and momentarily hold the power button on the back, however it never completes, computer just stays on.
I uninstalled Norton just in case, but I knew it would not help, it’s just didn’t make sense because it’s been there for some time. I disconnected network, and I don’t have any external devices.
The only difference is that I have started to play Pandora from Safari browser using my external Klipsch speaker system. I have used the system before for years, however the only difference is the Safari browser. It may sound silly, and I would not point to any other browser, but because Safari is tightly integrated with Mac, who knows what direct access to devices and memory it may have, certainly I don’t.
Friend, I think I win the prize for the most random reason “sleep” won’t come on. This problem came on suddenly. I tried everything here except the command code one. I then observed that when I would put my computer to sleep using the Apple menu, the lock screen would come on almost immediately. It was like something was continually waking my computer up, even though no programs were running, I’d reset everything from the NVRAM & SMC to the Touch ID (because the lock screen kept prompting my touch ID to come on, too). It wasn’t any of these things. Then a bluetooth screen popped up and said, “mouse disconnected.” I realized I’d left my mouse in my computer bag (I travel around a lot with my laptop and don’t always take the mouse back out first thing). Something was touching the mouse and kept triggering it. My computer wouldn’t go to sleep because my bluetooth-connected mouse sitting in my computer bag kept making my computer wake up. All this after an hour of troublshooting. ? I’m glad for your article, though. It was helpful in that I learned some new tricks for troubleshooting these kinds of things.
THANK YOU!!! Bartender was my issue as well. Your guide was the only thing that I found online to identify my problem with my screensaver. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!
Thanks for writing this post. I was having the exact same issue and couldn’t figure it out for the life of me.
So, do we need to disable “Show for Updates” for each “active menu bar item”, or do we need to disable for all except “location menu”, or can we enable for all?
Just don’t hide the Location Services at all. In other words, make sure it is always visible.