What’s the last thing you do before sleeping, and the first thing you do when you wake up? If you’re like the majority of people, you’re on your smartphone.
Research shows that 95% of us are spending time on a smartphone or tablet just before bed, and 84% of us reach for it first thing in the morning. We’re on emails, social networks, messaging apps, news sites, blogs… the list is endless.
But this near-consuming trend is coming at a cost – to your health, your productivity and your overall well-being.
Yet there’s a very simple solution you may not have considered…
Banning devices from your bedroom.
Here’s how keeping your phone (and tablet, laptop, etc) in your bedroom is hurting you right now –
It damages your sleep
As you approach the time that you would normally head to bed, your body naturally starts producing something called melatonin. This is a signal that it’s time to get ready to sleep. However, the blue light emitted by our devices actually impedes the production of melatonin in our bodies. By being on our devices, we’re stopping our body from getting into its ‘time to sleep’ groove – making it harder to drop off once we finally put them down.
It can also affect our sleep once we do doze off. There’s evidence that when we are on our phones right up to bedtime, then we don’t enter as easily into REM sleep – the kind we need to get a really restful, restorative night of shut eye.
We can also be woken – even subsconsciously – throughout the night by notifications – either beeping, vibrations, or by our screens lighting up.
And if we do wake in the middle of the night, instead of rolling over and simply trying to go back to sleep, many of us reach instead to check our phone – a blast of light and information that is the last thing our trying-to-rest bodies need.
At a time when most people are already chronically under-rested, the last thing we need is something that damages the quality of the sleep we do get.
It can derail your day – or night
When we spend time on our phone or other device, we are, most of the time, inviting in a vast amount of voices, information, concerns, priorities and opinions. Some of it is helpful, some of it requires action from you, and some of it is just noise.
If the very first thing you do in the morning is invite a stream of voices, requests, problems and ideas into your head and heart, then you are just asking that your day be set up not by your own priorities, but by the priorities of others. You are asking to begin the day not focused, but distracted. You are starting your day not empowered, but overwhelmed. You are playing catchup before you even get out of bed.
There is a better way.
Imagine this – You wake up. You get up and go through your morning routine – breakfast, showering, maybe some kind of exercise, prayer or meditation. Then you decide the most important things you need to accomplish that day. You write them down. You are now prepared for the day. You know what you need to do. Your head and heart are focused and ready to go. Now, and only now, do you prepare to meet the onslaught of information in your phone.
Doesn’t that sound like a more deliberate way to manage our devices in the morning?
At the same time, we all know how this can play out at night, too. You’ve had a big day, but you’ve kicked some goals. You got some stuff done. You’re tired, but satisfied. But then… Just a quick check of the work emails before bed, you tell yourself. Next thing, you’re aware of an issue that really didn’t need your attention till tomorrow, but now has you worrying or frustrated instead of settling in for a good night’s sleep.
We know it’s not good for us, but we do it anyway.
But things can change. We can change.
So what can you do?
3 adjustments that anyone can make to their sleep/smartphone overlap –
Ban your devices from your bedroom
When you go to bed, simply plug in your devices to charge – in another room. Buy an old-fashioned, battery-operated alarm clock with no LED lights. This one works well for me, and cost all of about $10.
Be deliberate about when and how you will check your device in the morning
Design a morning routine that works for you, and the point at which you will check your phone. Decide at what point you will check work-related information. Perhaps you are someone who absolutely has to check their work emails pretty much first thing in the morning because of the kind of industry you’re in. That’s fine, but make it work for you. Pick a chair in another room and determine not to check them until you’ve gotten out of bed, made a coffee, and sat down in the chair to ‘start work’. If you possibly can, try to put off checking the online world until you’ve focused your mind on at least one key idea for the day that matters to you and your life.
Consider a device-free pre-sleep period
Leaving your phone in another room when you go to bed is a good first step. But it’s a starting point. Experts say putting down the devices two hours before bed is good. If that sounds absolutely insane to you, then, after banning your phone from your bedroom, try implementing a 30-minutes-before policy as well, and go from there.
Most people keep their phones next to their beds. Most people are on them last thing before they sleep and first thing upon waking. That’s the path of least resistance.
The deliberate path, though is facing the reality of the effects of our smartphones and the information they bring us, for both positive and negative. Living deliberately means choosing for ourselves how we want to engage with our devices, in order to design the kind of life we want to live.