Can’t get to sleep? You might as well pick up your phone and scroll through Instagram for a bit, then maybe Facebook, and what was that blog with the funny pictures you used to look at back in the day, does it still exist? Oh yeah there’s like five years of updates here, let’s scroll through that for a bit, just one more page of posts, and…it’s morning.
If this is you, there’s a solution: stop bringing your phone to bed. Your tablet too. Glowing screens in the bedroom are destroying your sleep, and the only solution is to stop using them.
I know this sounds extreme: you love your phone. You probably touch it more often than your kids or significant other, and its various notifications make you feel less alone. But you know you need to sleep better, and leaving your gadgets to charge somewhere else is going to help you do that. Here’s why.
White Light Is Throwing Off Your Rhythm
Your brain is designed to respond to sunlight. Millions of years of adaptations means you’re chemically wired to wake up when the sun comes up and go to sleep when it goes back down. Artificial light is wrecking your sleep by disrupting that natural rhythm.
Your phone is a giant white light that you look directly into . Doing that in bed, right before you attempt to fall asleep, is chemically setting up your brain for failure. There are a few things you can do about this. Research shows that filtering out blue light can help, according to The Atlantic:
In 2013, scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute asked 13 people to use electronic tablets for two hours before bed. They found that those who used the tablets while wearing orange goggles, which filter blue light, had higher levels of melatonin than those who either used the tablets without goggles on or, as a control, with blue-light goggles on.
These chemical changes in your brain are real. Purchasing orange goggles isn’t necessary, either: Night Shift on your iPhone or night mode on Android both shift your entire screen away from the blue parts of the spectrum, and this can help you with sleep.
But you know what’s easier? Not bringing any glowing screens to bed with you. You won’t have any lighting complications messing with your brain chemistry, and it will help offset the other problem with phones in bed.
Your Mind is All Over The Place
You’re lying in bed when you start to wonder about something. In ancient times (like 2001 or something), you’d wonder about that thing until your mind wandered just enough for you to fall asleep. Failing that, you’d have to actually get up to find an answer to your question.
Now you just pick up your phone and look up whatever you’re wondering about, then maybe click a few related Wikipedia links, then scroll through Twitter for a bit until oh no it’s 2am.
Responding to notifications, switching between apps, tapping links…it’s all a series of context switches. This keeps your brain engaged, which is keeping you from sleeping. The Internet is too fascinating, too endlessly compelling, for sleep to ever seem appealing, and being tired makes it even harder to resist that Siren call.
Don’t give yourself that temptation. Leave your phone outside the room.
But I Read Books On My Phone!
Reading a book before bed is a great way to fit in some reading every day, and it can actually help you fall asleep. But reading books on a glowing device isn’t the best idea.
I understand the appeal of reading books on your phone. Ebooks are great. You can mark them up, quickly look up words in the dictionary, and sync your notes over to your computer for future reference. It’s awesome.
But none of these conveniences is worth sacrificing sleep for. There’s the glowing light issue, and there’s the ever-present temptation of switching from your book over to another app. It’s best to avoid this altogether.
E-ink screens look just like paper to your eyes, and while some are backlit, the light is typically gentle, and isn’t shining right at your eyeballs. Even better: e-ink devices generally don’t offer access to social media apps, and their web browsers are so clunky you’ll rarely be tempted to browse the web. These devices won’t leave you with many temptations outside of actually reading, which is exactly why they’re so useful.
Best of all, they’ve gotten pretty inexpensive—the cheapest Kindle is $60, and you can probably get it for a fraction of that with a few clicks on Craigslist and a bit of negotiation. (Just don’t confuse it with a Kindle Fire, which is a normal tablet with apps and a backlit screen.)
But My Phone Is My Alarm Clock!
I know what you’re thinking: without your phone you’ll never wake up on time, because you use your phone as an alarm clock. And I’ve got a simple response for you: buy an alarm clock.
Sure, they’re old fashioned. But they’re dirt cheap, they work consistently, and most importantly, they don’t give you access to a never ending stream of irrelevant information to look at instead of falling asleep like a functioning human being. Plus there’s a radio, meaning this is an excuse to re-discover FM radio—I bet there are a few awesome stations near you that you don’t know about.
Stop taking your phone to bed with you. Plug it into a charger in your kitchen, or living room, then walk away. It’ll be fine.