In Pursuit of the Best Sleep Ever: Leaving Your Phone Outside Your Bedroom at Night
I'd love to tell you that for the final piece in this series I conquered it all: I learned how to leave my phone outside the bedroom, finally found the formula for the perfect night's sleep, and extrapolated the secret to true work-life balance.
I'd love to tell you this, but it would be a lie.
Much like an addict who doesn't believe they have a problem, I thought this portion of the series would be a piece of cake.
You just shut your phone in a drawer and get in the bed, right? Wrong.
Here's what I learned while trying to create a tech-free zone in order to court better sleep habits.
What Happens When We Tech in Bed
Eight in 10 smartphone users reach for their phone within 15 minutes of waking. I am a member of this 80%.
As it turns out, even if you don't use your technology in the hours leading up to sleep, just having the electronics plugged in, inside the bedroom, emitting blue light affects your circadian rhythm. In addition to lower quality sleep, recent studies have shown that having technology in the bedroom reduces total sleep time by an average of 54 minutes. Almost an hour!
And in the "messing with your sleep trifecta," technology in the bedroom is also shown to keep you in bed in the mornings longer and affect your relationship.
So, it's basically a no-win situation: electronics in the bedroom equals poor quality sleep, less sleep time, lower productivity in the morning and less-happy relationships. Yet, even knowing these things, I found it impossible to sleep well with my phone so far away.
What Happened When I Left My Phone Outside the Bedroom
For the mini "sleep hacks" I tried in this series, I devoted two nights to each experiment. And while I did leave my phone outside of the bedroom two nights in a row, the sleep was anything but peaceful. It wasn't so much the physical aspect of missing the light from my phone, but the psychological symptoms that kept me awake.
I felt very anxious being away from my phone while I was "winding down" for bed. I wanted to play my favorite game, scroll Instagram, and chat with my friends. Being so anxious, it was hard for me to fall asleep and then stay asleep throughout the night on both nights. I kept waking up wondering why my phone wasn't on my nightstand. Instead of a smartphone, it's now the equivalent of a security blanket.
Which if I'm being honest, feels pretty sad.
What Comes Next
As it turns out, creating a "technology-free bedroom" was one of the hardest things I've attempted to do in a while, and I didn't really "perfect" or "learn" much. Instead, this experiment left me with a lot of lingering questions.
- When did I become so obsessed with my phone?
- How is it that my reliance on technology goes deeper than I previously thought?
- Why am I riddled with anxiety being separated from a simple electronic device?
I do believe in the ability of a tech-free bedroom's ability to change my sleep cycle. I'm willing to recommit to the initiative and as a sign of good faith, I took the TV out of the bedroom (even though it never gets used, I didn't want any blue light seeping in). I also purchased a real alarm clock so I wouldn't have to use my phone, and I'm going to try meditation instead of scrolling Instagram.
It's a small start, but I never claimed the equation for good sleep was solved in a day. I'll be trying one small step at a time... though it may be a while before I'm sleeping soundly in a technology-free bedroom!