Why I Stopped Sleeping With My Phone (and other tech)

When I switched from a Blackberry to an iPhone I quickly noticed a difference between silent mode on the Blackberry and ‘silent’ on the iPhone. In fact, when my iPhone was on silent mode, it still dinged every few minutes when new emails came in. Suffice to say my first few nights involved a lot of waking up.    

I very quickly figured out how to set it to do not disturb and how to include those other notifications in the silent mode.So for the past few years since having an iPhone it would automatically set itself to do not disturb every night at 8:30pm and then turn it off again at 7:00am.

Great! Perfect!

Lately though my wife has been learning about minimalism and mindfulness. As I’ve listened to things she has been saying and begun learning about it myself I began to realise something: it still isn’t really silent.

Yes it’s true it isn’t making noises or vibrating, but I am looking at it before I go to bed. If I have trouble sleeping I look at it some more. If I wake at night I look at it, sometimes just to check the time. When I wake in the morning, I look at it.

Even though this looking is usually just to see what time it is, there are so many distractions right there on the lock screen.

A message, Facebook notification, an EBay sale, a game push notification, and so many other things. And with just a little swipe there is a world of new emails, web browsing and just about anything you can imagine right there at the touch of a finger.

I would often use my laptop in bed in the evening as well, maybe it’s Facebook maybe it’s work, maybe another reason altogether, but it would often be in use. When I’m ready for bed it just goes beside the bed ready for morning.

I began to notice that in spite of the fact I was going to bed I was not really disconnecting from anything. I was not really resting, and there were so many distractions, even just things as simple as the charge light on the MacBook charging cable.

So I wondered, am I really getting a good sleep? 

My wife read one article out to me that said the bedroom is for two things, sleeping, and a certain other activity, so if you are doing anything else there, you are taking away from those two activities.

I thought great, that makes sense entirely.

And so began the journey to a tech free bedroom.

My phone had become many things. It was my clock, my alarm, in addition to the communication device it is. Without it we don’t have a clock in the bedroom, and no alarm.

Nevertheless we decided to move it out to the living room, and turn the volume right up. It’s still an alarm, but now when it goes off, if I’m not already awake I am forced out of bed (often by my wife) to go turn it off. There is no snooze factor here, by the time I’m there and have it switched off I’m not going back to sleep. This is great because it enforces a regular sleep pattern and has gotten my body clock set to wake up around the same time every day anyway. Even if I’m in a dark room.

But what about the time? How do I know it’s time to go to sleep? How do I know it’s time to get out of bed if the alarm doesn’t go off or if it’s a weekend and there is no alarm set?

It’s a weird concept when we are so used to being connected and having something as basic as the time right there. Even before connectivity we had clocks everywhere that showed the time and kept us alerted to what part of the day or night we are in. The solution though? I don’t know or need to know the time. The only two things I need to know are that I’m tired and ready for bed, and I’m awake so why stay in bed? It’s one less piece of information that I don’t really need. I still keep the alarm set, just in case, that way I know it’s at least 6am if I’m not already awake, but for the most part I don’t need it.

It’s remarkable the impact this realisation combined with removing tech from the bedroom has had on my sleep.

I find I sleep better, I’m going to bed earlier, I’m waking earlier, and I am feeling more refreshed and rejuvenated. Not to mention I am able to spend more quality time with my wife before bed because there are no distractions. It’s just us, and that is awesome.

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