How Ditching My Phone At Bedtime Saved My Sleep
It’s safe to say that as a nation we’ve entered a sleep revolution. Never before has clean sleep been so high on the wellbeing agenda and a major part of the mix when looking after our health. Bed is wonderfully restorative, right?
So with that in mind, Pink Parcel’s writer Ali took a look at her own tired state and poor sleep habits, to see if she could turn things around and get a better night’s shut-eye.
A tired epidemic
My problem wasn’t a unique one, there are plenty of millennials waking up every morning feeling like they’ve only just closed their eyes. Ah that lovely seven minutes of sleep. Sound familiar? A crappy night’s kip can be masked by coffee and buoyed by adrenaline during the day, but there’s no escaping the fact that not enough of the dreamy hours can leave you feeling run down, sensitive and unable to cope with the pace of life. If you’re rubbing your tired eyes as you read this, or struggling to string a sentence together, you’ll understand. Lack of sleep strips us of our shine.
And somewhere along the line of regular life, my sleeping patterns had suffered and my shine had well and truly gone. The amount of hours I was clocking in bed had massively reduced without me controlling how the heck that had even happened. I gorged on ten hours a night in my teens, and yet there I was, averaging only a stingy six hours under the duvet. Had life got busier? Had we lost some hours of the day? Desperate to re-address this bedtime imbalance, I resolved to sort out my sleep.
The first step towards achieving clean, regenerative sleep is all about establishing a routine, and good sleep habits. I’ll be the first to admit I had none. Sometimes I’d stay up ‘til 2am binging on box sets in bed, the next night I might fall asleep on the sofa, only to haul myself off to bed in my make-up. Weekends seemed a chance to catch up on sleep, only to start the cycle of exhaustion again during the working week.
So I got strict with myself. I determined the time I would wake up every day, decided on how many hours sleep I needed to feel human, and worked backwards to establish a regular bedtime. Just having a bedtime made me feel ten years old again.
Then it was all about operation dreamland. I made my room a sanctuary, getting rid of the TV at the end of my bed and loading up on sleep-inducing treats. This new pre-sleep approach meant a proper skincare routine, making sure my room was dark and cool, and indulging in products that would help me nod off. The Scentered Sleep Well Therapy Balm became my go-to for soothing the body and relaxing my mind. Made with the snooze-enhancing essentials oils of Palmarosa, Lavender and Ylang, I’d roll it onto my wrists and neck and breathe in deeply before I hopped into bed.
But it was stumbling across an interesting study that really switched things up for me in the bedroom. Lack of great sleep, it seems, is linked to the use of smartphones.
Research into phone use revealed that people with a longer than average screen time (yup, that’s most of us then), were more likely to have poorer sleep and less sleep overall during the night. Poor quality sleep was also more likely for people who used their smartphones close to bedtime.
This aligns with other studies showing that the blue light emitted from smartphones can cause our brains to get confused as we’re preparing to sleep. A phone’s “glow” has a similar effect to the sun – disrupting the production of the sleepy hormone melatonin – making it harder to fall asleep and enter into a deep, restful sleep.
So if rubbish sleep could be blamed on the overuse of a phone, I was guilty as charged. Screen time had become my bed buddy; I’d be replying to messages, mindlessly scrolling through Instagram before I dropped off, or loading a shopping basket full of things before abandoning the purchase and moving on to something else.
I set about sorting this with baby steps, and began by putting my phone on the other side of the room as I snuggled down. I could see it, and the alarm was set to wake me in the morning, but I couldn’t touch it. For the first time in what seemed like years, I was forced to lie in the dark for a while until sleep eventually enveloped me. This was instead of my standard phone-in-bed behaviour which was fighting my eyes as they heavily closed mid-phone scroll.
After a few nights weaning myself off the late night screen time, I was ready to go hardcore and – shock horror – leave my phone in another room entirely at bedtime. So I gave myself a curfew. After 10.45pm there was to be no phone action whatsoever, and by the time I was tucked up in bed it was totally out of sight. I even bought myself an alarm clock so not to rely on the excuse of “needing it” to wake up.
In all honesty, not having a phone on the bedside table was beyond irritating. Lying in bed and remembering a message that needed to be sent, or hearing the teasing beep of a notification and being unable to reach over and read it, took some getting used to. And by feeling this very real, iPhone-shaped void, it really highlighted how much time I did spend with my face stuck to the screen. In short, way more discipline than I imagined was needed to follow through with the plan.
But ultimately, if my routine felt a little forced and rigid at first, I was willing to go with it because in return I reaped the sleepy benefits. After a fortnight of sticking to my new schedule and a screen time ban, I honestly felt like a new woman. Instead of thoughts and ideas having to fight through the fog, my brain was functioning at full force again. I had energy to exercise. I felt less likely to blub at something really not worth crying over.
All because of a bit more sleep. My bedroom is now officially a no-phone-zone and my wellbeing is massively thanking me for it.