Doomscrolling and Sleep How I Managed to Stop

Doomscrolling and Sleep How I Managed to Stop

The Pros and Cons of Keeping Your Phone in the Bedroom

A few weeks ago, I woke up feeling groggy and exhausted. Searching for someone to blame, it suddenly dawned on me that it was my own fault. I had stayed up all night scrolling through my phone, falling into the endless pit of social media and memes. Determined to break this unhealthy habit, I made a resolution to leave my phone outside the bedroom from now on. However, this decision posed its own challenges, as I worried about missing important texts or calls.

Having your phone in the bedroom during sleep has its pros and cons, which can vary depending on individual circumstances. For example, caregivers or emergency workers may need to keep their phones close by in case of urgent calls in the middle of the night. Similarly, those who are on call to provide rides for loved ones during late hours may also require their phones nearby. Additionally, many people use their phones as alarm clocks, making it seem impractical to leave them outside the bedroom.

Research has shown that habitual late-night phone use can have negative effects on task performance and mental health. While most studies have focused on student behavior, the impact is not limited to academic performance. Whether you have a pop quiz in the morning or an important spreadsheet to complete, staying up late absorbed in the endless blue light of your phone will inevitably take a toll the following day.

A study conducted by University of South Australia psychology professor Kurt Lushington, based on surveying over 180,000 Australian students, found a link between late-night phone use and sleep disruption. This research prompted Lushington to explore the effects of device use on adults as well. Although the research is still in its preliminary stages, Lushington confirmed that using digital devices before bedtime is associated with worse sleep quality and next-day performance. However, he also noted that the negative effects may be a result of overworking, rather than the act of taking a device to bed itself. Many adults have legitimate reasons for wanting to keep their phones nearby, such as listening to calming podcasts or music to help them fall asleep.

Interestingly, Lushington’s recent study on Australian boarding students who were not allowed to take their devices to bed revealed that those students slept better compared to their counterparts who had access to their devices. Implementing similar no-device rules could potentially be helpful, but the truth remains that phones have become lifelines to the outside world. Breaking the digital umbilical cord, even during the hours when we are not awake to use them, can be a difficult task.

So, how did I manage to adapt to this new routine? Initially, it was challenging to break the habit of keeping my phone within arm’s reach while I slept. My phone had become a daily essential, almost like an extension of my own body. However, I found that replacing my late-night phone scrolling routine with an actual wind-down routine was an effective way to soothe my anxieties. An hour before I wanted to fall asleep, I would stop looking at screens, take care of my skin and teeth, and restrict myself to reading books until I drifted off. The key was adhering to a defined schedule and intentionally diverting my brain away from news updates, conversations, and notifications that would only keep it awake. Once I placed my phone outside the bedroom, it stayed there until the morning.

To confess my minor loopholes, I do sleep with an Apple Watch purely for its alarm function. Although I also have a traditional alarm clock beside my bed, the gentle vibrations from my smartwatch serve as a more pleasant wake-up call. By setting my phone in Sleep mode, I ensure that no notifications disturb my slumber, except for calls from selected family members in case of an emergency. I also use my Apple Watch to track my sleep, so it remains on my wrist during the night.

Additionally, I allow myself the indulgence of keeping an e-reader by my bed, with its dark mode and E Ink screen that emits no blue light. I can comfortably read without disturbing my sleep, even if I happen to wake up in the middle of the night. The e-reader provides a soothing source of entertainment, devoid of notifications and bright lights.

Of course, there are times when I do need my phone nearby as I sleep. For instance, after missing a flight due to an iOS beta bug that silenced my alarms, I now keep my phone next to me the night before travel, ensuring that multiple alarms are set to prevent any future mishaps. Similarly, if I’m waiting for an important message or having a late-night conversation, I resist the urge to put my phone away. However, after practicing this routine for a few weeks, I have noticed that my brain has been retrained to not rely on the constant presence of my phone during bedtime, at least once I have started my wind-down routine.

Throughout the day, however, I remain attached to my phone, mindlessly scrolling through social media and browsing the internet. I respond promptly to messages, reinforcing the notion that I am available at all times. By strictly adhering to my no-screen bedtime routine, I am merely treating the symptoms of my addiction to content consumption. It is clear that I should reduce my overall phone usage for the sake of my sanity. Yet, it is worth highlighting that studies have shown increased social connection when interacting with friends and strangers through messaging and social media apps. Although the days of relying solely on digital platforms for social interaction may be behind us, my phone still serves as a means to stay connected to friends across the country and even beyond. Preserving these avenues of human connection has sustained me in the midst of challenging times.

Ultimately, I remind myself that I can make social media posts or respond to messages at any time. They will still be there in the morning, and I will be more well-rested to enjoy them. By finding a balance between accessibility and maintaining healthy bedtime habits, we can navigate the world of technology with greater control and peace of mind.