Going to sleep has sometimes been challenging because have a difficult time relaxing and settling down. My iPhone was complicating bedtime and probably my sleep. So about a month ago, a few weeks before New Year 2017, I separated my iPhone from my bedside, charging it about 20 feet away in a smaller room. I keep a book where my iPhone used to charge and read at least a few pages before bed.
The results after just four weeks have been remarkable. I go to sleep more easily and stay asleep because I am not awakened by dings or the phone suddenly lighting up. I don’t even get up as often in the middle of the night, and at least a few times I’ve slept straight through for five or more hours. According to my Fitbit, my restless periods have decreased by half on most nights, though that took a couple of weeks to occur. Also, I’ve finally stopped glancing in the direction of the iPhone, because it’s not there!
As an educator and parent, I’ve spent a good deal of time over the years speaking with students and adults about charging iPhones away from bedrooms, and I followed this rule for ages — until I didn’t. I even wrote a post, Digital Devices and Sleep with a range a resources about digital devices and sleep. I’ve often shared how Pew Internet researchers found in a 2010 survey of 2,252 adults that 65% of all the responders said that they sleep with their phones close-at-hand, while this percentage was even higher for the younger mobile device users. Extrapolating from the people I know, this percentage is now certainly much higher.
Concerning those younger device users, a 2016 article appearing in JAMA Pediatrics presented a meta-analysis of 20 studies on sleep and digital devices involving more than 125,000 school-age children with a median age of fourteen-and-a half and found a strong and consistent association between bedtime digital device use and poor sleep quality. To learn more about the how researchers use the ideas of association and causation — and the differences between them — read my blog post, Digital World Research-What It Tells Us About Causation vs. Association.
My last excuse for keeping the mobile phone close to the bed was concern that my elderly parents, age 93 and 89 might call in the night. But the act of placing it close to the bed always led to before-bedtime email checks, quick glances at the digital New York Times, or just a few Facebook look-overs. My last-minute digital activities became increasingly intrusive during election 2016. Twenty-first Century digital life can be complicated.
So now my phone is in the next room. I’ve tested whether I’ll hear any calls from my parents, and I will. What I cannot hear and see are the notifications that can disturb me when the phone lights up and springs to life when a text message or news update arrives. Also instead of using my phone as an alarm clock, I’ve gone back to using the radio.
I’m delighted to be one step farther along toward increased digital-life wellness, and I’ll report more about my mobile device and sleep experience in a subsequent post.