The digital world will probably ruin your sleep

Recently I got a new phone. My old one was already 4 and a half years old, and since it was a pain to work with it, I thought it is time for a new one. So far so good.

No more crashing apps and everything was so incredibly fast. I kept asking myself how I was able to work with my old phone. Be that as it may, not everything was sunshine and rainbows. Don’t worry, this is not going to be a review of some new phone.

Instead, I’ll be actually looking at the, most often unnoticed, negative consequences of my new electronic device, especially on health and even more specifically on sleep.

(Actually, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a phone, a tablet or a computer, most of this will apply to every new device you own. Especially the mobile ones)

Phones, tablets, and laptops are great devices and you can do great things with them, but you have to be able to control them. Not let them control you.

I’m not talking about knowing how to use the latest operating system or being able to repair the hardware of them. Instead, you should be able to consciously control your own behaviour when you are around them because they offer so many possibilities.

Possibilities. 

With every device you own you get access to almost endless possibilities in every direction. Whether it’s downloading thousands of apps or surfing the internet 24/7.

Unfortunately this environment, of having endless possibilities and “things to do”, is pretty new to us. Two to three decades ago it simply didn’t exist.

In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with having plenty of possibilities, but once again, you need to be able to deal with them.

Here’s what happened when I got my new phone: After setting it up, I downloaded all my previous apps that were on my old phone. Additionally, I downloaded several other apps, only because my new phone was able to actually launch them.

This was the first step that finally led to a negative impact on my health and my sleep.

The more apps there are on my phone, there more apps I could use and check, especially before going to bed, when I wasn’t pursuing any productive work anymore.

Distractions. 

At some point, possibilities or choices will become distractions. Barry Schwartz did a great TED talk on the paradox of choice. The more choices you have, the less satisfied you will be with your final choice and the less happy you will be in general.

But why are choices distractions? Well, they don’t have to be, but they could be, especially when it comes to your electronics.

All those apps you have on your phone, not only can become distractions while working (an average employee checks his/her phone every couple of minutes), but especially when it’s time to do something “unproductive” like sleeping.

You can probably relate to the following scenario, which I’ve experienced several times after I got my new phone.

You’re ready for bed and you just want to check your phone one last time. In case, your best friend or your girlfriend sent you a message. Unfortunately, one thing leads to another and 30 minutes later you’re still on your phone checking Instagram, Facebook and googling for “how to get to sleep on time”.

This is when your phone becomes a distraction (and sometimes an addiction). You wanted to do one thing (sleep) and did another (checking several apps).

Your sleep is important and most of the things you are doing in the evening or at night on your phone are not important, not even useful. Not only will those “little” things decrease the quality of your sleep, they will also decrease the quality of your next day.

What to do? For me, there are two things to do. The first is prevention.

Prevention. 

Although it sounds weird when I use the word prevention in this context, but for me it makes sense. According to the dictionary prevention means:

“The act or practice of stopping something bad from happening.”

The best way to stop something bad from happening is to find its cause and eliminate that.

Not getting enough sleep is really bad and your phone (or electronic) is the cause for that, so in order to stop not getting to sleep you need to “eliminate your phone”.

(This article is not about the negative effect of the blue light on your melatonin levels, but it’s more about the “getting sucked into the digital world”). Blue light is, of course, bad for your sleep, so you should definitely activate some kind of filter (Nightshift, f.lux, etc.).

For me there are two main things to do:

1. De-install all unnecessary apps. Ideally, you only have one screen with apps and maybe 2 folders on that screen. Always remember, you can re-install the apps anytime you need them. Also, you don’t need Facebook or Twitter or any other social app on your phone.

2. Put your phone in airplane mode really early. Even before you are planning on going to bed, put your phone in airplane mode. Every time I do this, my phone use in the evening is minimal. If I want to check my phone again later, I turn it on, I see there are no notifications, due to the airplane mode, and quickly turn it off. Of course, I could turn the airplane mode off, but in most cases I don’t do this.

These things will not make you sleep better 100% of the time, but they will decrease the likelihood of you getting sucked into the digital world.

Focus. 

Another thing that usually helps is to be present and focus on your actions, which often means to question your behaviour. When I’m lie in bed and take my phone, most often I ask myself: “What am I doing? Why do I need to check my phone right now?”.

Most often this is already enough to stop my action and go to sleep instead. Realising that your behaviour is negative and not helpful at all is often enough to improve it.

Learn to stay present and focus on your behaviour and actions is the first step to improving them.

Don’t get sucked into the digital world. I know it’s fascinating and much more interesting than the real world, especially when you are supposed to sleep, but sometimes, the real world and sleep are just the things you need.

Most of us need them more than anything else!

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