Social media addict’s guide to screen time before bed

January 29, 2021 8 mins read
Social media addict’s guide to screen time before bed

It’s no lie that we live in an oversaturated-connected world. With more than 100 000 new iOS mobile apps being released every month, globally, it’s no wonder that we’re finding it more and more difficult to put down our devices and be present in the real world.

Most people check their phones every 15 minutes, even if you have no alerts or messages. This intrinsic addiction is sliding into our daily habits faster than we can say Mark Zuckerburg. And not only is seeing the rise of our anxiety around FOMO, contributing to the state of our mental health, but it’s affecting our sleep too.

In this guide, we share with you ways to help limit your screen time, healthy habits to replace that scrolling before bed and how to master your technology use without having to go cold turkey.

What do phones do to your sleep?

You may not think that such a small device can cause havoc with your sleeping habits, but dear social media addict, it does. From interfering with your sleep cycles to making it harder to slip into slumber, these are just a few of the sleep-sapping traits of your mobile phone.

Heightens anxious thoughts

How often do you go to bed with a racing mind because of everything you’ve just seen on social media? We bet, a lot. Checking your phone stimulates your brain as you’re feeding it information, emotions, and rearing up to-do lists that make your mind more active and keep it awake. We need to allow our bodies to register sleep, without feeling like we’re missing out on something.

Decreases your melatonin production

You know that the blue light emitted from your technology (TVs, iPads, Kindles, and phones) is bad for your eyesight, but did you know that it’s bad for your brain too? Melatonin, your sleep hormone, starts to produce as natural light dims. This goes way back to a simpler time when our body clocks were connected to the earth, using day and night to drive our sleep and wake schedules.

These days, with artificial light, we need to work harder to help our body clocks signal our melatonin to produce on time. If we don’t, we end up with insomnia issues and tiredness and irritability during the day as we haven’t allowed our body a chance to rejuvenate. The blue light emitted from our phones mimics daylight to our brains, and while this is fine during the day, at night we need to limit this exposure to help prep our body for a night of z’s.

Disrupts sleeping patterns

We’ve all had moments when we’re dozing off, watching videos of silly cats when we receive an annoying notification from that one WhatsApp group we forgot to mute. Suddenly we’re wide awake and our thoughts are circling above us like sleep vultures. These responses can lead to delays in our sleep cycles. The more we prolong falling asleep, the less time our body spends in these sleep stages, leading us to wake up feeling like we’ve had no sleep at all.

4 steps to putting away the device

We’re addicted. That’s no lie. So what can we do to limit our screen time, for the sake of good sleep? Let’s try adding these 4 steps into our daily routines, and who knows, we might just start a sleep revolution.

1. Find a phone jail

We’re not saying for good. But we are saying that it’s time to be strategic with your phone usage. Make time to put it away to allow you to focus on more important things. Even if it requires going back to basics.

Find a place in your home that you can put your phone away, make sure it’s out of sight and not in your regular moving path. Choosing a spot that doesn’t have a natural walk-by will help you forget that it’s there. This could be a linen cupboard, bathroom drawer or in your car outside. Making it an effort to get to, is step one.

Tips for keeping your phone in jail:

  • Get a watch. Bye smartwatch, hello analogue. Most people use their phones to check the time, and while they do, they end up checking messages too.
  • Use a day planner. Physical planners are making a comeback and by writing down lists and to-dos makes it easier to avoid checking your phone.
  • Put it on Airplane Mode. Notifications can distract you, so if your phone is in jail nearby, you won’t be tempted to check it.

2. Start with your daily habits

How often do you start your morning with a scroll, and then next thing it’s noon and you haven’t accomplished anything? It’s time to change that habit. When you’ve discovered that a phone jail can help you be more productive, start implementing that into your morning routine. Get up and meditate, eat breakfast, tick off your first task, then grab a coffee and catch up on your social media.

Most often we will get so involved in being productive that we forget about the need to look at our phones. But we get this may be hard to start, so simply integrate an action and reward system for yourself.

Tips for using your phone during the day

  • Action and reward. Set yourself a goal, complete it, check your phone and repeat. Just remember to limit the time you check your phone. You could limit your apps per reward, to limit disappearing down the rabbit hole.
  • Keep your daily planner open. Often, physical reminders have more motivation, and simply ticking off a to-do with a pen is a much more satisfying experience.
  • Leave notes on your statuses. Let people know you’ll get back to them. Create a voicemail message, update your WhatsApp status or create an automatic response on your Instagram inbox. This helps with your anxiety of instantly responding, and lets people know you’ve acknowledged them.

3. Learn to use your phone for mindfulness

We need to stop the emotions of anxiety and stress that our phones give us. That means starting to use our phones to create calm in our lives rather than chaos. Downloading podcasts for business improvements, sleep stories for a relaxing bedtime ritual or guided meditation for afternoon breaks helps give our phones a better use.

Our phones so often take us away from our wellbeing, so it’s time to use them to bring us back into our own reality. But if you need some distraction, it’s okay to use your phone for this too, just put a limit on how long.

Tips for more mindful phone usage:

  • During commutes or lunch breaks, listen to podcasts. Instead of having your head down in someone else’s life, put your earphones on and listen to music or podcasts and learn to observe the world around you.
  • Put your phone out of sight when you’re with friends. If we’ve learnt anything from 2020, physical contact is golden. If you’re out with friends, put your phone on silent and out of sight and focus on your real-life social media.
  • Make an action plan for your phone’s purpose in that moment. Is it to check messages, scroll through Instagram or edit an image? Do this and then log off.
  • Set a time for social catch-ups. Indulge yourself with some set scrolling time.

4. Replace your bedtime ritual

After all this practising, you’re finally ready to relinquish control of your device and put it away before bed. Making a bedtime routine is the most important exercise you can do for good, quality sleep. And yes, your phone can be used during this too… but only as a sleep aid. By this time, you should be all caught up, to-dos done and are able to fully give this time to yourself and your family.

Tips to include in your bedtime ritual:

  • Taking your phone to the bathtub to listen to a podcast or spending time catching up on your social scene at least 1 hour before bed is totally okay. You’re allowing your body to relax and helping prepare it for sleep.
  • Make it a part of your evening routine to listen to guided meditation to help sleep, but make sure you’ve downloaded this so you don’t need WiFi. At this point, your phone is just a sleep aid.
  • Be diligent. Set an alarm 1 hour before bed to switch your phone to Airplane Mode (if you’re doing a sleep meditation) or to put in night jail.
  • Replace scrolling with a good book. Reading before bed is a great way to help you get to sleep and take your mind off your social scene. Just make sure your book isn’t too riveting otherwise you’ll keep that busy mind activated.

Diets don’t work, but lifestyle changes do

Limiting your phone usage for better sleep simply means acknowledging that you want a more healthy, balanced, sleep life. And with anything balanced, it’s allowing our habits to still be habits, but finding a better way to keep them in our life without completely disrupting it.

Let’s get back to good sleep by putting our phones to bed. Even if it’s just for a little while.