I Tried Turning My Phone Off Before Bed

More often than not, there’s something preventing our brains from shutting off before bed and keeping us from a good night’s sleep. For me, that thing is undeniably my cell phone.

It’s kind of impossible to think of a moment in the day I don’t spend with my phone in my hand or at least by my side — and I know I’m not the only one. I even keep my phone on my bedside table at night just in case. As handy as our phones can be, the separation anxiety we feel from these handy little devices can cut into some quality sleep time, even if we don’t notice it.

Light and darkness play a super important role in communicating to our brains when it’s time to be alert and when it’s time to sleep. So, the light from our screens and the stimulation our brains get from watching funny cat videos or reading the news keeps our brain switches in the “On” position — no matter how much you turn down the brightness level. This is what makes it so much harder to fall asleep right after finishing that Netflix episode of Gilmore Girls or The Office.

Even if you haven’t personally noticed any problems in using your phone before bed, it could be affecting your brain without your knowledge. The same goes for leaving on chimes, rings, and beeps that shake your mind awake every time they go off. Leaving them on can mean the difference between getting an extra hour of sleep and feeling like a zombie in the morning.

I decided to test out the effects of setting my phone aside for myself by turning my phone off half an hour before “sleep time” for five days. After only a few days, I was both slightly annoyed and very pleased to find that (surprise) it actually worked!

Day 1: The First Night Was Impossible

I’ll admit I have a problem putting my phone down about 90 percent of the time, which made this first night basically impossible for me. Even though there was nothing pressing happening around midnight that I absolutely needed to use my phone for, I just couldn’t put it down when I was supposed to. I found myself staring mindlessly at the screen for 20 minutes longer than expected before falling asleep feeling exhausted.

Day 2: I Didn’t Miss It That Much

I forced myself to buckle down and stick to the designated routine. While I was a little antsy about wanting to check Facebook or see if I had any missed texts, I managed to close my eyes and drift off surprisingly faster than I would have expected. It did take longer than I was used to because my mind was being forced into sleep mode sooner than usual, but it wasn’t as bad as I originally assumed it would be.

Day 3: I Fell Asleep Faster

The middle of the week is an exhausting time in general, which is why I barely needed to tell myself to put my phone down before bed. After classes and midterms and papers and meetings, I greeted sleep with open arms and didn’t even think about my phone, which (embarrassingly) doesn’t happen as often as it should.

Day 4: My Eyes Hurt

Having stuck to the schedule for a few days, I found that my eyes began to hurt from using my phone or staring at my phone screen a few hours before bed. My eyes and mind were adjusting to the idea of winding down. While Twitter and Netflix still called my name in between doing homework, I stopped using my phone as much towards the end of the day and was more productive because of that.

Day 5: I Woke Up Feeling Refreshed

By now, the routine was easy enough to stick with and it felt good to put my phone down and just focus on sleep for a little while. Falling asleep faster also meant getting a few precious, extra minutes of sleep that I never knew I so desperately needed. Unless you’re someone with a perfect sleep schedule, you know what I’m talking about. When I woke up the next day, I felt refreshed and just a little bit better about starting the day,


What did I learn from all of this? Even though I didn’t think there was anything wrong with my sleep schedule before, I noticed a huge increase in my quality of sleep and how I felt when I woke up in the morning once I stopped using my phone at night. While I will probably sneak in a text or a quick YouTube video before bed here and there, this little experiment has definitely shown me that setting your phone aside for a few minutes at the end of the day can solve a lot of problems you never knew you had. It’s also added hours of extra sleep to my week, which has made life so much better.

So stop messing with your circadian rhythm and give this a try for yourself. The sleep is totally worth it. I promise.

Image: Adriano de Gironimo/Unsplash