As someone with generalized anxiety disorder, I often struggle to get restful sleep. I’ve tried it all: a weighted blanket, a white noise machine, earplugs. Though some remedies have helped temporarily, I’m always in search of a more permanent solution. I’m well aware of the negative effects the blue light emitted from our phones can have on our sleep quality. So I decided to embark on an experiment: I wouldn’t look at my phone for two hours before bed for two weeks.
It turns out the benefits of not using my phone extended beyond just better sleep. Here’s how my no-phone-before-bed experiment went.
I’m not going to lie: The first few days were difficult. My fingers felt restless, and a couple of times I unconsciously reached for my phone.
Despite being a notoriously bad sleeper, I got infinitely more restful sleep when I didn’t surf my phone before bed. Research has shown that people who use their phones before bed may get worse sleep than those who give their eyes a break from their phones at night. This one benefit inspired me to continue putting my phone out of reach for an hour or two before bed each night.
The biggest impact this week-long challenge had on my life was in my marriage. Without our phones attached to our hands all night, my husband and I had deeper, more meaningful conversations. And instead of putting on Netflix and surfing the internet on our phones, we played cards or worked on a puzzle.
With more free time on my hands before bed, I began focusing more on self-care. Instead of mindlessly scrolling through apps and texting, I spent 30 minutes or an hour each night doing deep conditioning hair treatments, whitening my teeth, and trying out different facemasks.
A night doesn’t go by that I don’t mindlessly surf Reddit, Instagram, and Facebook. It has always bothered me that I spend so many wasted hours on these websites. Without their alluring distraction each night, I returned to some of my favorite hobbies: reading, journaling, and writing letters.
I began working as a full-time freelance writer about six months ago, and I’ve struggled to set strict work hours for myself. Not being able to check my phone before bed for two hours each night meant not checking my work emails. Once I saw that my business didn’t suffer when I didn’t reply to emails at all hours of the day, I felt more motivated to set strict hours for myself.
Once I realized that the world didn’t end without my phone by my side for a two-hour stretch, I slowly grew less and less attached to it. Instead of instinctively reaching for it first thing in the morning, I first made my bed, washed my face, and prepared a cup of coffee.
This experiment opened my eyes to the fact that I spend an immense amount of time on social media, particularly on Instagram. It felt refreshing to not constantly be looking at other people’s photos online, and the experiment encouraged me to remove social media apps from my phone.
My husband and I both have a bad habit of surfing our phones while binge-watching our latest Netflix show. We happened to be watching “Narcos” during this experiment, and we both found ourselves completely immersed in the show and able to follow it — something we struggle to do when surfing and watching simultaneously.