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A Global Pandemic Is the Perfect Time to Stop Sleeping with Your Phone

Woman reading the news on her phone with a concerned look on her face.
Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock

If stress over the coronavirus is causing you to toss and turn at night, here’s one thing you can do: Sleep away from your phone. Trust us, taking a nightly break from the never-ending news and growing panic on social media will do your system good.

We get why your phone is so addictive right now. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic—one that’s completely new and unknown. This novel coronavirus could blow over in a couple of weeks (we hope!), or it might go on for months to come. Nobody knows exactly how it will play out and that in itself is extraordinarily stressful.

If you’re already quarantined or practicing social distancing as a preventative measure, your phone (or tablet, laptop, TV) might be your only connection to the outside world. So yes, it’s easy to obsessively read every breaking news story or watch people fighting over toilet paper.

However, making sure you get quality sleep every night is of the utmost importance here. It’ll help boost your immune system, keeping you healthy and strong to battle the stress of our changing times.

That’s why we say it’s time to boot your phone out of your bed. (And we mean it.)

Blue Light Can Disrupt Sleep Patterns

Almost every digital device emits a bright blue light—including your phone, TV, tablet, and laptop. Studies show that blue light might interfere or disrupt sleep patterns. But how?

Well, it all comes down to our circadian rhythm. When it starts to get dark outside, your brain begins releasing melatonin. This hormone signals to your body that it’s time to start winding down and as a result you feel tired. However, if you spend your evening hours staring at a blue-light screen, your brain won’t receive those crucial sleepy signals. Thus you stay awake, and maybe get a second wind, and then a third wind, and now it’s 2 a.m. and you’re still awake.

Now add in the overwhelming stream of scary, panicked news stories, and your nervous system is bound to go into overdrive. Or your dreams might be infiltrated with fearful, apocalypse-style nightmares.

Most phones allow you to switch to night mode (you can even set it to automatically kick on at the same time every night). This lowers your phone’s brightness, which is believed to help keep your circadian rhythm on track. So this is one option to explore if you’re desperate to keep reading into the night.

However, we still suggest removing your phone completely from your bedroom when it’s time for slumberland.

Resist Impulsive Checking

Even if you turn your phone to silent or airplane mode, knowing it’s right next to your bed makes it oh-so-tempting to impulsively check it throughout the night.

Let’s say you wake up from a bad dream. Perhaps you feel too agitated to go back to sleep. Scrolling through the latest news updates or your Facebook feed might feel like what you need, but we all know it’s not. Nobody feels better after waking from a bad dream about a dangerous pandemic by reading more about the dangerous pandemic.

Here are a few other ways to settle back into sleep after a middle-of-the-night waking: Keep a glass of water next to your bed; take a few sips if you wake up. Get an inspirational journal, one with a positive quote for every day. Read it a few times before going back to bed. Or do a quick five-minute meditation, one without technology involved.

Either way, you want to remove the temptation all together by visibly “hiding” your phone. Remember, out of sight is out of mind.

What About Emergencies?

You might be worried more than ever about Grandma in her nursing home, or your child who is currently traveling throughout Australia. We get it—it’s a troubling time.

However, keeping your phone on and next to your bed will most likely add to your worry. Every beep, notification, or system update will make you flinch or bolt out of bed. Is that Grandma? Most of the time it’ll be nothing, but you’ll still worry about all those “what ifs.”

If you’re determined to stay reachable in the middle of the night, here’s what you can do. Set your phone to Do Not Disturb and select “Allow Calls From” so that Grandma or your beloved worldwide traveler can still contact you. Check out our sister site How-to Geek’s instructions for the iPhone and iPad, as well as Android devices.

Then you can either place your phone as far from your bed as possible (such as on a dresser or even in your closet) or store it in a nearby room with the volume turned up. That way, any true emergencies will come through, allowing everything else to stay silent.

The key is to keep your phone out of reach, breaking the cycle of impulsive scrolling.

Get an Alarm Clock

Man sleeping with an alarm clock.

You might agree with all the above points, nodding your head over and over. Yup, that makes sense. However, when it comes down to practicality, you still sleep next to your phone because you need the alarm function.

Okay, we don’t want to be responsible for you missing work or sleeping the day away. However, we have a solution for this! And you’ve probably guessed it: The old-fashioned alarm clock.

Getting a regular alarm clock might feel like moving back in time, but believe us—it’s the best way to guarantee a full night’s sleep (and to ensure you still wake up on time). Don’t forget that people often waste time in the morning scrolling in bed. You don’t want to read the current statistics while you’re rubbing sleep from your eyes—wait until after some coffee for that!

We recommend something like this simple alarm clock—it has seven sweet melodies to choose from, it doesn’t tick, and it only lights up when you push the button on top. And yes, it has a snooze option.

You can also look into getting a wake-up alarm clock, which uses a gentle light to wake you up. If you already use smart lights in your bedroom, btw, there’s a good chance you can program the lights to do the work for you—so don’t rush out to buy a specialty alarm clock when you might already have the tools you need.

If you want to maintain a solid sleep schedule amidst the world’s chaos, it’s time to kick your phone out of your bed. Also, try to turn it off at least one or two hours before bed (set an alarm to remind you to do so). If you want to read something at night, consider getting a regular book, or using your phone’s night mode, maybe with an internet blocker, so you’re not tempted to obsessively check the world’s news.

Don’t worry, you can catch up on all the news tomorrow—after a good night’s sleep!

Jill A. Chafin Jill A. Chafin
Jill A. Chafin is a freelance writer, aerialist, dancer, food enthusiast, outdoor adventurer, and mama, based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Read Full Bio »
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