Ever since I first got a smartphone it has slowly inveigled its way into every area of my life. It’s like it’s attached to me by an invisible string. In dull moments, I find my fingers itching to seek it out – to tap on the screen and get that gratification that only comes from social media, or a getting a reply to a pressing email.
It affects my concentration and interrupts my dreams. And even worse, it came up to bed with me. My phone was my alarm clock, but it was also the world’s biggest time waster. The time had come for new boundaries and a fresh start.
The challenge was simple: I had to leave my phone downstairs at bedtime.
After a week of this, I’ve learnt some very interesting things…
Mobile phones make terrible alarm clocks
I struggle to get out of bed in the mornings. Every night I’d set earlier and earlier alarms on my phone in the hope that I’d somehow miraculously leap out of bed. The alarm would ping at 6am, and I’d reach out for my phone and hit the snooze button again and again. It was a well-practised routine that I could do while still half asleep.
And when I finally opened my eyes, can you guess what I did first? Yep, look at my phone. It was just too tempting. I’d scroll through Instagram, post a picture and generally faff around.
It was the ultimate diversion tactic. I’d leave it until the very last-minute to get out of bed. I was a disorganised mess, which left me feeling tired and unmotivated.
Snooze buttons are bad for you, which is why my new routine doesn’t have one.
Instead of my phone I now use a radio alarm clock, which I can’t reach from the bed. It clicks on at 6.50 am. I drowse for ten minutes listening to the Today programme and then wake properly for the news headlines at 7am.
With no temptation to look at my phone, my head feels clear and I have a stronger motivation to get out of bed. I feel more resourceful and focused on the day ahead. One week in and it’s still working.
I feel less tired
This could be because I’m not wasting an hour of my precious sleep pressing the snooze button, or perhaps it’s because my quality of sleep is better without the nocturnal pinging of my phone.
Mainly though, I think I feel less tired because I feel less rushed. I was clearly in denial about how much time I was spending on my phone in bed, because now it’s no longer there I feel like I have at least double the amount of time to get everyone ready. No more running around like a headless chicken. I’m a nicer mummy, and my children are being more co-operative – probably because they too are enjoying the gift of time.
I allow myself a look at my phone when all the urgent chores are done.
Usually this is around the time I get my make-up on and clean my teeth. It’s just time for a quick look and to say hi to Instagram – then it goes away again until after the school run. Yes, my fingers still itch to look at it, but I don’t get sucked in so easily. It’s so refreshing to feel like it’s on better terms.
I realise now that I was trapped in an unhealthy cycle
The desire to fiddle on my phone outweighed my other priorities. Allowing it to eat up time I didn’t have was making myself feel tired and inadequate every single morning. Which is a terribly depressing way to start your day.
If I’m making it sound easy, that’s because it is easy
I thought I’d miss my phone terribly. But I didn’t. After just a few days of my new routine I have seen my phone for the time-wasting and unhealthy habit it was. Yes, I still look at it during the day, but banning it from the bedroom has given me the freedom to see its true colours.
Your phone might feel like your best friend, but sometimes it can be your worst enemy. Cut the ties occasionally and you may surprise yourself with your own resourcefulness.
Time 4 Sleep commissioned this piece as part of their Tech Detox campaign.