Unplug Your Way to a Better Night's Sleep
For the last several years, I wake up utterly exhausted in the morning. I hear the little pitter patter of tiny feet running to my bed and think "please, not yet. Just another twenty minutes!" As the mother of a two and three-year-old, we are up early pretty much every day. For the record, I'm not a morning person. Never have been, probably never will be. Lately, I've been averaging about 5-6 hours of sleep per night, which is just not enough for me. Oh, how I wish it was!
Lack of sleep makes me feel irritable and stressed. My mind is foggy and I get headaches. Not the ideal mood to be in when you have two little happy faces to parent all day. Lately, the lack of sleep had really gotten to me. I got frustrated easily, was super cranky, and my patience was low. I was tired of being tired all the time!
I wasn't getting the sleep I desperately needed, and it was partially my fault. Part of it was getting up with my kids 2-4 times per night. That's just a package deal when you have young children. Part of it was our current situation. My husband gets up at 5:00 a.m. for overtime work, so I'm also just awake at that time. Part of it is my own doing. Each night, after everyone is asleep, I stay up way too late and play on my phone. Facebook, reading an electronic book, games, or just Googling. It helps decompress from the day, but it also creates a major sleep deficit. It was time to unplug, and it was far overdue.
At the very least, I needed to set a boundary. No smartphone after 10:00 p.m.. The first night that I unplugged, I went to bed at 9:45 p.m. and got the best sleep of my life. At least it sure felt that way, since I was sleep deprived for three years! I got almost 8 hours of sleep that night and woke up feeling like a new person simply by setting a limit on my cell phone usage before bedtime and unplugging from that nightly distraction. At first, it actually wasn't that easy to do. Playing on my phone at night had become such a habit that it was hard to break. It was something I looked forward to, a way to just turn my brain off for awhile. After being sleep deprived for that long, I made a bigger effort to just put the phone down.
Unplugging from the phone at night created an earlier bedtime for me, but also prevented me from staring at the blue light emitted by my phone as I fell asleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, "careful studies have shown that even our small electronic devices emit sufficient light to miscue the brain and promote wakefulness." So my smartphone habit had the negative side effect of suppressing my melatonin levels and disrupting my circadian rhythms. Unfortunately, it's not just me that this habit is potentially affecting. According to Sleep.org, "71% of people sleep either holding their smartphone, having it in bed with them, or having it on their nightstand." The article goes on to explain that many people use the phone as an alarm clock, "but when your cell is that close to you, the temptation to check social media sites, work email, and/or the news headlines is often too strong to resist, -even if it's 11:00 p.m." Bingo! That was the case for me. I had the phone next time me every single night and its addicting little screen just called out to me to scroll through it for some mindless entertainment. I needed some mindless entertainment at the end of a long day, but my sleep became more important and I decided not to sacrifice it anymore.
So now I have my limits in place. No smartphone after 10:00 p.m.. I set it on my dresser so I can't reach it from the bed. An article on Psychology Today states that research has shown it would be even more beneficial to put smartphones away an hour or so before bedtime to further reduce exposure to blue light. This will be my next goal, but for now, 10:00 p.m. is reasonable. After, I read an actual book for a few minutes, close my eyes, and meditate for around 10-15 minutes (unless I fall asleep first!). At the suggestion of my husband, I borrowed a book from his coworker called Unplug: A Simple Guide to Meditation for Busy Skeptics and Modern Soul Searchers by Suze Yalof Shwartz. It's an easy, straightforward guide to meditation and how it can benefit a person. With these new changes, my sleep has improved drastically. I've unplugged at night and I'm not going back!
Do you also struggle to disconnect at night? What tricks have you tried to improve your quality of sleep? Please let me know in the comments!
Where does your cell phone reside at night?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.