Phone-Free Bedroom: Wellness Challenge
Make your bedroom phone-free for one week
“The bedroom should be a place of rest, romance and relaxation – and nothing else.” – Unknown
Simple instructions for this phone-free bedroom challenge
- Make your bedroom a phone-free zone and keep your phone outside of your bedroom for one week.
- This means you must keep your phone in another room while you sleep.
- Don’t let your smartphone be the first thing you look at in the morning and/or the last thing you see at night.
- Ideally, remove other electronics such as tablets/iPads, iPods, TVs and computers from your bedroom as well.
- To achieve optimal health and maintain good sleep hygiene, I recommend that you follow this wellness challenge for as long as possible (beyond the seven days).
- Keep your phone outside the bedroom. At night, place your phone outside the bedroom but within earshot so you can hear any incoming calls. Double check that you can hear the phone ring from your bedroom. Make this your phone’s permanent “overnight home.” Surround it with things your phone might need, like a charger and stand.
- Put your smartphone on the “Do Not Disturb” setting at night. “Do Not Disturb” lets you set a time period when you allow calls to come in from everyone, no one, or just people on your favorite’s list. With this setting on, only important calls alert you at night. There’s also a “repeated calls” setting within Do Not Disturb, which guarantees that if the same person calls you twice within three minutes that the second call will go through as intended.
- If you use your cellphone as an alarm, you can do the following:
- Still use your smartphone as an alarm – just make sure you can hear the alarm when it goes off in the adjacent room.
- Invest in an old-school digital alarm clock (or a funky wooden cube alarm clock). If you do this, place your alarm clock as far away from your head as possible so that you reduce your exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) while you sleep.
- Set an “electronics curfew.” Decide on a definite time when you must stop using electronics. To help you stick with this time, set an alarm on your phone. When it goes off, use this as a reminder to place your phone in its “overnight home.” Stop all screen usage at this time – this means no computer, tablet, TV, etc. Stop using screens at least 1-2 hours before bedtime.
- Decide when you’ll look at your phone in the morning. Will it be at a certain time or will it be after you drink your cup of coffee, brush your teeth, shower, etc.? Don’t let phone use (like checking emails, surfing the Internet, browsing Amazon, playing games, using apps, or scrolling through social media be the first thing you do when you wake up.
- Place a book, magazine or journal (and pen/pencil) next to your bed. Having something to read or write in within arms’ reach will help you break free from the late night screen use and make it easier to start a new pre-sleep ritual like reading or writing in a journal.
- Set a reading goal. I find it helpful to set a daily and nightly reading goal like “read 30 pages in my book before I go to bed and 30 when I wake up in the morning.” This can help distract you away from screens so you can focus on non-screen activities.
- Ask your partner to join the challenge. If you have a sleep buddy, ask them to join the “phone-free bedroom” challenge. This will make it easier for you to create a new habit and may help strengthen your relationship.
- Tell others that you’re doing this challenge. If you regularly text or talk with people at night, tell them the hours when you will be away from your smartphone. By doing this, you will feel less guilty not communicating with them and they will understand why you are not responding to their messages or calls.
- Don’t send texts or emails, or post anything to social media, within a few hours of going to sleep. Schedule your emails and posts to go out first thing in the morning. This lets you go to bed without stressing about whether or not anyone has liked your photo or written you back yet.
Why this practice is important
The use of smartphones (and other electronic devices) for reading, communication and entertainment one to two hours before bedtime can negatively impact your overall health and performance. The blue-spectrum light they emit gives off wavelengths similar to daylight, which can make your body think it’s daytime (even at night). This may perpetuate sleep deficiency and disrupt your circadian rhythm, a 24-hour sleep/wake cycle that regulates important physiological processes.
Using a phone (or any electronic device) before bedtime does the following to your body:
- It prolongs the time it takes to fall asleep. The results from a study conducted by Harvard researchers in 2014 showed participants who used a tablet before bed (with a blue light-emitting screen similar to a smartphone) had reduced evening sleepiness and took 10-minutes longer to fall asleep than those who were reading a print book.
- Suppresses your melatonin secretion. The hormone melatonin helps to maintain a proper circadian rhythm and promotes deep, restorative sleep. Even low levels of light, such as that from your phone, tablet, a dim bedside lamp, or streetlight, can decrease the production of melatonin. When melatonin production is suppressed, it makes it much more difficult for you to fall asleep at night. Chronically suppressed melatonin has been linked to increased risks of breast, colon and prostate cancers.
- Delays your circadian clock rhythm. Your circadian cycle synchronizes many important internal physiological and biochemical processes. It also tells your body when to sleep, rise and eat. Exposure to light at night, even at low intensity, confuses your brain into thinking its daytime (even when you are staring at your phone’s screen at midnight). As a response, your brain secretes hormones to make you feel more awake, suppresses the release of the sleep-facilitating hormone melatonin (as mentioned above) and shifts your circadian clock to a later time. When your circadian rhythm is delayed, your metabolism, appetite, alertness and mood are negatively impacted. The physical (growth) and psychological repair hormones that are usually released while you sleep are also suppressed, which increases your risk of developing chronic musculoskeletal injuries and illness (such as obesity, diabetes and cancer).
- Decreases the amount of and delays the timing of your REM sleep. REM sleep is a sleep stage that’s critical for restoration of your mind and body. REM sleep solidifies memories and is tied to your creative and problem-solving skills. If you don’t get enough of it, it can leave you with “brain fog” and you may experience fatigue, grogginess and have difficulty concentrating the next day.
- Exposes you to potentially harmful electromagnetic frequency (EMFs). Cell phones emit two types of harmful EMFs: microwave electromagnetic radiation from the antenna, and more EMFs from the phone body. Possible side effects of these EMFs can range from disrupted sleep patterns to changes in DNA. Studies have shown that cell phones held near the head even cause brain wave changes in 70% of people. Other potential side effects of EMFs emitted by smartphones include:
- Genetic damage
- Impaired immune system
- Cancers, including brain tumors (20-80% of the radiation from a phone’s antenna penetrates up to two inches into the adult brain) and melanoma
- Break in the brain/blood barrier
- Reduced melatonin
- Fertility issues (especially erectile dysfunction, morphological changes to sperm, and reductions in sperm counts in men)
- Interference with pacemakers
- Memory loss
- Bone loss
- Changes in electrical activity in the brain
- Cardiovascular stress
- Eye problems
- Wake you up. Keeping a phone in your bedroom invites disruption to your sleep. Phones are designed to catch your attention by ringing, alerting, dinging and lighting up. This is great when you’re awake, but bad when you’re asleep. Random text messages or calls may wake you and create fragmented sleep. It only takes one flash of light or vibration of your phone at the wrong moment to make you fully conscious.
- Make it hard to fall back to sleep. If you wake during the night and read something upsetting on your phone, it may be difficult to fall back asleep. This may also put you into a grumpy mood the next morning.
- Invites work to bed. Keeping your smartphone in your bedroom creates an unhealthy distraction by bringing work into your bed. When you leave your phone in another room, you give your brain the permission to do something else like talk to your partner, catch up on a fiction book and decompress from the day.
- Decreases romantic time with your loved one. A phone in your bedroom may decrease your chances of getting down with your partner and increase the chance that your romantic time will get interrupted by a call or text. Instead of scrolling social media, talk to your partner. Decompress from your day. Snuggle up and make your quiet time count.
- Steals calmness from your mornings. Starting your mornings with a quiet moment before you let the world in is important. It allows you to ease into the day, which is healthy for your cortisol (stress hormone) levels and overall well-being. You might find yourself doing things you weren’t when you were attached to your phone like getting out of bed earlier, planning for the day, relaxing with your cup a coffee, or going for a short walk.
Note: For those of you who must use computers or other light-emitting devices in the evening, using blue-light blocking glasses or software like f.lux that filters out the blue light may help. If you must look at a screen, turn its light all the way down and use a program (such as “night shift” on an iPhone) that will decrease blue light.
Join me in this phone-free bedroom wellness challenge!
I urge you to make your bedroom into a phone-free zone this week. Recognize your bedroom as a place of rest, relaxation and revitalization. Your bed should be reserved for resting, canoodling, sexing and sleeping – not texting, mindlessly scrolling social media pages, or working. By setting aside your bedroom for its intended purposes, you’ll not only improve your sleep routine, but you’ll create a quite place for yourself free of the digital world distractions and work demands.
Talk to me – what do you think of this phone-free bedroom challenge?
- Will this challenge be easy or difficult for you? If difficult, what obstacles are in your way? What can you do to overcome these challenges?
- Do you already sleep in a phone-free bedroom? If yes, what tricks or tips can you share with other readers to make the transition easier? Do you like not having your phone in your bedroom?
- Is this a wellness practice that you continue after this week? Why or why not?
Past wellness challenges
If you like this week’s wellness lifestyle challenge, please share this post, Phone-Free Bedroom: Wellness Challenge, with your friends and family. 🙂
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When she is not slaying fat and building muscle, Jennifer can be found trekking barefoot, traveling, cooking and refining her photography skills. She also enjoys reading and writing about food culture, history and the science of human movement.