I Banned my Phone from the Bedroom for Two Weeks. Here’s What Happened.

I finally did it.

After numerous ill-fated attempts that petered out after a couple of days, I’ve successfully kept my phone out of the bedroom for two weeks straight.

I’m not saying that I never walk into my bedroom or bathroom throughout the day with my phone still in my pocket. Ditto for my bathroom. What I AM saying is that come bedtime, my phone stays happily plugged in and sleeping on the main floor while I head upstairs to the bedroom.

I make no apologies for liking my phone, this powerful pocket computer that helps me and connects me and amuses me in a thousand different ways. But I’ve long wondered about the value of keeping it by my side throughout my sleeping hours.

This summer was the final tipping point. I didn’t like some of the things that bedside phone use was doing to me. As further motivation, it seemed a growing number of the voices I listen to in books, podcasts, Twitter, and Medium were promoting the benefits of the ban.

And so I took the plunge. I barred my phone from the bedroom for two weeks straight, and I got a lot more of what I actually wanted from my day. Here’s what happened.

  1. More face time with the wife. Yes, we place a high priority as a family on device-free dinners at the dining room table. But that’s family time. I think the reality for many couples is that the 30 minutes before bed constitute the best window in the day to have meaningful face-to-face conversation. I value my marriage, and I want to make sure we have strong times of connection every single day. When our faces are buried in screens, strong connection isn’t happening. That’s not to say the same distractions can’t occur via books or other analog activities. But the compelling nature of phones and notifications is an obvious game-changer in the bedroom environment.
  2. More sleep. After getting under the covers and before lights out, I used to really enjoy a last quick check of my phone. I would check emails and respond appropriately, hoping to get to inbox zero before lights out. I would read the latest articles on Flipboard and Medium. Watch the Canucks highlights or Stephen Colbert. Check Twitter and Instagram. The problem with these amusements is that they’re just so darned amusing. If I’m not careful, I can burn 15, 20, or 30 minutes on this cycle of fun. And when I’m typically fighting just to get a solid 7+ hours of sleep, those are minutes I can’t afford to burn.
  3. More reading. I consider myself a reader. I actually love it. It’s a source of personal joy and fulfillment, and when I have an entire day to myself, you know that reading will happen. Frankly, my job and my current graduate studies also demand that I read regularly. Reading at bedtime can be a great opportunity to simultaneously make progress on books and calm my mind before sleep. But when my phone is within reach at bedtime, reading takes a backseat. The reality is that reading requires more mental engagement than on-screen amusements, so screens tend to win that battle 9 times out of 10. With my phone gone, I’ve found it’s a whole lot easier to read a few pages under the covers before the lights go out.
  4. More journalling, meditation, and prayer. Whether or not you’re a person of faith, everyone in the holistic wellness space agrees that some form of daily meditation and self-reflection is essential for a healthy, well-balanced life. There’s something powerful and cathartic about taking a few minutes to write your thoughts down on paper, organize them, process them, and reflect. Practice gratitude. Affirm yourself. Address worries. Set goals. Pray. Like reading, I noticed I just wasn’t doing the journalling I wanted to do when my phone was handy. I wanted to — really. But it wasn’t happening.
  5. More sex. As a close companion to point 1, I’m a whole lot more likely to make moves on my wife when I’m not reading an article on the Washington Post or watching the latest clip of ‘Things Drunk People Do’ sent to me by my brother. Get phones out of your bedroom, and more lovemaking is a guarantee. And let’s face it — we can all use more sex and intimacy in our lives. Sexless marriages are dying marriages. Banish the digital, embrace the analog, and enjoy the results.
  6. Less blue light. I’m including this point because my eyes absorb several hours of unguarded blue light for several hours each day. Are all those rays damaging my eyes? My optometrist thinks they might be, and that’s reason enough for me to look for ways to cut down screen time (and soon, buy a pair of new glasses with a protective blue light coating). Cutting out 20–30 minutes of my day might not make a huge difference, but it’s progress in the right direction.
  7. Higher quality of sleep. Like me, you’ve probably read this business about blue light convincing our brains it’s still day time, and therefore making it harder for our systems to wind down. Although I haven’t found that to be the case for me personally, I’m going to trust science on this one and say that my body probably falls asleep faster (and experiences deeper sleep cycles) if I’m not blasting my brain with scintillating brilliance right before I turn the lights out. Probably.
  8. Less radiation. Okay, so the anxious studies of the 90s about cell phones causing brain tumours now appear to be rubbish. Scientists seem to agree that the micro levels of radiation emitted by our ever-present digital companions don’t take much of a toll on our bodies. Still, why not give our bodies a bit of a break? I like the idea that for 7+ hours a day, my phone and its little radiation waves are nowhere near my body.
  9. I’m reminding me and my phone who’s in charge. Do we control our phones, or do our phones control us? In the age of instant notifications, it’s a question we should all be asking ourselves periodically. I wasn’t keeping my phone beside my bed because of FOMO, I used to tell myself. It was for the alarm clock. For access to my calendar, my to-do lists, and email. For those times when something occurs to me that I must immediately add to our grocery list or write down immediately in my notes app before it slips forever out of mind. Well, it turns out that for these eight hours of the day, an old digital alarm clock and a pad of paper will stand in for all those utilities just fine. By banning it from my bedroom for a third of every day, I’m reminding it (and telling myself) who is in charge of whom. I love my shiny new iPhone — I really do. But I also like the emotional and spiritual satisfaction I get from telling it to buzz off.
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