My cell phone has been a faithful, longtime bedtime partner, but just between us, we have an “it’s complicated” relationship. While it doesn’t steal my bamboo covers or drool on my pillow, it keeps the blue light on as I lay awake clutching it well past my bedtime, my eyes wide like a girl in a Margaret Keane painting.
I desperately wanted to reap the myriad benefits that sleep offers me (stress relief, mood and immunity boosts, heart strengthening, to name a few). Instead, my brain was perpetually overstimulated from responding to texts that could wait until the next day, pinning balcony ideas to online mood boards, or falling down a TikTok beauty hack rabbit hole.
When I began zonking out at my desk in the middle of daytime Zoom meetings, I knew I had to make some changes in my life. In order to create a healthy morning and nighttime routine that would enable me to achieve mission impossible—7 hours of blissful rest—I had to let go of sleeping with a smartphone. The first step was putting my faith in an alarm clock that was designed to help me embrace a state of calm over chaos and chatter. Here’s what happened when I made my bedroom a technology-free zone for a week.
You know how bedtime feels the first few nights after ending a romantic relationship? The feeling of absence and uncertainty, slowly replaced by a sense of relief and connecting with your own needs? That’s kind of how I felt without my cell phone in bed. At first, when I consciously closed my eyes, sending a message to my thinking mind that I was in charge of when we rested, my brain began to panic. Without all the distractions, it was quiet, but perhaps too quiet for my first night without technology. Can I pin decor inspiration to my brain? What if I have nowhere to type a brilliant idea or task I just remembered? Who’s texting me?
Loftie may keep things simple, but it’s a clever little clock. It knew that I couldn’t fall asleep to the sound of silence cold turkey. Scrolling through its built-in ambient sounds, I thought about how relaxed I feel in nature and chose “Distant Valley.” The soundscape reminded me of my trips to Costa Rica, listening to the curiously soothing sounds of a woodpecker drumming, accompanied by a symphony of birds chirping. Maybe having nothing to do or see was like a free vacation. The anxious feeling of not being able to check my emails faded away and I fell asleep without taking my day with me.
In the morning, the two-phase alarm system beckoned me back into the world like a loving human would, calmly. I journaled, meditated, and made a gratitude list, practices I’ve had for years, but they were almost always interrupted by the ding of my phone.
By day four, I decided to add journaling and an evening meditation to my nighttime routine. Without its partner in crime, my busy brain was learning how to quiet itself and just be present. I placed a small journal on my nightstand in case a thought came up that I needed to record. With only paper pages and a pen, I wrote more than a thought. I free wrote without being distracted by apps beckoning me to engage with them.
In the mornings, I didn’t wake up with the weight of an elephant sitting on my chest. My to-do list was literally out of sight and out of mind. Without the frenetic and anxious energy that once ejected me from my bed, I dropped into a morning meditation without stressing out about the day ahead. I was no longer consumed by other people’s needs and was showing up for myself first before I took care of the rest of my world.
In Healing Darkness for Sleep, a guided meditation, the narrator Jennifer Piercy says, “We live in a time of junk light, overstimulated, anxious, inflamed; our sensitive biorhythms literally brainwashed into thinking that we should always be awake and that it not safe to rest.” I thought about all the treatments and products I invest in for my health, but never gave a thought to investing in the healing benefits of sleep. Without my cell phone, I could disengage from the thinking world and access my subconscious thoughts or the peacefulness of nothing at all. Both are tremendously valuable to my physical health, mental well-being, and how I treat myself and show up in the world.
Not only was I sleeping more soundly, I was granted the gifts of time, calm, and serenity. When I retrieved my cell phone in the morning and scrolled through my notifications, I saw that I hadn’t missed much. But I was aware of how much I had been missing out on falling asleep plugged into the world, instead of myself.