What I Learnt About Reducing Screen Time…

October 7, 2018

I’m as guilty as the next person for spending hours on my phone, falling down internet rabbit holes realizing its 3am and that I need to be up for work soon! It was whilst reviewing my daily routine in a workshop at The Nature Sessions that I realized a lot of my stress waking up and going to sleep was caused by my phone.  Reducing screen time to force a digital detox was the resolution.

First let me clarify what I was experiencing.  With family based on the other side of the world and in a time zone 180degress opposite to me, it was not unusual to wake up and want to immediately check for whatsapp messages.  How many flashed up on screen could drastically change my mood and more often then not I felt I was waking up stressed. Not a good place to be.  Equally as I was going to bed my family were waking up and this meant lots of messaging and another rabbit hole at 11pm chatting.  Add to this my current social media project where I am doing everything on Instagram I encourage my clients to do, to experiment and see what really works and it is a lot of blue light, headache inducing, restless sleeps nightly.

It was the headaches that worried me the most.  I would go to sleep with one and wake and it was still there.  This is a recent symptom that I believe is also the result of looking down at my phone screen creating stress on my neck muscles. If you ever catch me on the train I’m the person holding my phone up high now, it helps.

It’s been years since I used anything other then my phone to wake me every morning.  I’d transitioned from the harsh alarm sounds to quite charming bells that started softly and got louder.  I never understand why alarm clocks have heart attack inducing sounds. What an awful way to wake up and potentially be launched out of your sleep.  Whenever I’ve had a plus one in the bed I’ve set their alarms on my phone so not to risk their preference for high pitched fire like alarms!

Finding a replacement alarm clock took a lot of research.  I wanted something that was just that, no Bluetooth, Alexa voice commands or inbuilt radios.  Ridiculously after trawling the interweb and reading waaay too many forums where others were trying to find the same and couldn’t I realised I would have to increase my budget.  Anything that allowed the user to download their own song was over £100 which seems ridiculous and came with all sorts of bells and whistles I didn’t need. I kept coming back to the Philips Wake Up Light that had two inbuilt nature sounds, potential to connect to radio (not a requirement for me) and the ability to replicate a sunrise.  Honestly I wasn’t really into the company as they use to be a client of mine and I didn’t want to give them my money.  Bad memories!  But I had to step back and acknowledge that for the price point and from the review this product was fit for purpose.

For the two days before my Philips Wake Up Light arrived I binged hard and stayed up well past midnight really pushing the boundaries of screen time and internet holes.  I even got back on twitter which is a minefield and moodhoover.  On the day it arrived I committed and stopped using my phone at 8.30pm, reluctantly putting it on the kitchen bench.  Then moving it to the bedroom and set the alarm just in case the Wake Up Light didn’t work!  It did and I had a better sleep.

The following week I continued to go off screen at 8.30pm and found this seemed less dramatic if I set alarms on my phone for 8pm and 8.30pm.  The 8pm one is a reminder that I need to be off screen soon and allows me to quickly respond to anyone, set up some Instagram posts and check the weather.  It took about 4 days to get into the routine and it changed my sleep dramatically.  I started packing my bags for the next day and doing a quick flat tidying. Then I would read, something I haven’t done recreationally a lot this year.  The headaches were gone and waking up to the songs by birds is lovely.

Here is what I learnt.  Reducing my screen time and setting alarms to get off screen works, but not if I think I am invincible again and stop doing it!  The stress and headaches come back quickly.  Having an alarm that wakes you with bird sounds can become a bit tricky if you hear birds outside your window before sunrise.  You are going to wake up and have to tell yourself to go back to sleep!  It isn’t dark enough to make a conclusion if the sunshine feature on the Wake Up Light is useful yet.  I do have to remember to turn off the alarm or set it for later on the weekend as it does automatically set for each day!  My reading speed has improved and I’ve found that my vocabulary has picked up as a result of widening my consumption of stories beyond online magazines.  Win!

When I roll out of bed I get straight into the shower and previously I’d have squinted at my phone and then blasted some music.  Now I shower mainly in silence listening to the water hit the shower pan and hum my own tunes.  This is much more peaceful and helps to set my mood for the day.

How are you sleep routines?  Are you looking to remove your phone from your bedroom as well?  I’d love to hear about any tips you have. PF xo

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