Each room of your home serves a specific purpose. The kitchen exists to nourish. The living room is there for relaxation. The dining room, for fellowship. And we don't need to go into the details of what the bathroom is for. But arguably the most important room of your home is the bedroom. It's your sanctuary, your safe space. It's the place where you go to lie unconscious for 6-8 hours in order to function properly as a human being! Since the bedroom's purpose is so different from that of the other rooms in the house, this room deserves a different set of rules. And there's one rule that a lot of us are guilty of breaking every day: No technology in the bedroom.
You've no doubt heard how having a smartphone, laptop, or television in the bedroom can affect sleep. In reality, having a technology-free bedroom will improve more than just your slumber. A good night's rest is the basis for your whole day, and a poor sleep schedule will trickle out into every part of your daily life. Not only can a technology-free bedroom change your sleeping habits, but it will also improve your relationship with your partner, and your overall well-being. In short, a technology-free bedroom will make you a happier person. And who doesn't want that for themselves?
Why Tech + Bedroom = Bad
Before we talk about making the change, let's look at why technology in your sanctuary is having a negative impact on your life. How exactly is scrolling through Instagram under the covers or watching the Late Late Show on television a bad thing? We'll start with the physical effects.
Back in the days before technology, your body primarily relied on the natural rhythm of the sun. When it was light out, you woke up. When the sun set, you fell asleep. This is known as the circadian rhythm, and your body follows it to know when to start shutting things down and when to kick it into gear. The circadian rhythm works off of light, which is great, unless you expose your body to too much light. This is where blue light comes to play. You've probably heard the term before. It refers to the type of light that projects from the sun during daylight hours, as well as from our phones, laptops, and other electronics. Blue light stimulates us - it makes us feel awake. By basking in it while we're trying to fall asleep, we're essentially fighting a losing battle. You can't expect to get a good night's sleep when you're signaling to your body that it's time to wake up.
While blue light physically keeps us from getting a restful sleep, FOMO (or fear-of-missing-out) is psychologically keeping us from the Zzzs. I love social media, and I think it can be a positive tool if used correctly. That being said, social media can be an ego-deflater, and getting sucked in a negative mindset right before bed is detrimental to your happiness and the success of your sleep. FOMO is when you feel like you're missing out on social activies or just life in general. Social media constantly feeds us images of people working out at the gym, traveling the world, conquering their "daily hustle," etc. Seeing that much accomplishment while you're trying to wind down might make you anxious that you're not doing enough, or that you're not awake and participating. You should be sleeping, but instead you're thinking about accomplishing more with your life. But how are you going to achieve your goals if you can't get a good night's sleep? Put down the phone!
Earlier I referred to your bedroom as your sanctuary, and that's absolutely true. When you drag your laptop to bed, you're inviting unwanted guests into your sanctuary. You're allowing emails, to-do lists, and your work life to be a part of your night life. You create a mental link between sleep and work, which is counterintuitive and a distraction from the main goal of nighttime (i.e. to rest). Even if you don't have your laptop open in your bedroom, just having it in the room will create the temptation to crack it open, and that thought alone is enough to keep you up later.
The only two things that should be happening in your bedroom are sleep and sex - that's it. That moment after you've tucked yourself under the covers might be the only alone-time you and your partner get all day. Why wedge a phone or a laptop in between that? I love Jimmy Fallon as much as anyone, but he doesn't belong in the bedroom - so turn off the TV! Use that time before you fall asleep to chat with your partner about their day, or to dream about the future together, or to just enjoy each other's physical company. Make a plan together to create a technology-free bedroom. Demonstrate to your partner that they are more important than a smartphone.
Making It Happen
Now that we've talked about why you should rid your bedroom of all things distracting, let's look at how to do that. It's pretty simple - just don't bring your technology into the bedroom! Here are some tips for making the transition:
The Television: Get it outta there! Move your TV from your bedroom to another room of the house. If you aren't used to falling asleep without the background noise of late-night television, get a noise machine.
Your Laptop: Designate a new "home" for your laptop somewhere other than your bedside table. Dock it there every night. For me, that means putting my computer into my backpack so it's ready for work the next day. If you're having trouble stepping away from work in the evenings, give yourself a deadline. Set an alarm and pick a specific time to not work past. Sleep is important, and your employers should understand needing to disconnect.
Your Smartphone: This is perhaps the hardest thing to let go of in the bedroom, but you can do it - or at least a version of it. If you don't want to keep your phone in another room of the house (emergency phone calls are real), tuck it away in your nightstand. There are ways to charge your phone at night and still keep it out of arms reach - see how I "hacked" my nightstand to include a hidden charger in the drawer in this post. If you receive a lot of late-night texts, change the settings on your phone. Most phones and apps now come with a nighttime setting, turning the light from blue to yellow. This gives your eyes a rest from the stimulating blue light.
I'm the worst about having my phone in the bedroom, and my excuse is always, "I use my phone as my alarm!" Which might be the weakest excuse ever, since alarm clocks are widely available, inexpensive, and can be a cute addition to your nightstand.
Making a technology-free bedroom happen isn't going to be instant. Be forgiving of yourself as you make the transition, but set firm guidelines, too. If you share your bed, make sure your partner is on the same page. Sleep is important, and so is your happiness. Getting a good night's sleep is crucial to your overall health and wellbeing. And your emails will always be there in the morning.
If you've successfully rid distractions from your sleeping sanctuary, share your experience in the comments!