Keeping all of my devices out of the bedroom started with one simple motivation: I wanted to model healthy tech habits for my kids. That’s it.
I felt pretty in control of my tech habits. I wasn’t staying up until 2 a.m. scrolling on my phone or binging on Netflix. I was simply answering one last work email or catching up on my Instagram feed later than I should have been, instead of the things I used to do. Things like: talking to my husband, reading a book, journaling, enjoying an evening walk, or winding down with a bath.
What started as an intention to be a better parent, turned into a five year journey of reclaiming my mornings and evenings from technology, and rediscovering what I call the Three R’s of resetting: rest, relationships, and rejuvenation.
Let’s talk about how to get better sleep, connect with a spouse or partner, and how to find time for yourself again.
Rest: Get Better Sleep
79% of smartphone users check their phone within 15 minutes of waking up.1 It’s often the last thing they look at before they go to bed, too.
Once I ditched devices in the bedroom, I felt less stressed and anxious at night. I wrote out my to-do list and then turned to a book, soothing music, or just laid in bed to unwind.
I’ve read that prior to Edison, people slept an average of 10 hours a night. 10 hours!?! I understand that not everyone needs the same amount of sleep, but considering that the topic of “how to get more sleep” pops up so frequently it seems we’ve regressed. It’s not the light bulb that’s keeping us awake anymore, it’s our light-filled screens full of endless entertainment and stimulating stories that keep us mindlessly scrolling.
Not only are we delaying sleep by being on devices, it’s not uncommon for people to check their phone if they wake up during the night or to be awakened by phone notifications.
What helped me to put my device aside and get more rest?
- Putting my smartphone in a charging station2 in our office around 9 p.m.
- Leaving my laptop in the office.
- Using an alarm clock. I started with a simple basic travel alarm clock and then later upgraded to a Loftie clock3 (which I love).
- Setting up Do Not Disturb and Sleep Mode on my phone.
- Setting the Wi-Fi to turn off at 10:30 p.m.
- Creating a family tech plan which I talked about in The Wall Street Journal article here. (Use our Quick Guide here to create your own family tech plan.)
Studies confirm what people are starting to “wake up” to: “Bedtime access to and use of media devices are significantly associated with the following: inadequate sleep quantity, poor sleep quality, and excessive daytime sleepiness.” We’re waking up to the fact that our devices are keeping us from feeling truly awake to life.
The quantity and quality of our sleep impacts every aspect of our lives. Why not protect it? Getting devices out of the bedroom is one of the best ways to improve your sleep.
Relationships: Connect with Your Partner
I wonder if we realize how many missed opportunities we experience in a day because we’ve chosen to look at our device just one more time. All of those “one more times” add up. It’s been said that in the U.S. we check our phones 96 times per day—once every 10 minutes!
What are we giving up with that time? I fear that the thing we give up the most is our relationships. Leaving my phone out of my bedroom has improved my relationship with myself, my husband, and with my kids (they get a well-rested mom).
What’s better in my relationships since I banned my devices from the bedroom?
- As a married couple, we are taking time to talk after a long day without devices getting in the way.
- Work isn’t brought into the bedroom. No one is frantically trying to meet tomorrow’s deadline hunched over a laptop in bed or opening an early morning work email delivering stressful news.
- I hear our teen girls, who share a room, giggling at night instead of being silently sucked into screens.
- Increased intimacy. It’s hard to have an intimate relationship with someone who is on their phone scrolling Instagram or catching up on their latest Netflix series every night, right? A sexual relationship is part of a happy marriage!
- I even started leaving my phone at home during our weekly date night so I could remove the distraction altogether. Try it! Without that distraction in your pocket or purse you’ll find the power of presence. Your partner will thank you for it.
Can we connect on or through a device? Sure! But the most important connections are the ones we make face to face with the people in our own home.
Rejuvenation: Find Time for Yourself Again
When we remove digital distractions, our bedroom becomes a sacred sanctuary. A place where we can restore balance and let our mind finally rest.
What has rejuvenated me over the past five years?
- A curated book pile by my bed. Non-fiction for the morning, fiction at night.
- A candle and soft lighting.
- Being productive. When I’ve had a productive day, then I feel ready to rest at night and the cycle repeats. The opposite is staying up too late on a device working or trying to “relax” on screen and then feeling sluggish the next day.
- Creating screen-free bookends to my day. This means starting and ending the day with a morning and evening routine, and not my screen.
- Not slumping over a laptop in bed and instead using an eye level monitor at my desk instead.
- Being in charge of my mental health instead of reacting to the latest news or social media post. Checking social media before bed is proven to be disruptive to our sleep.
- Setting limits on my social media use during the day, so I’m not scrambling at night because I didn’t use my time wisely.
Charging my devices outside of my bedroom has allowed me to supercharge my life.
“This Will Never Work for Me”
After five years of living this way and sharing the benefits, I often hear, “That won’t work for me because…” That’s fair. Everyone’s circumstances are unique and this bedroom boundary might not be realistic for everyone.
First responders, doctors, people with chronic health conditions, families in small living spaces, and other situations might require a phone nearby at night. Also, some parents feel they need to charge everyone’s devices in their room rather than another room in the house to keep everyone honest. If this is you, I challenge you to test out at least one of these ideas to make your bedroom more than a device den:
- Try leaving your phone at least 3-4 feet away from the bed so it’s not within arm’s reach.
- Keep ONE device in the bedroom for emergencies. (Tag team with a spouse or partner and commit together!)
- Use your phone’s Do Not Disturb function when possible to only allow certain phone numbers to contact you.
- Block optional apps during bedtime hours.
- Communicate with co-workers, friends, or family who push the boundaries of tech etiquette by contacting you at odd hours.
- Keep your office out of your bedroom. If circumstances truly don’t allow, create an office “space” in your room and abide by strict work hours. Don’t bring your tech onto the bed.
- Use an updated alarm clock or sound machine for white noise.
- Use a smart speaker (if you’re cool with that) or bluetooth speaker if you like to fall asleep with music or an audiobook.
- Replace your old habit or behavior (scrolling your phone!) with something new (riffing on the guitar). Plug your phone in another room and put your guitar by your bed.
When we realize the benefits of separating ourselves from our screens, it feels less like punishment and more like reprieve.
By architecting an environment that serves us, parents and kids greatly reduce their chances of getting caught up in doom scrolling, the snares of pornography, chatting with random strangers, late-night gaming sessions, or just getting sucked into a tech time-warp.
We weren’t meant to live with a device tethered to us 24/7. Creating a tech-free haven is one of the best ways to go from distracted to restful, to strengthen relationships, and to protect our time and health in the digital age.