How I’m Sleeping Better During Tough Times

Changing this simple thing makes a huge difference, and it’s worth it

Have you ever wondered why you’re so exhausted all the time no matter how many hours of sleep you get? That exact problem plagued me for the last three years. Coincidentally, that’s the exact length of time I’ve owned a smartphone. That’s when my sleep disorder began in earnest.

Up until May 2017, I happily bumbled along with a flip phone. Sure, I may have fallen asleep mid-text once or twice, and I did have a bit of an addiction to Snake at one time, but my reliance on my Nokia didn’t even come close to the addiction that awaited me once I purchased my first iPhone.

Suddenly, I had access to social media in the palm of my hand while lying wide awake beneath the covers in bed when I should have been sleeping instead. Between constantly refreshing my Facebook and Twitter feeds and the incessant direct messages I sent and received all night long, sleep was no longer the main event.

Fun fact: My parents still both use flip phones, and they couldn’t be more content. My mother keeps her phone turned off and tucked into the bottom of her purse. She uses it only in case of emergencies, and she never has emergencies. My father keeps his flip phone in the front pocket of his t-shirt all day long. Then at bedtime, he turns it off and places it on the hallway table until the morning.

My sleep quality improved dramatically once I banned my cellphone from my bed. I haven’t yet managed to obey the “no blue light one hour before bedtime rule,” but breaking my middle-of-the-night texting habit has been transformational.

Until recently, I kept my cellphone on the bedside table and checked it every time I woke up. Since I wake up frequently throughout the night, that equated into an average of three hours per night spent reading and responding to text messages, checking email, and keeping abreast of the latest stock market numbers and breaking news.

In light of recent events, I found myself checking the news more often throughout the night. One story would lead to the next, and that would lead to an unhealthy and anxious mixture of fear, anxiety, depression, and guilt.

Clearly, world events haven’t improved just because I refuse to acknowledge them during the hours I am dedicated to getting a good night’s sleep, but that was never the point. My health and mental wellbeing were suffering from feeding my anxiety all night long. Mixed with a lack of restful sleep, I was a barely functioning zombie by the time morning arrived.

Now, when I climb beneath the covers at bedtime, I check my phone one last time before flipping it upside down on the bedside table, and I refuse to pick it up until morning. These days, I always keep notifications silent.

I am still tempted to check my cellphone every time I wake up, but I don’t allow myself to do more than check the time on my watch. Even that is something I hope to quit doing. Knowing how many hours I have left before I have to get up doesn’t make me sleep more soundly. It only feeds my anxiety.

Thus far, the number of important messages I’ve missed in the middle of the night is exactly zero. There hasn’t been a single communication that couldn’t have waited until morning.

Likewise, while important news stories may have broken overnight, there haven’t been any that required my personal attention at 3 a.m; and I feel happier, healthier, and more well-rested than I have in years.

Without you, I am nothing. Thank you for your support. Virtual tip jar: https://ko-fi.com/traceyfolly

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