Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
November 23, 2012 7:31 PM

Sleeping With Your Smartphone

It used to be a whole lot simpler.

I don't know about you, but I used to come from work and charge my smartphone at the small table near my front entrance. It was a parlour trick. It was a way for me to not think about my mobile device from the time I walked into the house until I had to leave again. It worked well for a couple of a years... and then something happened. We can blame it on the apps, we can blame it on the music, we can blame it on our lack of desire to have a hardwired phone in the home because mobile works so well, but these smartphones slowly crept their ways into our living rooms and have now made their way into the bedroom.

The real me.

Before bed, I find myself doing one last glance at the inbox, checking Facebook and Twitter for some light entertainment, and then I usually switch over to my Kindle app to end the night with some book reading before my eyelids get heavy and I drop the iPhone on my face. At that point, I set the alarm on my smartphone and doze off. If I happen to wake up in the middle of the night, I may take a peek at it as well. I won't look at email (one negative piece of mail is enough to keep me up), but I may check the Twitter feeds or check in on the global news. It's there. On my nightstand. It's much more than a phone. It has become the remote control for my life.

I am not alone.

You may see some similar traits from my habits to yours... and we are not alone. Business Insider ran the news item, 90% Of 18-29 Year-Olds Sleep With Their Smartphones, that uncovered the following data points:

  • 90% of 18-29 year olds sleep with their smartphones.
  • 1 in 3 people would rather give up sex than their phone.
  • 95% of people use the phone for something just before going to bed.
  • Half of people check their phones immediately if they wake up during the night.

Are you sleeping with the enemy?

I'm not sure if my habit would quantify as "sleeping with my smartphone," but it is (admittedly) within arm's reach. The data above is a sobering indictment on what we have become. On a personal note, I no longer reach for my smartphone if I wake up in the middle of the night. Regardless of how low the brightness level is set, I find that the raw light really wakes me up and keeps me up. Beyond that, we have to start asking ourselves: "what, exactly, is so important that we have to actually sleep with our devices?" Have we all suddenly become emergency room doctors and firefighters?

Media overload.

While we complain about media overload, perhaps what we really have is connectivity overload. This doesn't mean that we need to unplug more or toss these devices into a bonfire, but it does point to one, very telling, point: the majority of our population does not know (or understand) how to manage their technology. While this is my profession and I have spent many years being the constant student (and occasional teacher) of all things technology and media, I do hold one core philosophy: I do not let the technology manage me. I manage my technology. I decide when to check my email or social media updates, etc...

Two tips to unshackle yourself from your smartphone:

  1. Before bed. Don't leave your smartphone in your bedroom. Leave it charging in another room. If you wake up in the middle of the night, count sheep. Don't get up out of bed to get your smartphone. Trust me, if anything is really important, you will know. If you use your smartphone as an alarm clock (as I do), don't use it for anything else. It's not easy, but freewill can be powerful thing.
  2. Turn it off. Turn off all notifications. I do this for everything except phone calls and text messages from close family members and friends. Otherwise, don't allow your device to ding, buzz, beep or flicker a light for anything other the phone. I check email, Twitter, Facebook and more on my own terms. Not on theirs.

Now, try to get some rest... if you can't and you have more tips to share, please do so below.

By Mitch Joel