I live in a small New York City apartment. My bedroom just barely fits the dresser, desk, and queen-size bed. The living room and dining room are in fact the same room, and the kitchen is…compact. So it is crazy to me that at least once a week, my husband cannot find his cell phone in the morning. I’ve been late to work multiple times because I’ve had to call his phone before I can walk out the door.
I should stop calling, though, because the phone is always in the same place: the bed.
You might think a phone makes a strange bedfellow; it’s not particularly cuddly, and it has the potential to wake you up with dings and vibrations. Yet many, many people – especially millennials – sleep with their phones either in their beds or right next them on nightstands. I’m guilty of this also: it’s a great alarm clock, and so convenient for when I can’t sleep – especially after I’ve been up at 3 AM with the baby.
Since the baby means my sleep is already fragmented, the latest missing phone incident made me wonder: is snuggling with my phone as harmless as snuggling with my infant? As it turns out, the answer is an emphatic no. There are 3 main reasons I sleep near my phone, and none of them is really justifiable:
- Our phones operate as sleep trackers. We live in a data-driven world, and I want to know how I’m sleeping, and how I can sleep better. Many apps claim that they can tell us how well we slept – and how often we woke up – by tracking the movements on our mattresses. Yet there’s a lot of research that demonstrates these apps aren’t particularly accurate, and the temptation to use the phone may outweigh any benefits.
- Reading. I use my phone as an e-reader, and like many people, I like to read in bed to relax before falling asleep. The problem is that the type of light smartphones put out disrupts melatonin production. Since melatonin is what tells your body it’s time for sleep, the phone can actually prevent you from falling asleep – which is great for finishing that book, but not so great for being well rested in the morning.
- FoMO. I don’t know about you, but I suffer from chronic FoMO – Fear of Missing Out. FoMO compels me to constantly check Facebook and Twitter, and to stay late at dinner parties even when I’m half-asleep. I don’t want to miss anything. But phone-related FoMO isn’t just from social updates. People send work-related emails at all hours of the day and night, and we are often expected to respond at all hours.
My phone FoMO is made worse by the fact the phone is actually addictive. Our brains are wired (because of dopamine) to constantly seek out experiences that make us happy. This makes us crave and anticipate rewards, the less predictable the better – and what’s a better source of this than a smartphone? Who doesn’t love the jolt of pleasure they feel when someone has commented on an Instagram post, or sent them an unexpected email? (Full disclosure: I live for it. And you know you do, too.)
My solution? Remove the temptation entirely. My phone now spends the night alone, out of arm’s reach, which means more room for late-night baby rocking, early morning tiny giggles, and better sleep for all.