5 Ways to Limit Screentime At Bedtime

26 April 2017

Smartphones go everywhere with us, even under our pillows. 

For many of us, smartphones screens are the first thing we look at when we wake up in the morning and the last thing we see before going to sleep at night. 

Multiple research studies, though, have concluded that smartphone use before bed is bad for our sleep. This is because it disrupts the production of important sleep hormone melatonin and tricks your mind into thinking it needs to stay awake.

To help curb this, the National Sleep Foundation recommends 30 minutes of gadget-free time before bed. Before declaring this advice too difficult to put into practice, check out these five tips for emancipating yourself from your smartphone screen at night. 

1. Listen to a podcast instead of watching a video

Television and movies have been an integral part of the after work routines of millions of Australian for decades. However, with the advent of streaming apps like Netflix and Stan, it’s easier than ever to take this habit to the bedroom, and zone out on our phones while we’re lying semi-comatose. 

While video watching may seem to be helping us to relax us before bed, in fact it’s engaging our brains and telling us to stay alert. But there’s a way around this corrosive routine: podcasts. 

With podcasts, we can get a little nighttime entertainment before drifting off without absorbing the light from our smartphone screens. There are even podcasts specifically designed to relax you before bed. 

If you sleep next to a partner, the best method for taking in a podcast is undoubtedly via headphones. However, if you’re trying to keep your phone away from the immediate proximity of your bed (indeed you should be) and you either sleep alone or your partner doesn’t mind it, an alternative solution is a Bluetooth speaker. Bluetooth headphones with a decent range will also do the trick. Either way, you’ll be setting yourself up to fall asleep faster than you would be watch the latest episode of Better Call Saul

2. Use an internet blocker

Since almost all of the stuff that keeps us up at night on our phones is coming to us via Wi-Fi on 4G, there’s a very direct solution: an internet / app blocker. 

With apps like Freedom, you can select which apps or websites you wish to block, and set a timeframe for doing so. Freedom and its ilk have been popularized by writers who need to block out distractions when they work, and there’s no reason it can’t also be used to limit overall screen time before bed. 

3. Use an auditing app

One solution to decreasing smartphone use in general is to track our personal usage and shame ourselves into curbing it after certain thresholds have been reached. This can only help to convince ourselves that we've used our phone enough by the time 10 PM rolls around. 

There are several iOS and Android auditing apps that can help with this. For iPhones, there's one called Moment that not only gives you an overall breakdown of your usage, but allows you to set limits that, once reached, block you from using the device any further that day. Quality Time for Android serves a similar function but allows you to break down usage by app. 

4. Put your phone out of reach

This a decidedly more analog solution than the first three, but no less effective, provided you have the discipline to put it into practice. 

Totally clearing your bedroom of all devices can help you to actually follow the National Sleep Foundation’s recommendation of 30 minutes of gadget-free time before bed, and perhaps foster new habits in its place, like book reading. 

Try leaving your phone in a designated space in another room, and keep doing so until it becomes habit. 

5. Use night mode

If you simply must use your phone in bed prior to sleep, one solution for reducing screen effects includes activating night mode. Apple's Night Shift, for example, converts the on-screen color spectrum from blue to yellow, which is supposed to be easier on the eyes and improve sleep (reports have called into question it's actual efficacy, though). Many Android phones are now shipping with a similar feature. 

Keep in mind that neither of these solutions prevent the pulse-quickening effects of reading a worrying email or watching an exciting movie. 

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