Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

You’re Sleeping Wrong

There’s a 95% chance I can guess the last thing you did last night before closing your eyes to go to sleep.

Before you accuse me of being a Peeping Tom, let me explain.

My Guess:You scrolled endlessly through your phone.

Try to think about last night for a second… Am I right?

If you’re in the 5% of people who didn’t do this, congratulations — you can crawl back under that rock now, this article isn’t for you. For the rest of you, do you ever wonder why do you do it?

If you’re able to follow the simple, yet difficult habit each night that I cover in this article, you will undoubtedly improve the quality of your sleep life, and therefore your life, tremendously.

Even just 10 years ago, such an activity was not normal. As a society, we’ve only more recently become addicted to our cell phones. It’s a rampant problem that does spans all generations.

It’s having a negative impact on all aspects of our lives, not just sleep.

Don’t kid yourself. It’s actually a huge problem.

This is something that most people surprisingly don’t even realize. Most of what you do on your phone is also just not a productive use of time. Whether you’re scrolling on TikTok or Instagram, or maybe you’re just checking the news app for the 10th time in the past hour — I want you to be more conscious about the little micro-decisions that you’re sub consciously making.

You never say to yourself: “I want to go on Instagram 20 times today”.

But here you are, doing exactly that, day after day. The negative long term effects of these actions aren’t known yet, but they’re almost guaranteed to be negative for every area of your life.

You could have become conversational in French and be well on your way as a professional piano player with the amount of time you’ve been throwing away recently.

But instead we’re interested in what our roommate from college at for lunch this afternoon (let me fill you in on a little secret here, they ate the same thing yesterday, and the day before…)

It’s not your fault. You’ve been programmed to do it. We all have.

I looked at my cell phone usage earlier today.

I average 5 hours, per day on it!

And I consciously make an effort to not be on it all the time. I wonder what it would look like if I didn’t have that thought in the back of my head.

It was much higher when I’d go to bed with my phone.

The most important thing is to realize that you’ve been programmed, so you can do something about it.

The Solution

It’s rather simple in theory, but it’s a hard practice to execute regularly.

The truth is you need to start getting in the habit of it. If you can start doing this for 30 days, it will stick. But I’ll be proud of you if you can do it 2 nights in a row.

You need to keep your phone in another room.

That’s the solution.

I put mine in my office, which is right next door to my bedroom. I can hear my alarm in the morning when it goes off.

I amazingly get up at the same exact time every morning, 7:30 AM regardless of what time I go to bed. I can’t run a science project on myself, but I believe that my “internal clock” is on. If you absolutely must get up at a certain time in the morning, invest in a $5 alarm clock from Amazon. This is the most common excuse or push back. “But I need my alarm in the morning”

I actually use an Amazon Echo Dot ($35) that I play ambient noise at night. This doubles as a morning alarm. The alarm problem has been solved.

I don’t want you to sleep through your morning routine.

Your cell phone is likely the first thing you pick up in the morning and the last thing you touch before going to bed.

It’s kind of sad when you really think about it.

Each time you grab your phone, your brain is repeatedly being stimulated with micro hits of dopamine. Your brain likes this as it’s being told that your cell phone is a reward, so you enter a feedback loop.

This wires or primes your brain with a psychological concept referred to as Neuroplasticity, which can be boiled down to, we are what we repeatedly do.

It’s increasingly common to reach for it out of habit. You’ll notice this the first couple nights and mornings right when you wake up. You’ll grab for something that’s not even there. If you don’t think you’re programmed or not, take a second thought about that.

Your phone isn’t meant to be used to fill all of your quiet and unscheduled time.

Whether you sleep with your partner or you sleep alone, that shockingly doesn’t even play a role in it anymore.

Think about why you got a phone in the first place. It was to call people, and that’s about it. The phone has turned into the most commonly used and addictive habit in the western world. It’s actually even worse in parts of China and Japan, where youngsters frequently have 2 cell phones, and are known to use both simultaneously. What does this look like if we continue moving in this direction? The futuristic idea of having a hardware device implanted into our bodies isn’t even far off and should disgust most people. But somehow this will likely end up becoming the new normal. Give it 20 years, we’ll be using our cell phones in a drastically different manner than we are today.

The Alternative

I’m not going to lecture you on the harmful effects of blue light, where the data is conflicting, or anything like that.

Instead I’m going to try to be a lot more practical.

You can replace the 30 minutes (hopefully it’s not longer than this) you’re on your phone with something else.

Recommendations include:

  • Journaling (Gratitude is a nice way to end the day)
  • Reading or listening to Book
  • Meditation (The Calm App has amazing Sleep Stories)
  • Drawing
  • A Night Time Activity (Knitting or Needle Point)

In theory, it should be as simple as that. But we all know how hard it is to adopt new habits.

In an era where our time is so incredibly valuable to us, why do we waste it so frequently and freely?

Give it a shot tonight.

Sleep well.

A Silicon Valley based software engineer’s perspective on the world.

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Louis Waller

Louis Waller

A Silicon Valley based software engineer’s perspective on the world.

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