Avoiding screens at night
January 16, 2016 3:21 PM   Subscribe

I had a few days where I didn't look at my screens (laptop, smartphone) several hours before bed, and wow-- it made a huge difference in my quality of sleep. I rely on a computer for much of my work, and my smartphone for much of my mindless time-wasting in the evenings. What are some things I can to do change this habit?

I am a student, and the constraints of my schedule are such that I will need to do a good amount of studying (with study materials on the computer only-- can't print them out) at night, whether I like it or not.

... But I can't chalk it all up to my schedule! Even after I am done working, I've developed this awful habit of lying awake in bed, reading on my smartphone until I fall asleep. I even read books on my smartphone, partly because somehow I feel like flipping through certain books on an e-reader rather than on paper makes my reading go more smoothly. I don't want to jailbreak my device for f.lux, but even if I did, f.lux alone or something similar isn't enough. I want to minimize the amount of time I look at screens.

I am looking for a combination of 1) suggestions that could help me reduce or eliminate the habit of looking at my phone before bed (things I could do in place of reading on my phone before going to bed?) and/or 2) recommendations for durable screen protectors I could use for only part of the day (I have an iPhone 6 and a 13-inch laptop), or goggles that you might recommend that could reduce blue light (I wear glasses).

posted by gemutlichkeit to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe, now that you know screens are hurting your sleep, you could reconsider paper books? The extra effort required to manage them might even tire you out a bit more, which, in terms of sleep, might be a good thing.
posted by ubiquity at 3:26 PM on January 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you first commit to staying away from screens during certain hours, after some initial discomfort, you'll find new habits to fill that time.
posted by aniola at 3:32 PM on January 16, 2016

The kindle readers (except kindle fire) have a completely different screen technology that is reflective rather than transmissive or emissive. If you use their built-in lighting that would be LED, but if you use your own (room/lamp) lighting they should be equivalent to paper.
posted by madmethods at 3:33 PM on January 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

Start using an actual alarm clock as your alarm instead of your phone. Charge your phone in another room or at an outlet away from your bed.

I keep my phone next to my bed because it's my alarm clock, and I have a horrible habit of looking at stuff on it before I go to sleep. But even worse, when I wake up, the first thing I see is all the emails, texts, tweets, and whatever else that are waiting for my and I instantly feel stressed some days. I just bought an alarm clock today that I will be using.

If you like to read in bed, an alternative to paper books is an e-ink reader. No backlight or glare. Some do have that, but just get one that doesn't. E-ink is very, very different than a tablet/iPad. You can see them at Best Buy/Target/etc and Barnes & Noble sells Nooks.
posted by AppleTurnover at 3:37 PM on January 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

iOS 9.3 will include blue light reduction natively, no jailbreaking required. If you enroll in the Apple Beta Software Program you can install it today. I'm running on my iPhone 6 now.
posted by mayhap at 3:40 PM on January 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

If I am having a text or messenger conversation on my phone or laptop, I tell everyone I'm going to bed. Then I leave my phone in another room to charge, set my alarm clock, and go to bed. I have a Kindle Paperwhite I use, if I want to read or go over notes before bed. Journaling with pen and paper also works too, and can help with brain-dumping all your thoughts before you go to bed.

As long as I get in bed an hour early before my actual bedtime, it's a good routine that has helped with my sleep hygiene a lot, and along with dealing with smartphone addiction.
posted by yueliang at 3:52 PM on January 16, 2016

If it ends up that you continue reading books on your phone, look into the display options that your reader has. For example, I have the Kindle app for Windows Phone, and I set it to display gray text on a black background, and that's much easier on the eyes.

Other than that, I've found some success in doing my collection of non-screen chores (cleaning, dishes, dog walks, whatever) immediately before bed. That way you at least have some amount of time between screen exposure and sleep.
posted by Dilligas at 3:52 PM on January 16, 2016

I have a program that blocks certain websites and programs on my phone at night.

Listening to podcasts and working on something physical (cooking, sorting laundry, crafts) are how I unwind when I manage to put down my phone.

I haven't had time to do this in forever but I used to use podcasts with guided meditation before bed and that was so nice and relaxing.
posted by betsybetsy at 4:50 PM on January 16, 2016

Amber-tinted glasses help, at least for me. Here are the ones I have (they fit over glasses).
posted by thetortoise at 4:51 PM on January 16, 2016

I also read a Kindle Paperwhite before bed and it is completely different from reading my phone. It puts me to sleep just like reading paper books did for 20 years.
posted by that's how you get ants at 5:53 PM on January 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you like reading before bed then maybe try listening to an audiobook in the dark instead of reading on a screen or even a paper book with a regular light.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:28 PM on January 16, 2016

I just put my phone on airplane mode for the night, and stick to books. ..but if I really have an urge to be glued to my phone in bed, I use an app called Twilight. You can adjust the brightness and hue of your screen to something more sleep-friendly.
posted by speakeasy at 6:23 AM on January 17, 2016

Get a real, physical, separate alarm clock, set it for bedtime, and train yourself so that when the alarm clock goes off, so does the phone, right that second - no matter what.
posted by flabdablet at 10:54 PM on January 17, 2016

If you opt for a Kindle (I LOVE mine) know that you can email documents to it, so any documents you need to read online can be sent to "print as PDF" and then that pdf can be emailed to your Kindle. Also, you can carry the one Kindle with all your documents on it everywhere, instead of having to tote around a laptop or a whole bunch of study materials.

You can also highlight, make notes, and search text on the Kindle, which I think would be really convenient for studying. Kindle Paperwhites start at $99, and you might be able to get a student discount.
posted by Brittanie at 3:44 AM on January 18, 2016

Blue Light messes up melatonin production. the website https://www.lowbluelights.com is devoted to products designed to cut out most blue light, including amber glasses, nightlights, and others. You can try things for 30 days and return for refund if they don't help. Some of the glasses fit over other (prescription) glasses. they didn't work for me, which apparently means I don't produce much melatonin to protect. Not surprising, I've had insomnia for 25 years. YMMV
posted by judybxxx at 8:36 PM on April 30, 2016

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