Help me stop sleeping with my iPad
March 4, 2018 12:02 PM   Subscribe

I spend far too long each night lying in bed messing around on my iPad and sleep with it under my pillow. I’d like better sleep hygiene. But I’ve become dependent on it to help me fall asleep. Assume for the purpose of the question that I’ve already tried setting limits for nighttime use and failed miserably.

A few years ago I discovered that I could fall asleep, or fall back asleep, much more easily if I was listening to ASMR videos or certain podcasts. I had previously spent many, many anxious nights staring into the darkness ruminating, and so this seemed like an amazing solution.

I used to save MP3s of the videos to my decrepit iPod and listen that way, but after my laptop got stolen I replaced it with an iPad and just took that to bed instead. But that means that I wind up spending at least a couple of hours online before I fall asleep, and often stay up much later than I intended to, endlessly reading the US politics megathread tapping away on a million open tabs. I’ve been known to do this if I wake up during the night too. If the iPad is there, I will read it. But attempts to leave it elsewhere have me lying awake having mini existential crises again.

I’m a bit of an internet addict generally and want to spend less time online altogether, but this feels like a particularly difficult hurdle for me. Has anyone successfully weaned themselves off nighttime distractions like this? How did you do it and still manage to fall asleep? I’m currently breastfeeding (and being woken up at night a lot) so drugs aren’t a solution, but I’d be kind of reluctant to take them anyway. I’m in the UK so no over the counter melatonin, alas.

Yes, I will be checking for replies to this post at 3am.
posted by cardinalandcrow to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I do this. Really, for me, the only way around it is to make myself sleep with it in the other room and deal with the existential crises. Meditating has helped for that.

You may be able to set up a non internet-enabled MP3 player and a speaker or potentially just a Bluetooth speaker with your iPad, although you won't have control over being able to turn on and off the podcasts that way. Or you could try some software like Freedom to block your access to the internet more generally on your ipad between certain hours. Sometimes physical or technical limits work better than limits that I have to enforce myself. Best of luck.
posted by sockermom at 12:10 PM on March 4, 2018

If you have tried everything and literally can't resist the temptation, there may not be much to do other than get rid of the iPad. You need to replace it with something, though, at least until you can shake the old habit -- meditation is a good option, as sockermom suggested.

What about reading a novel in bed? For most people fiction will be much more conducive to sleep than politics. Do you have an e-reader that doesn't have a browser, like the Kindle Paperwhite? That might satisfy your brain's desire to be stimulated before you fall asleep but in a less hyperactive way.
posted by Trespassers William at 12:28 PM on March 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

Get yourself an iPod Shuffle, which you can stock with podcasts and ASMR recordings but has neither video capability nor web browsing capability. It’s also very tiny and will be inobtrusive under your pillow.
posted by ejs at 12:36 PM on March 4, 2018 [13 favorites]

Because I go to bed with my phone so it can wake me in the morning, I too am liable to go down internet rabbit holes. My solution is to have an e-reader app switched to "night mode" (the text is dim grey on a black background) and read until I drop off, which usually happens pretty quickly because it's not an easy medium for reading.
posted by anadem at 12:39 PM on March 4, 2018

And ejs beat me to the iPod Shuffle suggestion. Put a bunch of useful things on it, get a earbud headband (they're about $15), and use it rather than the iPad. Particularly in the middle of the night.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 1:15 PM on March 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

You can get a used iPod for £60 including postage on Ebay UK. Or Gumtree?
posted by DarlingBri at 1:53 PM on March 4, 2018

In *The Power of Habit*, Charles Duhigg says that the best way to get rid of a habit is to replace it with a different habit. (At least, that's what I took away from the book!)

For example, suppose you habitually drink a bottle of lager when you get home from work. And suppose you want to get rid of this habit. Then you could try drinking seltzer instead.

So I think you should try to find something to replace your iPad habit:
- As others have said, you could just use an MP3 player.
- You could read books.
- You could read magazines.
- You could draw/knit/sew/whatever

(Just one more thought: Could you leave the iPad in another room, but pair it to a Bluetooth speaker by your bed? That way the iPad won't sit temptingly by your bed...)
posted by HoraceH at 2:03 PM on March 4, 2018

Response by poster: Thanks for the replies so far! Just a couple of clarifications: I share a bed with my husband and the baby, so I use earphones to avoid disturbing them. And I don’t have a separate computer, just the iPad - I don’t think there’s a way to load up an MP3 player without this?
posted by cardinalandcrow at 2:14 PM on March 4, 2018

I get antsy without a device nearby, but at bedtime I only use it for reading so it is an aid, not a hindrance, to falling asleep. Both the kindle and ibooks apps have nighttime reading interfaces (ie white type on black background) that is easier on the eyes and brain. Put your favorite comfort reading on there (or, a text that is a little difficult so it will make your eyes and mind tired) and let the reading make you sleepy.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:23 PM on March 4, 2018

Can you put it on airplane mode, turn the wifi off, and turn the brightness way down? That would let you keep using it for downloaded podcasts and audios, but maybe be a few barriers to giving in to the internet temptation.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 2:35 PM on March 4, 2018

Best answer: Hi cardinalandcrow,
It sounds like you really do know what you need -- you need to have something to distract your brain that isn't visual, since the light is almost certainly keeping you awake for longer. You know you've got sound files that can help. You just need to get them from your iPad to some other innocuous and screen-free device. And luckily there are LOTS of used iPod shuffles available on Ebay and similar, so getting that screen-free, internet-free device isn't going to be too hard to manage!

There are definitely ways to transfer mp3 files from an ipad to an ipod without having to use a computer as a mediator. There are some apps that can help you accomplish this: AnyTrans is the first one I found, and seems to have some legit reviews in PC Magazine and such, so it might be worth trying. FonePaw is another.

I feel your pain here -- iPads and iPods were never really designed to be a main media device, they were meant to be used with computers. But my mom also uses her iPad mini as her only internetting device.

And while we're at it, I feel like I have to mention the good good podcast Sleep With Me, discussed previously on the blue. Scoots is great at telling a story that your brain kind of wants to pay attention to, but that story isn't really very interesting. Even on my bad nights (read: drank coffee after 2pm, which I just cannot do) I'm often asleep before he finishes the introduction. It's weird at first, but after you get used to his voice it's actually an incredibly pleasant way to fall asleep.

I wish you all the best. I've been badgering my husband about not using his iPad in bed for... oh, it feels like months now, 'cause he'll stay awake for hours just browsing the internet. As a concession, he's figured out how to turn the brightness of the screen WAY down by using the Accessibility Tools (instructions here) which definitely helps, because he's not getting as much of those blue photons in his eyes. But the iPad is how he falls asleep right now, and even if it's not actually the best way to get to sleep, it's far preferable from being at the mercy of his chattering mind.

One last thing -- those sleep masks that fancy ladies use on the television -- they actually REALLY help a lot. At least for me, when I'm wired, their primary benefit is that they keep my eyes closed. Without it my eyes will keep fluttering open and I'll end up resorting to my phone screen out of boredom. I get really great sleep with a sleep mask.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 3:22 PM on March 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: What if you got bluetooth earbuds (not sure if there are any that are comfortable for sleeping) and kept the iPad playing the ASMR recordings/podcasts you need but out of your reach? Maybe create a playlist or put it on a timer so it's not playing all night?

I will also second sleep masks. My bf has to fall asleep to the TV on, but the flickering drives me nuts. I put on the sleep mask and I fall right asleep. The TV is on a timer so it goes off by itself after 30-60 mins, so usually I end up taking it off during the night. But if for some reason I have a little insomnia in the middle of the night, putting the mask back on can help me fall back asleep - even though the TV is already off.
posted by misskaz at 3:37 PM on March 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

A combined solution of sleep mask + bluetooth headphones is SleepPhones Wireless or for the same cost, you can get the Simple version which has a pre-loaded MP3 player built-in. I recommend these based on years of sleeping whilst wearing the "classic" version, which uses a cable. I need to stay hooked up to my iPad playing my favourite sleep music, or the Pzizz app, but I find that unless I'm really struggling to sleep, because I am wearing a mask and in a comfortable position, it's usually too much effort to start using my iPad.
posted by hgws at 5:26 PM on March 4, 2018

Are you using Night Shift? It's the sun-moon icon on iOS that makes the screen more warm-colored at night. (This is like f.lux or "Night Light" or "Twilight")

If it takes you 2 hours to get sleepy staring at a normal-color screen, it will take you 1 hour to get sleepy staring at the same screen with a better color balance. This is a zero-effort change you can make that will help you start noticing your body's diurnal signals.
posted by Phssthpok at 10:34 PM on March 4, 2018

Try turning your WiFi off (at the router) before you go to bed, or if that’s not possible definitely consider the Freedom app, which will let you lock the device out if the internet for a set period.

I sleep with an Amazon Fire tablet under my pillow for podcasts and it works great for me in part becausethere is something wrong with the WiFi and it only works within about three feet of the router.
posted by mskyle at 4:01 AM on March 5, 2018

Boy, am I familiar with the staring into the dark and following thoughts better left unthought...

For me, it doesn't seem to matter what manner words are delivered to me, paper, podcasts, screen. They help prevent the Staring Into The Dark, but I don't get enough rest.

My solution has been music on my iPhone. I'm sure there are other ways to get music through headphones. The trick is to have only music I've chosen. I go to the library and get CDs, and then load only the artists I like, with the tracks I like. **This may be illegal, but I choose to think of it as similar to photocopying a page from a library book.**
In my case, it's folk music from the Old Days, Big Band compilations, the soundtrack from Transamerica -- not soothing music but interesting music. I can't brood and listen at the same time.

Good luck finding what works for you!
posted by kestralwing at 6:35 AM on March 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Have you heard of Night Shift? It's similar to F.lux because it makes your screen gets dimmer in the evenings - I feel sleepier with blue light filters even when looking at a screen.
posted by Crookshanks_Meow at 7:30 AM on March 5, 2018

Best answer: Get a Philips Hue programmable light for your bedroom and switch to a blue or violed-hued color about 1-2 hours before bedtime. (I also have one in the bathroom to pair with hot baths and relaxing music for the ultimate chillout pre-bed experience.) Even while reading the politics thread, I still feel drowsy!

Or specifically choose an amber light or amber sleeping glasses, as they can seriously help with establishing good sleep hygiene and "normal" circadian rhythm. Start borrowing audiobooks from your library or download digital copies to store on your iPad, then switch to Airplane Mode one hour before you want to sleep and queue up a playlist with 1-4 chapters at a time. You can get up and breastfeed while enjoying another few chapters effortlessly without too much light exposure using this method, too.

This typically works for me, a person who's had severe chronic insomnia since age 11 (I'm 46 now), and who often cannot sleep for 40+ hours at a time even with Ambien CR, melatonin and no caffeine intake.

Also Nthing Night Shift/F.lux/whatever light solution you can install to reduce blue lighting on the iPad screen.

I recently swore off the politics thread for about 30 days and my resting heart rate dropped from 82 to 71, but YMMV.

In the meantime, during late-night anxiety emergencies, try bookmarking this 8-minute Marconi Union song.
“Studies found Weightless was 11 per cent more relaxing than any other song and even made many of the women ‘drowsy’ in the lab … It induced a 65 per cent reduction in overall anxiety and brought them to a level 35 per cent lower than their usual resting rates.”
good luck!
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:42 AM on March 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

I do this with my phone and getting a Kindle Paperwhite was a complete game changer for me. I keep a few books on on it that aren't particularly interesting and just read when I wake up (anywhere from a few times a night to dozens of times). The backlight is low so it doesn't wake up my husband and it provides just enough distraction to keep me off my phone until I doze off again.
posted by _Mona_ at 7:58 AM on March 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

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