How many of us check our phones the moment we wake up? Do you also find yourself going on your phone every second? Whether it’s to check an Instagram story, to check if that one person texted you back, to see if your favorite influencer finally dropped that TikTok you’ve been waiting for, or just to keep your idle hands busy because if you’re not scrolling, then it’s boring. Our phones are stuck to us like glue, we never put it down or it’s always in sight.
Now, let’s talk sleep! Who doesn’t love sleep? Sleep can be extremely affected by phone usage, which hinders our productivity and overall mental health. I’m guilty of saying goodnight to my fiancé every night and then scrolling on TikTok for at least 10 minutes when he thinks I’ve gone to sleep! My excuse is that I’m just winding down for the night before closing my eyes, but in reality, what’s really happening is that the blue light that is being emitted from the cell phone screen is restraining the production of melatonin, which is the hormone that controls the sleep-wake cycle, also known as the circadian rhythm. When we suppress this production of melatonin it can become difficult for many of us to “turn off” our brains and fall asleep.
Studies show that the majority of those who scored high on the fear of missing out (aka “FOMO”) tend to overuse their phones. Most often than not, these individuals also usually score high on anxiety and depression scales because the excessive use of smartphones interferes with social activities and self-esteem increasing depression and social anxiety. One of Breakthrough’s interns, Karina, voiced “I think the overuse of cell phones and technology makes the real world seem hard because online makes things seem perfect. Some ways that I reduce my screen time is connecting to hobbies that make me feel happy and allowing me to forget about technology (I.e., reading, cooking).”
5 Ways to Decrease Phone Time:
1. Track your screen time
Both the iPhone and Android come with features that enables you to track your screen time on your phone. You can see your daily average time spent, your weekly total, as well as the apps where you spend the most time. Seeing how many hours per week you spend on your phone can really be a wake-up call.
2. Make your phone inconvenient to access
Try putting your phone in another room when you are taking time for yourself to read, journal, study, or even watching a movie. This will enable you to be present in the moment, which will encourage mindfulness. When you are going to bed, place your phone on the night stand so it isn’t right within your reach.
3. Use the "Do Not Disturb" feature
The Do Not Disturb feature, or as we like to say “DND,” teaches us how to spend less time on our phones without much effort. This feature, on both the iPhone and the Android, silences all phone calls, texts, and notifications until you turn the feature off and even gives an option to put time limits on it.
This setting is great for people who are easily distracted by text messages or notifications during the day, which can lead to opening other apps instead of going back to being productive. When that initial trigger isn’t there, you’re less likely to pick up your phone in the first place.
4. Phone free mornings and evenings
It’s not just you! Most of us are tempted to pick up our phones first thing in the morning and mindlessly scroll right before going to bed at night. Instead, try phone-free mornings and evenings. In the mornings try other productive activities like practicing mindfulness, taking a moment to wake up, taking a walk, or exercising. Just before you sleep, put your phone on flight mode – it’s the best way to avoid getting sucked into messages and notifications right before sleeping.
5. Social media detox
Social media can affect us in all sorts of ways, physically and mentally.
If you feel like you tend to “doom scroll” on social media apps replace social media time with educational or other mental health friendly podcasts and videos. Doom scrolling, or doom surfing, is a phenomenon that consists of constantly scrolling through social media and other news sites in order to keep up with the latest new, good or bad. Try a social media detox for at least 10 days and build to make a habit out of it.
Rebecca has a background in creative writing and a Masters of Science in Publishing from Pace University. She recently worked as an Assistant Editorial Manager for a children's book publishing company and is currently an intern at Breakthrough Mental Health Counseling.