Coach’s Corner: Kick Your Tech out of the Bedroom

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Jeni O'Neill

March 16, 2022

Woman using cellphone in bed before sleeping

If you could do one simple thing to improve your sleep, mood, metabolism, cognitive function, and potentially your most intimate relationship, would you do it? What if I told you that it was FREE and would take about 30 seconds? Ok, you might have to spend $10 on an alarm clock. And, yes, they still make those.
Why not give it a try? Go take your tech chargers out of your bedroom and move them to another room. That may sound simple and just a little scary, but keep reading…
As a health coach, I talk with clients every day who struggle with poor sleep, unmanaged stress, emotional eating, brain fog, weight gain, and sugar cravings. The evidence now is crystal clear – inadequate sleep quality and quantity negatively impact all of these factors and more.


Will Getting My Tech out of the Bedroom Really Make a Difference?

In a word, yes. I’m certainly not anti-tech. With a previous career in IT, I enjoy my many gadgets and all of the convenience and connection they bring. So, why do I recommend that my clients draw this boundary with their phones for better health and well-being?
Here are my top 10 reasons why you might consider parking your phone someplace else for the night.

1. A more productive and energetic tomorrow

Having technology within our reach just before and during sleep impacts our sleep quality and quantity. We all know this is true from experience, but the evidence is building that sleeping with a device next to us negatively affects our sleep states and cycles. Whether it’s the bright light just before sleep or even just fighting the urge to check “one last time” for that email, text, or post, that device connected to the outside world is a distraction that keeps our brain from settling into the daydreaming state that comes before sleep.

2. Better immune function

Sleep is the foundation of our health. We can eat the “perfect” diet, and find just the right exercise for us, but without sleep, our bodies won’t function well. Optimal sleep (between 7-9 hours) enhances our immune system. In this era of COVID, this is reason enough to do all we can to increase the likelihood that we will hit that mark.

3. More growth hormone

While we’re sleeping, our bodies take time to do some housekeeping and maintenance work. One of these many tasks, which occurs during deep sleep states earlier in the night, is to produce human growth hormone. Want a faster metabolism? More lean muscle mass and less body fat?  Faster healing and repair? Protect that sleep window – especially the hours before midnight when we produce the most growth hormone.

4. Higher dopamine levels = better mood and more motivation

Waking in the middle of the night with a device within arm’s reach increases the likelihood that we’ll grab it and start scrolling. Or maybe we turn on some audio to get back to sleep or check on that one last thing. But even brief bouts of bright light late at night – between 10 PM and 4 AM has been shown to impact dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and motivation. That bright light at night also impacts our circadian clock, further increasing the likelihood we’ll have more night-wakings. For better mood, more motivation, and better sleep, avoid bright lights during that 10 PM – 4 AM window.

5. Better weight management

Sleep deprivation may be the key to your resistant weight loss. We know that short sleep makes it very difficult to lose weight. This could be because it increases the hunger hormone ghrelin and decreases leptin, the hormone that signals fullness. Increased cortisol and insulin from inadequate sleep can also drive fat storage. Even when we do lose “weight”, a lack of sleep causes us to burn lean muscle mass instead of fat as the body tries to hold on to fat cells for energy.

6. More sleep = better recovery and performance

As the NBA has recently learned, quality sleep can be as beneficial as a performance-enhancing drug. Unlike the NBA, we don’t need an expensive sleep coach to get the benefits of those extra minutes of shut-eye. But we do need to prioritize the space – in our calendar and in the physical space of our home – to create an environment that is conducive to 7-9 hours of good quality sleep.

7. Improved Cognitive Function

We know that getting enough quality sleep can impact us the very next day. When we have had a good night’s sleep, we are able to think more clearly, learn faster, and perform better. We are also learning that sleep can be protective of longer-term cognitive function as we age. Improving your sleep behavior is a great way to protect your cognitive abilities starting tomorrow and reduce the likelihood of a cognitive decline in the future.

 8. Discover that person lying next to you

If you share your bed, you might decide to connect with your partner instead of your phone. That’s right. You could be more likely to talk about your day or check in to see how they’re feeling. Without the distractions of the world funneled in from your device, you might even find something more interesting to do…

9. Start your day in a centered state of mind

When you wake up in the morning, what is the first thing you do? Do you think about your dreams, let your mind wander, kiss your partner good morning, pet your dog, or say a prayer? Or do you reach for your phone and start checking email and the news?

Our physicians at RIFM often find elevated morning cortisol levels in their patients, and then recommend implementing a calming morning practice. One simple way to do this is to allow yourself a buffer between waking and scrolling. Taking just a few minutes after waking to express some gratitude, take a walk, or even just take a few deep breaths can make a big difference in your body’s response to stress. How could you reenter the world each morning in a calmer state of mind?

10. We all need a little solitude

We were not made to be connected to the whole world all the time.  

We need downtime for our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Time to let our minds wander and process our thoughts. This is when the creativity comes, the bright idea, the words for that speech or writing project, the solution to that problem.

In these days of our constantly connected world, we must be very intentional about protecting that time. Setting a clear boundary with your phone every day by simply keeping it out of your bedroom is a great step toward that goal.

But What if Someone Needs Me?

Most people have two objections to setting the bedroom boundary with their phones. First, we like to use it as an alarm clock. The solution to this is simple since there are still alarm clocks for sale at your local Walmart or on Amazon. Alternatively, setting your phone as an alarm in the next room with the volume on high might even keep you from hitting snooze in the morning.

I also often hear concerns about emergency calls in the middle of the night. What if your kids (or parents) need you in an emergency? To this, I would ask you to consider whether you would still hear a phone in the next room with the ringer on high. If this is a huge concern for you in this particular season of life, you could put your phone across the room so that you’ll hear it, but its distance reduces the distraction factor.

I would also gently ask two additional questions.

1. How many times in the past few years have you received an emergency call in the middle of the night?

2. What has your device in the bedroom cost you in lost sleep, disrupted circadian rhythms, less energy, lower mood, reduced focus, missed opportunities for intimacy, or just in less time to process your own thoughts?

Perhaps these might be great questions to unpack with your health coach.

Unplug at Night for Your Health

Keeping your phone next to your bed may not seem like a big deal, but can make it more challenging to get a good night’s rest. Solid sleep habits are the foundation of good health and can make a huge difference in your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Why not try setting this small boundary with your phone? The world won’t end if you disconnect for 8 hours tonight, and you might just find more peace, sleep, intimacy, health, energy, clarity, and motivation by giving yourself the gift of a tech-free bedroom.
Since 2010, Richmond Integrative and Functional Medicine has been helping people to restore their health and hope with an integrative approach to conventional and alternative medicine that’s entirely science-backed. We at RIFM believe everyone is made for health. We offer a comprehensive, in-person patient membership program to ensure you get access to the care you need to thrive.


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