Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Good Night Smartphone

by Meghan B.

Why I Love and Hate Having A Smartphone from The Oatmeal
If you're anything like me, your bedtime ritual ends with you snuggling under your covers as you gently make sure your smartphone of choice is safely nestled next to you. Perhaps it's half under your pillow, or maybe floating free in the blankets. Maybe it's earned a coveted place on the pillow next to you. It's most likely the last thing you look at before you shut your eyes and the first thing you look at when you open them again.

I use my iPhone as my alarm clock, but I've noticed a problem. When I hear that familiar buzz from the phone, no matter the time of night, I will usually roll over and glance at the text or Twitter message. It's almost Pavlovian. I barely know I'm doing it until I realize it's 1:30am and I'm replying to a Twitter message about the latest Teefury offering.

I'm sleep deprived because I sleep with my iPhone. Smartphones almost seem to be the adult equivalent of a teddy bear or security blanket. They go everywhere with us, they entertain us and they share our beds. I used to lay in bed reading a chapter or two of a book before bedtime, now I'm glued to Twitter.

Curious about this phenomena, I searched Google (on my iPhone, while lying in bed, of course) and discovered a study done last year by Amanda Lenhart, director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project's research on teens, children and families. Buried between interesting facts about text message use, there were some fascinating statistics about people who sleep with their cell phones. Yes, I did just use "statistics" and "fascinating" in a sentence together.

Two-thirds of American adults have slept with their cell phones in or near their beds. This number jumps to over 90% among people ages 18 to 29. Additionally, people who sleep with their smartphones are also twice as likely to feel positively about them. We basically bond with them. Keeping your phone close, even when you sleep, is quickly becoming the norm.

People are more plugged in than ever before, thanks to our dearly loved phones. It's almost become cyberpunk in a way. You mean my friends in California can tweet at me even while I'm asleep? Once a dear friend across the country even texted me a wake up call because I had overslept the day before. Technology! Progress! Yay!

But it's not all status updates and sunshine. Sleeping with your phone is also responsible for the drop in the amount of hours people sleep per night. In a study done in Belgium in 2008, 1,600 teenagers were surveyed about their cell phone use. 60% of the teens who used their cell phones after turning off their lights at bedtime reported feeling tired during the day. Another study from April of this year saw a correlation between after hours cell phone use and increased percentages of depression in people aged 20 to 24.

So where does that leave us, except exhausted? I wish I could say after finding all this out that I will turn my phone off when I sleep or leave it on my desk and not cuddled near me in bed. I'd like to lie and say I will not look at a screen before going to bed, but I won't. I will probably still turn over in bed to look at my phone with bleary eyes when I hear the little "vrrm" of my iPhone's vibrate setting. I can't help it. Going to bed without my iPhone would be like telling my six year old self to go to bed without her favorite teddy bear. I've become utterly dependent on it. What's a 21st century gal to do?

Do you sleep with your smartphone? After seeing these numbers, are you going to change your smartphone sleeping ways? Tell me in comments what you do to get a good night's sleep. I will need all the help I can get.
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  1. I use a BB, and have it set to turn off at 11 and automatically back on at 7, and it stays in my purse. Granted, I'm 37, so not in the main group of participants in these studies. I've never used an iPhone, but it's got to have a setting where you can shut the sucker off and have it turn on again by itself. . .

  2. I'm the oddball. My phone isn't even in the bedroom when I go to bed unless I'm expecting a call in the middle of the night. That's part of my conscious choice to not be surgically attached to my phone like so many people are. My phone is a necessary tool but not the center of my life.

  3. I sleep with my iPhone. I both love it and hate it because I'm painfully aware of all the down sides. I want it with me at all times in case of emergency and there have been times when it's been crucial. I also find myself using it when it's not so crucial... like checking the time when I wake up in the middle of the night and, oh, I might as well check my email while I'm at it. Then, of course, I've gotten something really interesting like my invite to Pottermore at 4 in the morning so I feel compelled to dig out my laptop and check it out. And, in turn, I have trouble falling back asleep because I'm thinking about whatever interesting popped up.

    It's getting easier now that I'm older to deal with nighttime phone issues. I'm now accustomed to sleeping through the one second vibration altering me to a mention on Twitter or a Google Plus comment and thank god most of my friends are finally mature/old enough that I don't get all the drunk dials and drunk texts from friends at 2AM anymore.

  4. I sleep with my Focus on the side table, perhaps a foot or two from my head, and the alarm function barely wakes me up. The buzz for email/text notifications just doesn't do it.

    As to teens being tired... I didn't have a cell phone until I was 17, and I assure you that I was tired every damn day before I got that grey brick. I think that may just be correlation. Ditto with the depression.

  5. I turn Airplane mode on at night, so my alarm goes off but I don't get texts, calls or emails. I confess that the first thing I do, though, when my alarm goes off, is switch it to normal mode & read my emails & Twitter before I get up. Not very zen.

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