Everyone knows that one of the core tenets of sleep hygiene – those methods by which you can make your sleep as good as possible – is not having screens on after a certain time. Generally an hour before bed, which is 11pm for me. Being practically surgically attached to my computer screen as I am, I have never seriously tried this. Until this past week.
When I came off my medication earlier this year, it was primarily to stop me having to deal with oversleeping. My medication made me sleep incredibly deeply, to the point that waking up was really hard. I desperately wanted the loss of my mornings to end. And, happily, it has!
But since then, my insomnia has been out of control.
It was mostly negated by the fact that my medication, which I took at night, made me very drowsy. Whilst I still experienced insomnia, it was only in getting to sleep. Once I was asleep I was fine. Since becoming medication free, I’ve had pretty much every version of insomnia you can think of.
It’s been very weird to have the much more average problem of not getting enough sleep. A lot of the time it’s been a lot better for me – I function best on about 7 hours of sleep. Not too little and not too much. But sometimes that 7 has dropped to 6, 5, or even 4 hours of sleep.
I needed, now I was able, to take control of my sleep and my mornings. So a YouTube binge and a lot of reading later, I put together a morning and night routine that included all of the things I wanted to use to help me sleep and wake better.
Amongst those was turning my computer off at 11pm every night.
I started this a week ago, and I’ll be honest – I didn’t do it every single day. I did it from Sunday night through Thursday night, then not on Friday or Saturday, and resumed it on Sunday.
To go even more honest, the reason I did this was that I was writing Dragon Age fanfiction at 11pm on Friday night and I didn’t want to stop. I am not ashamed of this. I am ashamed of the lore error I made in the story that is forcing me to revise the 5,000 words I wrote, but that’s besides the point.
The first day was super easy, because I was still buoyed by my starting-a-new-thing motivation. I had a lovely time cleaning the kitchen, meditating, reading, and generally winding down slowly.
In fact, I found that quite a few nights I turned it off before 11pm.
I can’t tell you how weird this is for me.
Almost certainly, I am not the only person with social anxiety who uses the internet as their primary form of social interaction. I know that for society as a whole, our increasing leaning towards distance-based communication isn’t always a positive thing. For me, it’s genuinely the only reason I can still interact with people at all.
Historically, most nights, I am still up and talking to people at 11pm. A lot of my closest friends are in the US. When I’m turning my computer off now, some of them haven’t even gotten home. One of the things my anxiety does is give me this intense fear of being left out or missing things. This means that the idea of not seeing and talking to these people is really hard normally.
For some reason, with this experiment, I’ve not had that anxiety. I don’t know if it’s because I’m much more in control of my anxiety than I was? That seems the most likely reason to me. I am learning to accept that I do not need everything all at once in order to be satisfied. It is, actually, okay that I mostly talk to those people at the weekend.
A caveat, lest you think I’m perfect at this.
I have not barred myself from using my phone after 11pm. This means I still have access to the internet, including such ever-scrolling distractions as Twitter and Instagram.
This goes contrary to the advice you’re given about the no-screens part of sleep hygiene. By most reckonings, you’re supposed to stop all screens an hour before bed, or thereabouts. I don’t do this. I do at least have both my computer and phone set up to remove the blue light from my screens at sunset, which is something.
But I’m still on my phone, still talking to people – though not as much, I hate typing on a phone. I’m still scrolling through things and engaging with the social internet. This works for me because I have never tended to get stuck infinite scrolling on my phone – I vastly prefer my desktop for that. Your mileage may vary if you’re the other way round.
So what benefit am I actually getting from it?
For a start, I am feeling a lot less intense when I go to bed. Most of the time before now, I’ve been hammering away at projects or gaming – something taking a lot of my focus. I’ve then immediately stopped and gone to bed. This doesn’t set you up for resting!
Unexpectedly though, the biggest benefit is that this no-PC time is forcing me to go through things like cleaning the kitchen each night. I’m very much a person for whom there is a symbiotic relationship between my tidiness and my mental health, so this is a huge boon.
Meditating each night obviously has its own benefits, as does actually cleaning my face each night, which I’ve also been doing. Basically, on top of making me a lot more ready for sleep when I do get into bed, this is also giving me the room and drive to fit more in.
So if you’re thinking about trying this, but hesitant – I’d recommend it! It’s probably not as bad as you’re thinking.
If you enjoyed this post and would like to support my blog and other work, check out my Patreon!