Stop Using Your Phone As An Alarm Clock (How + Why)
You seriously need to stop using your phone as an alarm clock.
Because this obnoxiously simple trick has transformed my life…
The best thing about it is that you can see results as soon as this week.
Let me explain how and why.
Smart phone. Dumb alarm.
The reality is that the vast majority of us are using our phones as our alarms. I mean why not?
It’s portable, convenient and extremely user-friendly, what’s not to like?
Unfortunately, most of us have pretty bad habits when it comes to checking our phone around bedtime.
It’s not really that shocking though considering our phones are the first thing we come in contact with — to turn off our alarm clock of course.
Plus if we’re honest most of us have a wee morning ritual that includes checking our Facebook, Instagram, emails, the news and the weather — all while still bleary-eyed and in bed.
“Not a big deal, sure it helps keep us informed, connected and even helps me wake up, no harm done… Right?”
Well the science is out on the effect this morning/evening routine can have on our sleep and beyond…
As you can imagine it’s not looking great.
Effects of using a smartphone around bedtime
Here’s what the latest research says about our late night and early morning phone habits.
1. Light from our smartphone confuses up our brain
Ever found it hard to fall asleep, like your mind is racing?
Well, 35 percent of people check their phones 5 minutes before preparing to sleep and this definitely can lead to that.
Not only does it fill your mind with more things to process but studies have shown that blue light (the type of light your phone emits) can lead to insomnia and depression.
You can probably remember how hard it was to see your old-school phone screen outside back in the day, especially when the sun was out.
Well, smartphones have found a way around that: extremely intense, bright, back-lights.
So bright in fact that our brain can interpret the light from phones as sunlight which stops us from produces melatonin (a sleepy hormone) and urges our body to ‘keep going’ because it’s ‘not time to sleep.’
2. Clutters our brain
The reason why meditation has proven to work so effectively is because it allows time for our minds to process things, relax and organise stuff (like a filing cabinet.)
When we look at our phones first thing in the morning and last thing at night we add more ‘files to the cabinet’ which can lead to disorganisation and a backlog of thoughts to be processed.
This could explain why some of us have a headache or feel slightly disorientated in the mornings.
Try not looking at your phone for the first hour you wake up and use the time to process and think about your day, you may be surprised by the results.
3. Makes you get less sleep
When I was in Nepal in 2015, we spent 6 days camping in a village up the Himalayas — with no technology or lights.
Some of the team members I was with were shocked at the amount of sleep they were getting, even those who confessed ‘I struggle to sleep more than 5 hours’ were hitting the 10 mark!
Why was this the case?
Well quite frankly because there was nothing else to do… Once the sun went down you couldn’t see a thing and the pitch black of boredom quickly put us to sleep…
This was also because our bodies adapted to a normal pattern…
You see our sleep patterns were designed to get up with the sun and go down with it, but using our phones around sleep interferes with this process.
We might be tired and ready for bed at 8pm, but instead, we decide to watch a movie or surf the web, waking us up and robbing us of a few extra hours of zzz.
4. It has the potential to disturb our sleep
We are trained to respond to the buzz and dings of notifications — it’s only natural.
Even if your phone doesn’t wake you up in the middle of the night your brain can subconsciously respond to those vibrations and actually disturb your sleep cycle.
To take it a step further up to 50 percent of people check their phones in the middle of the night.
Turns out that quick email scroll during the midnight restroom run is not good for the quality of our sleep.
“So what are my options to improve sleep?”
I’ll give you 3 options depending on how serious you wanna get.
I know they will sound extremely elementary and that’s because they are. But honestly I’ve been doing this for over a year and my sleep/health has never been better.
1. Low commitment: Night settings for your phone.
When you go to bed turn on the DO NOT DISTURB option.
This means that all notifications are silenced throughout the night meaning your sleep won’t get disturbed.
Another cool feature that Apple and some other phone companies have brought out is a ‘night setting’ for your screen.
This basically changes the colour and type of light that is emitted from your phone, so if you HAVE to use your phone close to bedtime you can at least minimise the damage.
2. Medium commitment: Buy an alarm clock to replace your phone alarm
I coughed up the cash and bought a cheap reliable clock I found on Amazon. (disclosure: I receive a percentage of any Amazon sales from this post)
It’s very basic and it’s really old school — but it does the job.
All it takes is x1 AA battery (that actually came with it) and for you to press one button before you go to sleep.
I have been pleasantly surprised how well it is working and the difference it has made, but more on ‘My Results’ below.
3. Extreme commitment: Recreate the Sun
So there are companies that have caught onto the whole ‘sunlight’ thing and actually have made alarm clocks that mimic a sunrise to wake you up as naturally as possible.
On Amazon you can find that Phillips makes a few ‘Wake Up’ alarm clocks that look really interesting, but you will pay a pretty penny for them.
The idea behind them is that it will increase light and sound gradually during your desired wake up phase to mimic the natural rising of the sun and sound of the world waking up.
They are especially useful for those of you who like to be woken up gently as opposed to being jolted awake by an alarm clock.
So I have been doing this for over a year now combined with a habit of limiting my social media to twice a week (and never after 4pm.)
I usually need a lot of sleep (10 hours+) but I have found that I wake up more refreshed and make better use of my time than I did before.
For example: when I used my phone first thing in the morning I found that I would take MUCH longer to get out of bed and especially on days I wasn’t working I could easily just binge YouTube videos for ages.
This has been essential to creating a rock-solid morning routine and sets me up well for the day.
(Bonus tip: If you set your alarm clock far away from your bed it means you get up instantly, stop hitting snooze and feel energised after around a week of doing it.)
Closing thoughts: why the alarm clock trumps the phone.
Because of this, I’ve been able to pick up extra little hobbies and pastimes that I’ve really enjoyed.
In general, that separation between me and my phone has also helped changed my relationship with technology and allowed me to establish healthier habits with it.
So that’s it.
There are the results of this little life experiment.
Let me know how you guys get on with this and what your results are in the response section below…
You may as well try it for a month and see how you benefit from it, at the end of the day, you’ll never know unless you do.
More from Matthew Thompson
Thanks very much for reading. If you’d like to get stories like this delivered to your inbox you can sign up for my free monthly newsletter.
All the best and thanks again.
– Matthew Thompson