Sleep//

Try These Creative Ways to Help You Unplug and Recharge Before Bed

From setting a bedtime alarm to keeping your phone in a basket, these strategies will help you disconnect from screens, and wake up feeling rested and refreshed.

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Shutterstock

Your phone is a repository of your to-do lists, inboxes, projects, and problems. And needless to say, scrolling and tapping late at night can keep your mind buzzing with all those problems when you’re supposed to be winding down. That’s why making the effort to disconnect from your screens before bed can help you sleep better, reconnect to your inner selves, and wake up more recharged.

We asked our Thrive community to share the small ways they unplug before bed, and how doing so helps them sleep better. Which of these strategies will you try tonight?

Buy an old-fashioned alarm clock

“To unwind at night, I have a relic of the past: an alarm clock! I leave all my gadgets on a charging station, and every morning, my old-fashioned alarm clock wakes me up. Simple as that!”

—Og J. Ramos, tech entrepreneur, Calgary, AB, Canada

Leave your phone downstairs 

“Having removed the television and alarm clock from my bedroom years ago, it’s fairly easy for me to leave my electronics at the door before bed. Each night, I leave my phone plugged in downstairs, and it stays there until the morning.”

—Rachelle Stone, executive coach, Clearwater, FL

Make a to-do list for tomorrow

“Before turning off my screens, I make note of anything important I need to remember for tomorrow, and add it to my to-do list. This helps ensure I don’t reach for my phone during the rest of the night. I then turn my laptop off, set the phone to airplane mode, and read with a red-light headlamp to trigger the release of sleep hormones. The screens stay off until I am ready to start my day in the morning.”

—Holly Booker, health and nutrition counselor, Ontario, Canada

Create a family docking station

“Having a tech-free sleep space is important for my family. We have created a family docking station in our home where the entire family plugs in our phones overnight. It sits in our kitchen and keeps everything organized and charged, and out of our bedrooms. Changing habits can be tough, but when you tackle it as a family, it can make the process easier!”

—Alanna McGinn, sleep expert, Toronto, ON, Canada

Write in your journal

“By writing in my evening journal, I can direct my mental energy to focus on how I honored my personal values for the day. The intention is to become more conscious of my thoughts and action patterns, compared to giving my attention away to entertainment or outside data. The stronger my internal landscape, the more clarity I have the next day.”

—Angelina Carleton, legacy advisory, Beverly Hills, CA

Carve out reading time

“One hack that helps separate me from electronic devices is to read a real book at bedtime. Getting away from blue lights has made sleeping easier and more restful. My mind doesn’t race to another email or try to find out what’s happening on social media. Reading a good paper-and-ink book frees up my imagination to learn something new, escape real-world stressors, and wind down from the day.”

—Scott Miller, marketing director, Wilmington, DE

Keep your phone in a basket

“When I found that my phone started to disturb my sleep, I knew I had to make a change. I found a nice little basket for it that I keep in the living room. Every night, I turn off my phone and carefully place it in the basket. I had some separation anxiety at first, but it was so worth it. Disconnecting has given me back my time to sleep and dream.”

—Justine Johnson, artist, London, UK 

Use Do Not Disturb mode

“I’ve programmed my phone to turn on Do Not Disturb mode every night from 8:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. the next morning. I love not having to think about having to turn notifications off, since my phone does it for me. Relying on Do Not Disturb mode allows me to spend time winding down without my phone nearby for at least an hour before I fall asleep, which helps me sleep better.”

—Alyssa Swantkoski, executive assistant, Denver, CO

Set a “tech bedtime”

“As an entrepreneur, I’m always trying to do all the things in my life and business, so I need to set a time when to disconnect from the phone. There is a rule in my house: No phones after 9:00 pm. It encourages me not to check the phone first thing in the morning.”

—Sheng Herr, business strategist, Detroit, MI

Avoid blue light

“Staring at blue light before bed is a huge contributing factor to nights full of tossing and turning, so I love using the Twilight app on my phone. It creates an inviting, warm hue on my screen after sundown. Using this app lets my brain know it’s time for bed.”

Brittany DeJohnette, copywriter and pharmacist, Houston, TX

Schedule time to plug in

“In order to unplug before bed, I have a dedicated time each evening to plug in. This is a window of time that I can spend on my devices doing whatever I’d like — watching shows, catching up on the news, or checking Instagram and YouTube. Having a dedicated amount of time well before bed to plug in helps me prioritize my time on my devices and get any mission-critical items or entertainment out of the way of a good night’s sleep.”

—Sean Higgins, CEO of BetterYou, Saint Paul, MN

Keep a pad of paper next to your bed

“My wife and I are pretty diligent about ignoring our phones and reading in bed for half an hour before it’s time to sleep. The phone can be tempting, especially if I have something I think about and want to remember, but I keep a small pad of paper and pencil by my book for that purpose.”

Jon Vassallo, director of partnerships and general manager, Toronto, ON, Canada

Swap out your phone for Alexa

“My challenge is that ideas come to me late at night as I’m drifting into sleep. Without my phone nearby, I found those ideas keeping me up extremely late as my mind wanted to hold onto them. As a solution, I moved an Echo Dot into my room and dictate my ideas and notes to Alexa while staying snuggled up. I have been sleeping better ever since. I avoid the stimulation of screens without losing great content ideas.”

Kaley Zeitouni, author and coach, Jerusalem, Israel and Los Angeles, CA

Lay out your clothes for the morning

“First, I always make sure my phone is left charging in my office, and that’s the last time I see any of my devices for the night. Then, I find that reading a book, journaling with a fountain pen, sipping some cool water, and laying out my clothes for the morning all contribute to an unplugged, refreshing sleep.”

Stephen P. Brown, conductor and composer, U.K. 

Turn on night shift colors

“I set my iPhone to switch into ‘Night Shift’ mode each night, which causes the screen to automatically change to warmer colors. Since I use the highest setting possible, it makes the screen appear duller and a little less enticing, so I use this as a reminder that it’s time for me to start to unwind. The warmer colors filter out the blue light of the phone screen, which helps me fall asleep.”

—Lisa Abramson, executive coach, Menlo Park, CA

Download an app that blocks distractions

“As a small business owner, I’ve struggled to disconnect from work in the past because I could work from my phone in bed. I took control of the situation by installing Freedom — an app that blocks distractions. I set it so I can’t access my emails or social media between 4:00 p.m. and 10:00 a.m. I now get better quality sleep and wake feeling more energized and refreshed. Plus, I’m more productive when I work because of these boundaries.”

Musa Francis, health and lifestyle coach, Oxfordshire, U.K.

How do you disconnect from your screens before bed? Let us know in the comments!

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