Smart phones have enabled us to stay connected 24×7 with information and people available at the touch of our fingertips. The flip side involves watching phones eat into that all so important quiet period for reflection and sleep. We feel more compelled to check our Facebook feed than performing a sequence allowing us to unwind gradually into a state of restful sleep. Rather than recommend something drastic or impractical like getting rid of your smart phone completely, I’d like to suggest some simple apps and hacks to allow yourself to take control of your digital life and shape into something more manageable and conducive to balance.
Social Media Hack – Accountability Partners on Social Media: A cool way for people addicted to their social media feeds to address their bedtime procrastination habits is to find like minded friends or people suffering from the same sleep procrastination affliction to remind you via social media at a particular time to go to bed. Similar to how alcoholics have sponsors and accountability partners, find a person or people to keep you on your toes from a sleep scheduling standpoint and utilize the very medium that keeps you from sleep to nudging you in the right direction until you have balanced your habit.
App – Sleep Cycle: I’ve written about the sleep cycle app before on this blog and in my book “Bedtime Procrastination Cure” on Amazon. This app is probably the only alarm clock you should do. By setting up the sleep cycle alarm clock on your phone, your alarm will ring at an optimal point in your sleep cycle when you are in a shallow state of sleep and less likely to be in a deep REM sleep state. This means waking up less tired and without the jarring nature of a traditional alarm clock. I swear if you use this app properly it will truly reduce your morning sluggishness, brain fog and wake up stress that has a domino effect on your bedtime procrastination tendencies. Many people postpone their bedtime because they constantly wake up feeling lousy even after going to bed on time. The real reason of course is that their bodies don’t get a chance to adapt to a better sleep routine. A vicious cycle can form where poor wake up times end up discouraging a reasonable bed time.
I had to experiment with different Android phones for the most optimal result. Using a relatively recent phone would ensure the sensors in your phone allow Sleep Cycle to function optimally. From what I’ve been told, the iPhone version works the best.
App – Moodnotes – Moodnotes is an app that allows you to track your mood through your day and thereby identify common thinking ‘traps’ that may be preventing you from progressing in life. From a bedtime procrastination standpoint, this is a slick way to identify patterns of behavior that might cause you to ‘binge’ on behavior not conducive to sleep. If your mood tends to be depressed on certain days, you can remain watchful for follow on behaviors that would lead you to compensate for the bad mood trigger with activities triggering a dopamine surge keeping you away from your bed. You might feel a stronger urge to binge on another episode of your regular nightly TV show instead of hitting the pillow. It’s the next best thing to hiring a therapist and go through a regular detailed cognitive behavior therapy based session. iOS only at the moment.
Keeping a sleep journal is a key element in recovering from any addiction and bedtime procrastination that affects the quality of your life can be thought of as an addictive type behavior. Many people begin journals but don’t stay consistent enough with the activity to reap the benefits and gain insights into their self destructive patterns of behavior. Apps like Moodkit, Moodnotes and Daylio have the concept of micro journals to allow quick updates and short notes to substitute a long reflective journal. These are great for note taking throughout the day and its handy because its an app in your phone.
Android App – Daylio: At the time of this writing, Moodnotes and Moodkit (from the same company) are not available for Android. The closest alternative I could find was Daylio which is a simpler app more basic in functionality but is also a good way to track moods through the day and identify patterns of behavior that don’t serve you.
App – Flipd: Great little app to protect you from losing yourself in your cell. Flipd allows you to lock your phone down to the bare essentials preventing you from going crazy on Instagram at 1 in the morning instead of going to bed. Excellent app and a must have for sleep procrastinators who just can’t tear themselves away from their phone at night.
App – Automateit: Android in particular features apps that allow you to automate certain functions based on triggers. Automateit is similar to IFTTT in that it allows you to define a stimulus or trigger to then run a particular app or activate a function on your cell. How automation apps fit into addressing bedtime procrastination is that it allows you to set specific times to launch apps like Flipd thereby encouraging you to ‘Flip Off’ (in the Flipd team’s words). If you had to go to bed at 11 PM for instance, you could set Automateit to launch Flipd at that time thereby preventing you from having full access to your phone. Flipd of course has functionality similar to this in their premium version. You can also use Automateit to switch of your phone’s wifi or internet at a certain time or even in a particular geolocation (like your bedroom). Great way to enforce a means to eliminating bedtime procrastination habits.
App – IFTTT: If This Then That. This is a very popular device automation app that can be used to trigger smart home features. I recommend using IFTTT to create tasks that are conducive to you winding down at the end of the day and drift into a restful sleep at a reasonable time. You can use it to activate a red tint on your Philips Hue lighting system for instance that will counteract the blue light exposure from viewing screens through the day that disrupt your sleep patterns. You can creatively use IFTTT to dim lights, switch them to a red hue and start playing relaxing music at a intervals when you pair up with Amazon Echo for instance. You don’t have to be a tech wiz to be able to do all this as a number of presets already exist to achieve these functions.
App – Twilight: Blue spectrum light is a huge factor in sleep disruption. Scientists have been cautioning us about use of devices like tablets, cell phones and televisions before bed due to the strong amounts of blue light they emit. Blue light interferes with melatonin production in a way that disrupts your natural sleep rhythm. Your body ends up not having adequate signals to wind down and reduce brain intensive activity (like watching that new TV show) to enable you to sleep. While I talk a lot about the ills of a modern lifestyle featuring so much sitting around and looking at screens, I do see the benefits of modern digital technology. If you must unwind at the end of the day by watching tv or playing a video game or browsing Facebook, aside from limiting the time you spend on these devices, also try to filter out as much blue light as possible when using them. The easiest thing you can do is to install apps like Twilight that filter out the blue light from your devices. Twilight can be installed on practically any device you use and can even trigger automatically at a certain time of the day. In a very short time I got used to the reddish tint that permeated my screen when watching a movie but I swear it works. On a PC or mobile you can install the free F.Lux application that does a similar job. There are many apps that allow this functionality on your device so it would be worth investing a bit of time in trying the various options and pick a hue that you prefer and also enjoy a better control over your blue light exposure. I do however recommend either Twilight and F.Lux just because they are free and are very easy to use.
App – Go To Bed – iOS only at the moment but this app encourages you to sleep sooner. Simple idea but it reminds you to go to bed and by tapping on a button to signify when you are going to bed and waking up, it allows you to indulge in a competitive leader board of sorts. I like the concept as it is great to have this app running with your friends or accountability partner to ensure you are sleeping on time.
Most Smartphones and fitness trackers come with their own health related apps and functionality. If you’ve been using your fitness band for tracking daily steps taken for instance, it’s worth exploring the sleep related functionality as well.