A tech diet – An experience of reducing screen time to improve sleep quality
In the ever-changing world of digital, our communities are becoming more and more connected. Whether through their mobile phones, wearables, iPads or even SmartTVs we cannot ignore that we are constantly bombarded with content and social interaction.
In December 2016, both my wife and I read through numerous articles relating to how our dependancy on technology can be detrimental to sleep behaviour (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laurie-hollman-phd/effects-of-screen-time-on_b_11407544.html).
For 12 weeks we both decided to try and start a tech diet. Now for those who have dieted for health reasons, or to simply “get ready for summer”, it’s not an easy feat. – For the both of us, working in digital and restricting access to what essentially is our day to day life initially was laughable.
But, for an early New Year’s resolution, and to help ourselves and to encourage our toddler to not be a “screen zombie”, we thought we would a tech diet a go.
1.) No phones after 8pm
We set a strict “no phone” policy. This meant that after 8pm every night, our phones would be placed out of view and not used (unless for calls).
2.) No social media after 8pm
Yep, that’s right! Along with our phones, we committed to not being active on social media from 8pm until the next morning.
3.) Invest in an Alarm Clock
Phones at night were not allowed in the bedroom, and were to be kept in the lounge overnight to prevent night-time screen time – Meaning we had to invest in buying an alarm clock!
4.) No TV after 10pm
To let the mind wind-down for sleep, we agreed to not have any TV time after 10pm.
5.) It’s good to talk
Reducing the amount of time on our devices would surely mean we would free up more time to chat. With the inauguration of a certain President and with the pending Article 50, we knew there would be more than enough content to discuss/ debate.
6.) If you are bored, read a book!
On those moments where your partner is asleep, due to “toddler exhaustion”, and you are twiddling your thumbs not able to sleep wondering what to do… read a book.
As a marketer I cannot take part in an “experiment” unless I am able to monitor the outcome of it.
Now this may seem a little hypocritical, but to measure and monitor sleep and activity I have been using the data collected from my FitBit. By comparing average time in bed to average sleep time, I was able to determine a rough guide to sleep quality.
This has meant that I have been able to monitor sleep patterns and see if quality of sleep would increase over time.
How it went
We started so well!
Initially we were very strict with the rules of our tech diet; on our screen access. Not only for ourselves, but for our whole household. But through the coming weeks the level of consciously not being on our phones, tablets, etc became more and more difficult.
We found that by disengaging with social media completely that we became slightly behind in our social circles; always on the back foot playing catchup.
Not being able to react in an ecosystem that relies on instant responses and actions, it became very apparent of how ingrained social media like Facebook, WhatsApp and LinkedIn are to our lives.
Surprise, I can read!
As someone who doesn’t tend to read books, as I am usually busy watching TED Talks or reading articles on The Drum, I read a couple a great books in this time:
- Together is Better – Simon Sinek (a very light read)
- The Content Revolution – Mark Masters
- The Curious Bartender – Tristan Stephenson (redeveloping my love of mixology)
Understanding the data
As an evaluation of experimenting with a tech diet, I have found that I am well rested (well more than usual), but slightly disengaged with people in my social network circles.
In fact for the first 6 weeks of the experiment, I saw that 94% of time that I was in bed I was asleep. – With a toddler and a 6month old puppy, that’s not too bad! – this equates to roughly 30mins a night (3.5 hours a week).
For the subsequent 6 weeks though, there has been a big collapse in how strict I have been with restricting screen time and has seen that I am awake for nearly 10% of the time that I spend in bed. This is double that of when effectively dieting.
Although the data is only driven by my sleep patterns, and also is only over a short space of time, it does point to the conclusion that having a tech diet can influence your sleep quality in a positive way.
In addition to improving sleep quality, I have also rekindled interests in old passions like mixology, reading and has meant I have been listening to a lot more music.
I would not suggest that cutting technology out of your life is a must, as I wouldn’t have a job if everyone did! However, by practising a tech diet by simply by not having your mobile in the bedroom should assist with providing a better quality of sleep.
I hope this is useful/ insightful. Any thoughts, experiences or feedback are really appreciated.