How Not To Let Social Media Steal Your Sleep & Affect Your Mental Health

7 minute read

Nearly three-quarters of Americans (71%) who own smartphones sleep with them – either by putting their phone on a nightstand, in their bed or, for 3% of people, holding it in their hands, claims Fortune on their blog. That’s an astonishing number of people, considering the negative impact of sleeping with your phone. Those include problems falling asleep as well as increased anxiety. If you think that your mobile phone is affecting your sleep and mental health, here are some tips for you.

Turn Off Your Phone, Turn Off Your Mind

There are two major reasons why our mobile phones and social media keep us awake. One, the blue LED light keeps your brain away from producing melatonin, a hormone that regulates your sleep. Melatonin is naturally produced when it’s getting dark outside and it makes feel sleepy. Therefore staring at the screen of your phone, tablet, or computer will make it harder for you to fall asleep. According to the author of the book Why We Sleep, Matthew Walker, it’s by an astonishing 25%.

Two, it’s the constant buzzing and notifications that prevent us from winding down in the evening. If we pay attention to them, we deprive ourselves of any social and relaxation activities that support better sleep. The good news is that you can easily get your melatonin and the wind-down routine back. You just have to find some discipline to keep your hands off the phone. And while it may sound easier to say than to do, I reassure you that once you get used to it, you’ll never want to be bothered by your phone again.

Silent Mode, Plane Mode, Dead Mode

When I started to notice negative patterns in my sleep cycles, I started to put my phone on Silent Mode around 8pm or at least two hours before bedtime. I thought that staying away from my phone would help and this could be a good start. It turned out that it was a small improvement as only the contacts from my Favourites could call me. The good thing about the Silent Mode is that it gets most of the buzzing away, too. Your notifications go on silent and messages are not displayed on your screen, either. As a result, you’re less tempted to respond.

The only problem with leaving your phone on Silent Mode or Plane mode is that it still won’t get you off the screen completely. Whenever you think of something, as irrelevant it is, you’re tempted to pick up your phone and start searching for that information. When is that coffee shop open? Do they have wifi? And you don’t even know how but you ended up on Messenger chatting with your friend about what you watched on Netflix last night.

<Read More: Why You Should Spend Less Time On Facebook>

So, as for Silent Mode or Plane Mode, don’t bother. It’s not the right solution. The only best solution out there is to turn off your phone completely. I know this may make you feel uncomfortable but after a few days without any evening screen time, you’ll begin to get the freedom of it. You’ll start cooking dinners again. You’ll chat with your partner or roommates. Suddenly, there will be time for things you couldn’t find before. 

But most importantly, you’ll feel rested and your sleep and mood will begin to rise again.

No Phones On The Bedside Table

Possibly the worst thing you can do for your good night’s sleep is to keep your phone on the bedside table. The problem is that you’re constantly tempted to look at it. If you can’t fall asleep for five minutes, you look at the time. You think of something you forgot, you do it on your phone. These interruptions, as little as they are, wake you up and you’re starting the cycle of falling asleep over.

But it’s not only about getting your beauty sleep. According to Fortune, 35% of respondents said their first thought in the morning is about their smartphone. Most people are tempted to check Instagram and Facebook or to respond to messages and emails straight away. This way you’re instantly shifting your focus from setting up your day to consuming completely irrelevant information you don’t need.

But there’s another catch to keeping your phone on the bedside table. Because our phones have also become our alarm clocks, it’s easy to hit the snooze button. This has a negative impact on you mentally – if you can’t get up at the time you said you would, your mood immediately drops and your willpower decreases for the rest of the day. (Remember the video in which a navy seal admiral shares reasons why you should make the bed every day? This is the same.)

When I started to put my phone on my makeup table before I went to sleep, the result was better than expected. Now that my phone was far from my reach, I get up on time because the volume of the sound is hard to ignore and I must get up to stop it. But most importantly, I am too lazy to get up and check on messages or social media if I can’t fall asleep. This way I broke the negative pattern can’t fall asleepwon’t fall asleepwon’t get up on time.

Healthy Sleep Habits For Social Media Marketers

The most vulnerable demographic prone to bad sleep habits are the Millennials. They grew up in the digital era and often think they should respond quickly and stay up-to-date with the online world. The pressure is both internal and external. Research shows that people on Twitter expect a response within an hour; for other platforms, the average is two to four hours. This prompts the managers to keep the notifications on at all times, including evenings and after-work hours.

The constant reacting to new messages, according to Dr Harry Barry, the author of the book Anxiety & Panic: How to Rewire Your Anxious Mind & Brain, is the reason why teenagers and young adults are more prone to anxiety than the previous generations. Add long hours and general attitude towards perfectionism which is common in Millennials. Then it becomes easy to wind up with an anxious brain telling you that you should do more and better work. This often spirals into less sleep – more work – more anxiety. The good news is, there is a way out.

8 Ways How To Improve Your Sleep & Mental Health

Having an awareness of one’s sleep habits and mental state is the number one step for improvement. Besides keeping a healthy lifestyle, there’s another thing that can have a big impact: a healthy work environment.

Social media managers should always be in communication with the HR department and set clear expectations about their role. This helps to prevent any misunderstandings but also “invisible” pressure that social media managers often put on themselves. Whether you’re a social media manager or an HR specialist, these are the things that you should put in place to get or provide the best conditions for work.

  1. Set clear expectations of work hours, including when the social media manager responds to messages
  2. In case of special campaigns that require more attention and monitoring, have an agreement how (or if) the extra hours will be rewarded
  3. If possible, have two separate smartphones: one for work, one private
  4. Adopt a routine of turning off your phone and sleeping on time – falling asleep easily – waking up on time
  5. Make it a rule to do no social media related work on holidays; prepare the social content in advance and allocate someone in the team to monitor and respond to messages
  6. If necessary, consider allocating direct messages to customer service department
  7. Consider stating clearly when your social media team responds to messages in the bio of your social media profiles
  8. Use the National Mental Health Week (second week of May) or World Mental Health Day (10 October) as a way to help your marketing team adapt positive lifestyle habits

How do you manage your sleep and good mental health in the digital era? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments below!