Culture

How I improved my sleep — and reduced my stress — with a digital detox

A complete digital detox can be tough, but the slow-tech lifestyle is setting some achievable boundaries

Honest disclosure: I often wake up at 5am and spend an hour scrolling through my phone before I actually get out of bed. It’s my ritual to get through insomnia, though it doesn’t seem to be helping. I’m not alone, either; according to a global survey, 98 per cent of Indians go to bed with their phones, and 83 per cent keep them within reach through the day. My Google Pixel isn’t just my bedside buddy, it keeps me company on my commute to work, saves me from awkward conversations at parties, and is always available for a mindless scroll. But recently, I’ve been feeling the need to break this habit, and I blame the under-eye bags that have arrived as a result of it. A complete digital detox, however, isn’t realistic unless you’re at a Caribbean island retreat. Instead, I adopted the slow-tech life for a week.

Here’s what worked:

Alarm clock3

Get an old-fashioned alarm clock: And put your phone in another room. It’s the simplest solution to avoid getting into bed with every Facebook friend you follow.
Monitor your phone time: Feeling guilty about the time spent on the phone may sound ridiculous, but it all adds up—I unlock mine around 85 times in a day.Screen-time tracker apps like Space (Android) and Moment (iOs) do the math for you, while also coaching you to reduce your time.

Turn off push-notifications: Every phone alert triggers a release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that drives the brain’s pleasure centre, sending you down a spiral of slime videos and cat memes. In fact, the fear of this kind of mind control pushed Justin Rosenstein, the creator of Facebook’s iconic Like button, to put parental locks on his phone. He switches off alerts from social media platforms and checks them at scheduled intervals during the day.

cellphone 

Switch the screen to greyscale: Former Google design ethicist and anti-distraction campaigner Tristan Harris suggests draining all the colours from your screen. This inbuilt feature won’t fix the problem, but it will make IGTV and Snapchat boring enough to ignore. On day one with no phone by my bed, I spent a few anxious minutes before going back to sleep and clocked in an extra hour. I replaced the scrolling with reading, and finished a book in a week. There was no FOMO, I was more productive and much calmer. I may not commit to a full-blown detox, but a distant relationship with my phone will do for now.