Taming the Late-Night Scroll Monster: A How-To Guide

Doomscrolling Before Bed

Research screams it from the rooftops: Staring at your phone before bed is a recipe for a sleep disaster. Over half of Americans are guilty of this nightly ritual, but experts agree, the ideal cut-off for screens is at least an hour before bedtime.

Why? Your brain needs a wind-down period, like a finely tuned orchestra preparing for a delicate symphony. Doomscrolling floods your mind with stress hormones (hello, cortisol!), delays the production of sleep-inducing melatonin, and messes with your body’s internal clock.

So, this is probably not news to you, and even might be something you’ve tried to work on before. Here are a few tips on how to kick the habit and reclaim your precious sleep: 

Create a New Nightly Ritual: 

Design a relaxing routine that doesn’t involve your phone. And, if you have kids to put to bed before you embark on this new routine, we understand that this might take a little more trial and error. Remember, patience and experimentation, just keep trying.

This may seem obvious, but do you remember a time before we carried our phones to bed? Try reading a book, an actual book, not an e-reader. Yes, we realize that libraries are now jumping on lending digital material out to you. Convenient, yes, but the last time I checked they do still have print material.

This one also seems obvious, but taking a bath or warm shower. Journaling can also be helpful. Being able to reflect on the day, the week ahead, or whatever is going on in your life may help to unload what’s weighing you down. Be open to the journey to find what helps you unwind and signal to your brain that it’s time to chill.

Banish the Phone: 

Don’t just put it down, get it out of your bedroom. Out of sight, out of mind. I know what you might be thinking here, and I was just listening to a podcast host share this very solution: If you use your phone as an alarm, then it might be time to invest in an old-school alarm clock. Heck, they even make alarm clocks that mimic the light you would be exposed to if you’re someone that uses blackout shades or curtains.

Embrace the To-Do List: 

Instead of scrolling through endless feeds, make a list of tomorrow’s tasks. Just like journaling, jotting down the things you’d like to get done is another great way to unload and clear your mind and stop those thoughts from bouncing around when you’re trying to sleep. Not to mention you’ll find joy in checking off those items on your to-to list when they’re done.

Switch Up Your Environment: 

If you tend to doomscroll in bed, change your location. Your brain is a creature of habit, and if it associates your bed with scrolling, it’ll be harder to switch off. By choosing a space other than your bed, you’re creating a mental separation between your sleep space and your screen time zone.

Think of it as training your brain like you would a puppy – consistency is key. This not only helps create a mental association between your bed and sleep, but also provides a physical barrier that makes it less convenient to reach for your phone when you should be on your way to the snooze fest.

Now, I do like to perform my nighttime hygiene rituals first, because when I curl up with a book in a comfy chair before bed I tend to start feeling those eyelids getting heavy. By getting that routine out of the way, I can quickly just move over to the bed for an easier transition.

Ditch the Notifications: 

If you still want to have your phone in the bedroom with you at least set your phone to “Do Not Disturb” mode at night. Utilize the technology that is built-in and available. You can customize your phone to only allow calls from specific contacts in case of emergencies.

If You Must Scroll, Minimize the Damage: 

If quitting cold turkey seems impossible, there are harm reduction strategies. Think of it like eating a single slice of cake instead of the whole thing – it’s not ideal, but it’s better than nothing. First, activate your phone’s built-in blue light filter or “night mode.” This reduces the harshest wavelengths of light that interfere with melatonin production. Lower your screen brightness as much as you can tolerate without straining your eyes. Additionally, try to hold your phone at a distance and at a slight angle to minimize direct light exposure.

Most importantly, set a strict time limit for your scrolling session. Use a timer app or your phone’s built-in alarm. Once the alarm goes off, close the app and put your phone away, or just throw your phone across the room – whatever works (just make sure you have a really good case on it).

Address the Underlying Cause: 

Ask yourself why you reach for your phone at night. Is it a mindless habit or does it serve a purpose? Are you bored and seeking distraction? Overwhelmed by the day’s stress? Feeling lonely or disconnected? Once you understand the root of the behavior, you can start addressing it head-on.

    Remember, breaking the doomscrolling habit takes time and effort, whether you’re about to go to bed or not. But with a little planning and some healthy alternatives, you can reclaim your sleep, reduce anxiety, and wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day.

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