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How to Limit Screen Time at Night

I Swapped Screens For Books at Bedtime, and I'm So Much Happier (and Well Rested!)

Young woman lying in her bed reading a book at night

Reading is one of my favorite things to do, but for nearly a year I told myself I "didn't have enough time" to crack open a book. Um, spoiler alert: that wasn't true. Sure, as someone who works in online media, I need to be in tune to what's happening on the internet, and as a mom, I have less free time than I did a couple years ago. But was I still finding time to scroll through Instagram and Twitter several times a day? Absolutely.

There were a few signs that I needed to make a change. First, I noticed the growing stack of unread books I genuinely felt excited to read, which continued to get higher and higher on my nightstand. Cue the guilt. Then I started struggling to fall asleep, and I knew it probably had something to do with how I spent those final minutes before closing my eyes: thumbing through Twitter, moving from joke to article to rant to article to photo to meme before eventually stressing about the time and putting down my phone.

I knew I wouldn't be able to give up my evening scroll completely, so I came up with a plan that felt sustainable. An hour or so before I hoped to fall asleep, I'd allow myself 20 minutes on my phone, and after that, I could either read a book or close my eyes. That way, I could still catch up on what my friends had posted on Instagram, read through a few bookmarked articles, and keep tabs on Twitter, but I wouldn't be able to do go down the rabbit hole.

The first few days, I cheated. Twenty minutes became 30, and oops, occasionally 45. There were so many articles to read! And Instagram Stories just keep going! I'd open a book so that I could at least fool myself into believing I was on track, but by then it was so late that I wasn't reading more than a few pages, and I wasn't getting into the story enough to enjoy it. By the second week of my experiment, I held myself to the 20-minute time limit, and — ta-da! — I had plenty of time to read. Usually I'd read for about 30 to 45 minutes, occasionally more, and I found that by the time I closed the book and rolled over to go to sleep, I felt genuinely tired. Even better: my mind wasn't racing because I wasn't thinking about the tweets and to-do lists I used to pore over just before bedtime.

It's been a little over six months since I made the shift in my evening routine, and it's made a world of difference in how I feel, both physically and mentally. Not only am I falling asleep more easily and getting better rest, but my mood has improved without the late-night stress that came from mindless, seemingly endless scrolling. There have been days here and there where I've over indulged on social media, but it's been easier than I expected to stick with the plan — mostly because I get so excited to dive back into a story. Reading books really is my favorite pastime, and carving out a space for it each day has been as fulfilling as I'd hoped.

Image Source: Getty / Luis Alvarez
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