Can the bedroom be a no-phone zone?

Shakira Sison
Without your gadgets within arm's reach but your partner right beside you, you might realize that what's more important is the living and breathing person next to you

A few years ago when smart phones were replacing Blackberries and social media sites created their first handheld apps, we found our bedroom lighting up from cellphones at odd hours. My wife and I would wake up and grab our phones as a reflex.

Even after putting them on silent we’d spend the first few minutes of the day waking up to whoever needed us, what tasks we faced at work, and what notifications we had on Facebook – all while we were still in bed. I’d turn my back on her and illuminate my barely awake face with the screen of my phone, responding to texts and emails, writing posts, sharing articles, and reading messages.

Eventually, we began arguing about how phones dominated our bedroom. Evenings had been ending with us checking our phones one last time, and then another last time if it lit up or vibrated while we were still awake, interrupting whatever nighttime conversation we were having (or not having as a result).

A social media infestation

It became routine to base our conversations on who just texted or what someone just posted. Instead of Facebook being an outlet containing parts of people’s lives, our lives started to contain the details of other people’s lives based on their (mostly fabricated) posts. 

 Illustration by Kanako Shimura

After a particularly heated disagreement about how I was always on my phone (which I, of course, countered with a mention of her own bad phone habits), I decided to banish my phone from the bedroom once and for all. I started charging it on silent in another room overnight.

At first, my wife said that wasn’t necessary and that I was overreacting, but seeing my hands free at bedtime and ready to interact (or at least sleep without a backlit lullaby), she soon followed suit and kept her phone elsewhere as well.

No screens in the bedroom

For the past few years we’ve had no screens in our bedroom – no TV, no gadgets, no phones. Bedtimes are sacred times where we only have each other as company, and we fall asleep to that. Texts, FB posts, news articles and work emails stay out of the bedroom. Our last thoughts and dreams are composed of our final evening conversation. There are no flashing lights and actionable items rousing us from our sleep. Mornings begin with a soft classical music alarm and zero outside stimulus. 

We live fast-paced lives with timely concerns just like anyone else. Yes, there are some things we do miss in the 7 hours we are away from our phones, and we’re often glad for it.

– Shakira Sison


What about emergencies? The people who matter have our landline number, and when that rings it really is a matter of life and death. Everything else can wait till the morning. 

We live fast-paced lives with timely concerns just like anyone else. Yes, there are some things we do miss in the 7 hours we are away from our phones, and we’re often glad for it. But what we don’t miss is the interruption of our sleep by the world outside the two of us.

We definitely don’t miss being subjected to each other’s preoccupied vibe or a conversation with someone else in our own bedroom. The rest of the day’s 17 hours are already allotted for external communication.

An acquired habit

Just like most families had rules during mealtimes that nobody should get up to pick up a ringing landline, the no-phone bedroom is a habit that is developed. Growing up, mealtimes were considered sacred ground where the only conversations to be had were with each other. This was simply a fact and was never questioned.

There are also places where we’ve banished our cellphones to ensure the comfort of those around us. Theaters, churches, and some boardrooms and classrooms are no-phone zones without much protest from their participants. In fact, it’s perfectly fine to give a dirty look or even admonish offenders in these areas.

Would it be so difficult to develop the habit of a screen-free bedroom? “Magpapaantok lang ako (I’m just going to make myself sleepy),” we say when we grab our devices at night. That usually means two more games of Candy Crush. In reality we only sleep because our eyes are tired from staring into bright lights.

A boost for couples 

At a time when couples’ interactions during the week are limited to shop talk (logistics planning or work-related discussions), the remaining 30 minutes to an hour of uninterrupted time at night have been known to boost intimacy between couples.

Numerous studies have concluded that screen time at night increases the occurrence of insomnia, resulting in lack of focus and tiredness in both adults and children during the day. 

Many parents now require their kids to turn in their phones for the evening because children and teens tend to respond to text messages and social media notifications all through the night. Adults should curtail their own gadget use for the same reason. 

From experience, I learned that there really is a big difference waking up to one’s partner instead of facing a lit screen first thing in the morning that quickly starts nagging you about your day. It reminds couples how nice it feels to be fully present to each other without being interrupted by outside concerns.

Everyone has pressing work issues but the realignment of priorities shows partners who come first. That is, if they haven’t already forgotten how to relate to each other or have a conversation that doesn’t involve showing each other a post, video, or picture on their phones. 

A third of your life 

We spend between a quarter to a third of our lives in bed. For many of us who work, those hours between sleeping and waking are the only moments we are completely physically present for our partners. Even when our minds are off dreaming, there is always a huge comfort in the arms of your spouse or significant other that you subconsciously run to in your sleep.

Don’t interrupt that sacred time with your phone’s lights, beeps, and vibrations. Without your gadgets within arm’s reach but your partner right beside you, you might realize that what’s more important is the living and breathing person next to you, and not the bright lights of your device. – 

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