Happy, Healthy Nonprofit: To Get a Good Night's Sleep – Don't Sleep with Your iPhone | Beth's Blog

Happy, Healthy Nonprofit: To Get a Good Night’s Sleep – Don’t Sleep with Your iPhone

Happy Healthy Nonprofit


In the Happy Healthy Nonprofit,  one important area that we focus on are the pillars of self-care which begins with getting good quality sleep.

This healthy habit sets the stage for you to incorporate other self-care routines that we describe in our book.   One surefire way to ruin your sleep is to use your mobile phone as an alarm clock.   Why?   According to scientific research,  reading a tablet or mobile phone with its backlit display in bed can make it harder to fall asleep and your sleep won’t be as rejuvenating.   It isn’t just the fact that you use your iPhone as an alarm clock, it is the routine you create around it.

While I was well aware of this research,  after lengthy business travel this fall where I used my mobile phone as an alarm clock, I found myself slipping back into that very bad habit.  Why?    At night, when I set the alarm, and the next thing I know I am checking Facebook or work email.  The glaring light off the tiny screen zaps your brain of sound ZZZs.  What’s worse, is that you can end up dreaming about work  and who was to have stress dreams?

I don’t.

And, of course, if you don’t sleep well, you wake up not feeling refreshed, even if you get the recommended number of hours (7-9).   What happened to me is that mobile phone alarm goes off, I wake up, shut it off, and check email, news, or Facebook sometimes before getting out of bed.  That is not a great way to to start the day.

I’m using the holiday time to kick this bad habit to the curb.   The first step was to purchase a  retro alarm clock that wakes you up with light. I also took the advice of my co-author, Aliza Sherman,  barred  the iPhone from the bedroom, keeping as far as away as possible in the house and out of site.   I’m on Day 5 and feeling better already.


Amy Borgstrom says “I put the phone in my work bag and wake up to gentle pulsing light from this beauty.”

I was curious whether other nonprofit professionals face this challenge and how they solve it.  So, I asked folks on Facebook and here’s what I learned.

Some colleagues know it is an unhealthy habit, but do it because they have a family member with an emergency to respond to and don’t have a landline.   Others, primarily those who work in IT or medical, might be paged in the middle of the night with an urgent issue to attend to.   However, while they keep the iPhone in the bedroom, they keep the phone a safe distance from their bodies.


If you want to get better sleep, a multi-prong approach might include:

  • Use an alarm clock: Many colleagues use alarm clocks instead of their phones for all the reasons I described above.  I was fascinated by the different alarm clock and methods for waking.   A few colleagues use alarm clocks with CDs and wake up to music.    Colleague Christine Egger wakes up to “It is a Beautiful Morning” and she says “It is much better than a wake up call.”  And of course, if you have kids, you have a human alarm clock.Some colleagues keep the phone charging on their bed stands and use it as an alarm clock.    They don’t check their email, news, or social channels upon waking or going to bed, having much better impulse control than some.      As one colleague said, “I just don’t feel the need to be that connected.” Many switch the phone to airplane mode and dial down the brightness of the screen.  Another colleague has learned the hard way that they will be late for work if they putter on their phone before their morning routine.


    Others say that it is a problem and a few made getting an alarm clock part of their new year’s resolutions.

  • Keep the phone charging station as far as away as possible from bedroom:   Colleagues keep their phone charging stations in the kitchen, home office, or even in the basement so it takes a conscious effort to go find it and check it.  As Vicki Davis, Cool Cat Teacher blog, who has written about sleep deficits and mobile phones says, “I charge my phone in my office. When you read the research on being always plugged in and not getting rest, it makes sense. Charge elsewhere and wake up recharged.” 
  • Good Night iPhone:  Perhaps we should take some advice from this updated children’s classic, “Good Night iPad”  Give your electronic devices a bedtime curfew.  Shut them off, and don’t check them after the cut off time, preferably several hours before bed.    Several colleagues mentioned limiting their screen time over weekends as well. 
  • Incorporate a mindfulness routine in the morning before you check your phone:Janet Fouts, Author of Mindful Marketing,  says “I’ve weaned myself off checking my phone after 10 pm and I rarely need an alarm clock so no excuse there. Lately I’ve been better about checking after I have taken a few minutes to meditate or at least set intentions to start the day. I don’t feel so immediately frenzied.”

The holidays are a great time to reflect and set new habits around self-care.  I’m actively working on getting better sleep.   What about you? Do you use your mobile phone as an alarm clock? If so, do you check in on email, social media, or other stuff upon waking or before going to sleep? Do find it a problem?

11 Responses

  1. Love your retro clock, Beth! I’m still amazed at how the simple act of returning to an old fashioned alarm clock can trigger change in not just sleep habits but waking habits. My friend Nik Hewitt also bought an alarm clock and found his compulsion to check notifications first thing every morning waned. I’m looking for a zen alarm clock – a less stressful way of waking.

  2. Nik Hewitt says:

    I tried this recently and it’s a massive help! I’ve moved to using my FitBit as an alarm clock, far more sympathetic to my natural way of waking.

  3. Beth says:


    I like that idea of using the fitbit as an alarm clock!

  4. Beth says:


    Is there a link to this zen alarm clock? Just curious?

  5. Graeme Manuel-Jones says:

    I do the same thing – leave my phone charging in another room, and use my Fitbit as an alarm clock. Using the Fitbit has another benefit – it doesn’t wake my wife up when she doesn’t need to get up till later. 🙂

    I’ve been doing this since July and it’s worked really well. I can also track my sleep with the Fitbit to get a clearer idea of sleep time and quality.

  6. […] friend Beth Kanter wrote about how she has stopped using her smartphone as an alarm clock, citing a study that shows phones and tablets disrupt sleep […]

  7. Jay Hedges says:

    I sleep with my Droid on my night stand but no alarm. 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep is great. I often lay awake at night reflecting in the day but only on the positives. I wake with the morning dawn (natural light) Check my phone for urgent e-mail (my company is located in Europe so they start 6 hours before me) but I rarely respond; just note what requires follow up. Then my 30 minutes of medication and prayer. I have a special “place of peace” for this and no e-mail but I do use the Inkpad app to keep a TTD list close by because when my mind is clear I often think of important things. Just a quick note so I’m not torturing myself later about what that great idea was. Then 30 minutes of aerobics, a shower and 20 minute commute to work. If you spend more than 30 minutes commuting you need to move or work from home two days a week. That’s about two hours from wake up to work and has worked well for me for 5 years now.

  8. […] easy way to take screen break everyday is to give your device a curfew, say good night Iphone several hours before bedtime.   Doing so, will help improve your sleep which is essential to being healthy and happy. I just […]

  9. […] way to start your day and be productive and could lead to mobile phone separation anxiety.    Experiment with a morning routine that is a technology mini-fast and that means buying a clock radio!   I did this last December during the holiday break and it is a technology wellness habit that I […]

  10. […] easy way to take screen break everyday is to give your device a curfew, say good night Iphone several hours before bedtime.   Doing so, will help improve your sleep which is essential to being healthy and happy. I just […]