We Stopped Using Technology In Bed For A Month & Here's What Happened
My boyfriend and I made a promise to each other when we first got together a couple years ago: we would never put a TV in our bedroom. It was one of those cute, yet totally naive moments every couple has at some point — kind of like Honey, we'll never fight in front of the kids, will we?
Amazingly, we've stayed true to that wide-eyed agreement so far. We've also been happy to put down our cell phones when we're eating dinner together. But despite these desirable characteristics, I wouldn't exactly say we're masters at managing our nighttime use of other electronics. You can usually find us clutching either a tablet or laptop right before the lights go out, running through our newsfeed and reading each other the latest knee-slappers on Twitter.
It's an incredibly unsexy habit, one that could eventually drive us apart and diminish our sex lives. Neither of those things are true at the moment — but studies have shown that taking electronics to bed is certainly bad for our health. The LED lights mess with our healthy sleep patterns and keep our brains hyper-active when they're supposed to be ready for a REM cycle. When we respond to that last email notification before our head hits the pillow, the adrenal gland shoots an extra dose of cortisol through the body, essentially stressing us out when we should be winding down.
We've heard this so many times before, it's hardly news anymore. Yet, we still do it. Why? Because we're millennials, people! I know we're not the only ones who have developed this routine, but I decided it was time to make a little change.
For one whole month, I would shut down all my electronics in bed, including phones, laptops, and tablets. I even declared my e-reader off-limits. I made a solid cutoff time: 9 p.m. No matter how important I thought it would be to check my email one last time, I would refrain from doing so.
These demands were not only meant for me. I asked my boyfriend if he was also willing to embark on this experiment and agree to the terms. I wouldn't say he jumped up and down for joy, but he was definitely willing, especially after I explained that we would end up boring and completely uninterested in each other very soon if we didn't give this a shot.
The first few nights were a total breeze. We fell into a pretty simple routine: after dinner was all done, we whipped out our tablets a final time to check emails and respond to messages, and then we gladly tucked them away.
As you would probably expect, we had sex more often than normal this first week. My cynical self would like to tell you that it was out of sheer boredom — what else do you think happens when two half naked people are in a bed together and aren't allowed to access wifi? Didn't matter, though. There's never a reason to complain about knockin' boots.
By the middle of the week, we had become champions of pillow talk. We curled up next to each other and chatted through some dilemmas in our personal lives — things left unsaid between my mother and me, friends in his life who still owed him big chunks of cash. It all felt so very adult-like, like we were two mature grown-ups sorting through all our problems together.
The most important thing I discovered, though, was that we actually enjoyed these conversations. There was something sweet and intimate about the low lighting and laying side by side. At first, that same cynical version of myself felt like it was all way too cheesy, but by the time the week came to an end, I was indeed looking forward to climbing into bed with my BF sans laptop.
"I feel like watching a movie," he said to me at the start of the week. I did too. I had finished all of my work earlier than expected, and I wanted to reward myself. We exchanged glances, asking for permission to break the rules just this once, but I had too much pride to lose the battle this early on.
I shut his laptop closed and insisted that we could find ways to enjoy our free time that didn't involve a documentary. We decided to go out for a late dinner instead. We enjoyed a spicy panang curry, planned our holiday travels, and decided what to get my parents for Christmas.
The followings nights turned out to be quite productive, to my surprise. We're hosting a yoga retreat in a few months, and we spent a good amount of time brainstorming some ideas for it as we were lounging around in bed together. Without getting distracted by our friend's baby pictures on Facebook or funny Donald Trump-related tweets, we were actually able to bounce some pretty brilliant ideas off of one another. And we documented everything like they used to in the old days — on a notebook with a pen.
He went out to a local brewery with his friends one night, which left me utterly and completely alone. Now, I love alone time. I usually beg my SO to take an extended trip with his friends so I can have the whole house to myself; I'm an only child, after all. But this time, it was different. There were no electronics to keep me warm and nobody to entertain me.
What a great opportunity to binge read, I told myself. The only problem was, there were only two hard copies of books currently in my possession: Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers' Guide and Vagina: A New Biography . I was in the mood for neither of them.
All kinds of thoughts rolled through my brain: What a dumb decision to include my e-reader in the list of prohibited technology. How irresponsible of me. I'm a writer, for heaven's sake — I should be able to read whenever I want. Hell, I deserve that right!
So I picked up my little black electronic book and flew through the rest of Wasted: A Bipolar Life by Marya Hornbacher. I didn't feel guilty in the slightest.
A couple of days later, we got into a fight over something silly around dinnertime (no, it wasn't about cheating with my Kindle, which was still a secret at this point) and the spat continued as we were climbing into bed. Usually, this is the point in time when we would escape the situation by sticking our noses in our phones and ignoring each other until morning. Instead, we were left staring at the ceiling, and we couldn't help but individually consider how stupid this argument truly was.
We finally got fed up with the silence and apologized to each other for being unreasonable, for yelling, and saying not-so-nice things. I couldn't decide if the reconciliation arose simply out of boredom or if it stemmed from genuine remorse, but either way, we went to sleep wrapped in each other's arms.
As you can see, he was beginning to crack (I mean, I actually had to pry that laptop out of his hands). I was starting to lose my cool too. I realize it's hyperbolic, but felt almost like I was stuck in a prison. We knew we were getting close to the finish line, and the fact that we actually kept referring to it as "the finish line" in conversation said it all. Pillow talk had lost its novelty, and sex was no longer the incredibly fascinating diversion it had been a few weeks ago.
I had a mini breakdown one morning when I woke to see that I missed out on a hilarious thread of Facebook messages between my friends abroad. They were all online at the same time and decided it was a fantastic idea to have a riveting conversation about my friend's recent engagement — only I wasn't online to participate. This experiment was ruining my social life, I told my boyfriend, and I threatened to prematurely quit. Luckily, he talked me out of it, and I decided to trudge onwards.
Just when I was getting fed up with the whole thing and thinking to myself that there was no point to putting ourselves through this torture, he turned to me one night and said he had profoundly enjoyed these past few weeks. I was shocked. But once I thought about it, I realized I had enjoyed them too. I kissed him and noted that it was nice to know that we were nowhere close to running out of things to talk about. If there were no other takeaway from the endeavor, I could at least sleep soundly at night with the knowledge that we don't bore each other in the slightest.
The first thing I did when we were granted full access to technology after the month was up was admit to my SO that I had cheated on him. I told him about my brief stint with the Kindle behind his back. Being the eternally chill, composed surfer that he is, he barely reacted at all. In fact, he laughed. He tossed his head back and chuckled, saying that the whole thing was a bit silly.
"You know there's nothing wrong with reading in bed, right?" he said. Of course I knew that, but it was nice to be reminded.
We both decided that we didn't have to be that strict with ourselves moving forward. Yes, we had some great moments in bed without Facebook, but we could still achieve that kind of intimacy without completely depriving ourselves of some nighttime Internet action.
However, we are flirting with the idea of imposing a restriction on our devices just a few nights a week, especially if we're a bit stressed and haven't spent much time together. We have yet to come to an agreement on the details, but no matter what we decide, I still like to think we'll stick to our commitment of never having a TV in our bedroom.
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Images: Gina Florio (6); Giphy (1)