I Decreased My Screen Time for 30 Days and This Is What Happened

Some may find it inconsistent with my MIT education, but at times, I can be a bit of an anti-technologist. Actually, I can be downright stalwart. So when I read an article about how truly horrible late-night screen time can be, ending the practice became a no brainer. I had been working from home for several months and had fallen into a fluid, low-pressure, do-what-I-want, no-schedule schedule. I prided myself on late-night working sessions and routinely watched Golden Girls until 1 in the morning. While the world slept, I was online, perfectly ignorant of the blue light affecting my eyes, brain, and body.

As a first step, I scheduled my iPhone’s Do Not Disturb from 10pm to 7am. This would become my screen-free time. I’ve read that we should start winding down as early as 9, but this felt like a solid start. After 10, the only things getting through my phone were emergency phone calls from family and friends.

Challenge number one presented itself immediately, does TV count as screen time? Rather than research blue light levels of flat screens, I decided to throw late-night TV watching into the experiment. After all, less TV should be a good thing, right?

Well, sure. But I soon realized that all of my favorite programming came on at 10 or beyond. So long, Golden Girls. The added restriction didn’t seem worth it. And when 10 o’clock rolled around each night, I found myself sighing “oh man” like a kid denied an extra hour at Chuck E. Cheese.

Aside from TV, my original challenge also proved difficult. I had to wrap up any and all internet activity before 10. I guess, in a way, it helped my work-life balance. That is, until I discovered drafting to-do lists and brainstorming via notebook were relatively productive work alternatives.

I hit some snags throughout the month, convincing myself that it was ok to break my fast for one night. After all, I had never seen all four Alien movies and TNT’s marathon presented the perfect opportunity. Despite the occasional cheat night, my fast slowly yielded surprising effects. Instead of meeting 10 o’clock with “oh man,” I found myself saying “I’m sleepy” (Again, much like a kid). Oh snap! The lack of screen time had reset my personal clock. It became easier to fall asleep and a few nights offered the best sleep I’ve had in a long time. Not sure if my eyesight is better or my skin more resistant to sun damage, but wow, I’m actually tired when I’m supposed to be.

Again, this fast was a tough one, but the effort was worthwhile. I’m more in tune with my body and have a sleep cycle that better coincides with nature. Yes, being a night owl is fun, but that’s not the way humans are wired. I just hope to reclaim those productive hours elsewhere. To be continued.