Why You Should Stop Sleeping with Your Phone Next to You (and What to Do if You Decide to Keep It)

Most of us sleep with our phone within reach. In fact, a 2015 report on “Trends in Consumer Mobility” showed that 71% of American adults regularly go to sleep with their phone next to them, meaning that they leave it on their nightstand, on their bed, or in their hands. It’s highly likely that this number has only increased since then, due to the increased prevalence of smartphones in our lives.

This is a problem, because keeping your phone next to you in bed can lead to a variety of sleep, health, and productivity issues. In the following article you will learn why you are better off putting your phone out of reach when you sleep, and what you can do to reduce its negative effects if you decide to leave it there anyway.

 

Literally a picture of a phone laying on a bed.

 

Why sleeping with your phone next to you is a problem

There are a few main reasons why keeping your phone within reach when you’re in bed is bad for you:

  1. You’re more likely to browse your phone, which makes it harder for you to fall asleep, and reduces your sleep quality. The negative impact of electronic-media usage before bedtime is well-document, and occurs due to a multitude of reasons.[1,2,3,4,5Because of this, avoiding using your phone and other electronic devices before you go to sleep is considered to be an important aspect of sleep hygiene, which improves your sleep quality.[6,7]
  2. It increases the temptation to use the phone if you wake up throughout the night. Normally, you would want to just go back to sleep. However, if you have your phone nearby, you now have the temptation to lie awake and browse Facebook (or perform any other pointless activity), until you eventually fall asleep again. This is obviously not good for your sleep.
  3. It makes it more likely that your phone will be the first thing you see in the morning. The same survey from earlier also shows that 35% of American adults check their mobile device as soon as they wake up; this number is likely higher among smartphone users and younger demographics. It’s not inherently a bad thing, but you should consider whether this is what you want for yourself, or of it’s only something you do out of habit. If you find yourself immediately jumping into email/Facebook/whatever as soon as you wake up, think about how this makes you feel in terms of anxiety and pressure, and about how this impacts your productivity, since you’re now starting your day by cramming this stuff into your head.

Because of these issues, it’s better if you keep your phone out of reach when you go to bed. The further it is, the less temptation you will have to look at it before, during, and after you sleep. You can also take into consideration how its placement will affect your morning routine, and put it somewhere where it won’t be one of the first things you look at in the morning.

If the main reason why you need your phone next to you is so that you can use the alarm to wake up, you should definitely consider getting a separate alarm clock instead.

 

What to do if you decide to keep your phone next to you

A lot of you will probably decide to keep using your phone in bed for various reasons, and that’s okay. Below are some simple tips which can help you reduce the issues associated with doing this:

  1. Use an app to filter out blue light from the phone screen. While exposure to light before bedtime is bad in general, exposure to blue light leads to the most issues in terms of sleep quality. By filtering it out, you solve a big part of the problem, without much effort on your part. Read this article to understand why blue light causes problems, and to get some simple recommendations on apps which filter it.
  2. Turn off the sound on your phone. This prevents late-night messages from interrupting your sleep or waking you up. Obviously, you should turn off ‘vibrate’ as well. If you must keep the alarm activated, most phones will allow you to disable general sounds while leaving the alarm sound enabled.
  3. Turn on airplane mode and turn off the WiFi. This can also help reduce the amount of sound coming from your device (with the potential exception of some notifications). More importantly, this removes the temptation to check messages/emails or to look at things online.
  4. Use an app that blocks other apps during set hours. This is especially helpful if you have a specific site/app that you know is problematic (e.g. something that you browse for hours to procrastinate going to sleep).

 

Summary and conclusions

  • Keeping your phone next to you in bed can lead to problems falling asleep and reduce sleep quality.
  • It can also cause anxiety and productivity issues if it’s the first thing that you look at in the morning.
  • If your main reason for keeping your phone within reach while you sleep is using it as an alarm, consider getting a separate alarm clock instead.
  • If you decide to keep your phone next to you, there are some things you can do to reduce its negative effects, such as using apps that filter out blue light, or turning on flight mode.

 


Fold Paper Towels to Save Time, Money, and the Environment

Folding paper towels makes them more effective at absorbing liquids, which can help you save a bit of time and money, while also reducing your ecological footprint. This obviously has only a small impact on things, but considering it’s something you just learned in about 10 seconds and can easily implement, it’s definitely a useful thing to know. If you’re curious why folding your paper towels is beneficial, read on.

 

Why folding is better

Folding your paper towel makes it a more effective cleaning tool for two primary reasons:

  1. Increased absorption rate- this occurs due to laminar flow channels between the between the folded parts, which reduce the viscous flow resistance.[1,2] All this increases the rate at which the towel is able to absorb water through capillary action.
  2. Greater absorption capacity- a folded towel can hold more water than an unfolded towel of the same size, because water is stored between the folds of the towel. (A TEDx talk on the topic refers to this as “interstitial suspension”).[1,3,4]

There are two other advantages to folding. First, folding the towel means that it is able to absorb more liquid at each pass (even without interstitial suspension), so using it will require less time and effort on your part. Second, a folded towel is going to be smaller, so a greater portion of its area will come into direct contact with the liquid, leaving less unused (and therefore wasted) edges.

Aside from saving you time and money, saving paper towels through folding is also good for the environment: millions of tons of paper towels are currently used annually around the globe, and the North American market has the highest rate of consumption per capita.[5]

 

Picture of the trees you're supposed to save.

 

In terms of folding it in half or in thirds: it appears that a tri-fold is generally more effective than a bi-fold.[4] Based on this, it’s reasonable to assume that folding more is better, but there is likely to be an upper limit where you’ll start running into absorption issues. It’s up to you to decide how many times to fold it, based on what works and on what’s most convenient; this would obviously depends on the size and type of the paper towel.

 

Saving paper when washing hands

Since we’re already talking about helping the environment, another thing you can do is shake your hands over the sink a few times before wiping them with a (folded) paper towel. This helps reduce the amount of paper towels you need in order to dry your hands. In terms of time, there is no noticeable impact, since the time shaking your hands balances out with the time wiping them with the extra towels. (This method is originally referenced by this TEDx talk as the “shake and fold”).

 

Summary and conclusions

  • Folding paper towels increases their absorption rate and capacity.
  • Folding your paper towels before using them can help you save time and money, while also helping the environment.
  • After washing your hands, shaking them before wiping can also help reduce the amount of paper towels you need.

 


Look Forward, Reason Backward: A Primary Principle of Strategic Thinking

One of the basic principles in game theory is that you should look forward and reason back. Essentially, this means that before making a move, you should consider all the possible moves that you and the other players can make, together with the possible outcomes that these moves lead to. Then, consider how desirable each outcome is to each player, and based on this, determine which moves they are likely to make.

In order to think this way, it’s useful to use a game tree (also referred to as a decision tree in cases where there is only one player). In the following example, you will see how this principle works, and how you can implement it in order to make smarter decisions, by taking advantage of game theory.

 

Example: to Advertise or Not to Advertise?

Scenario:

MegaCorp is currently the only company selling a certain type of high-quality industrial lasers.

Startupo is a new company, which is considering entering the market currently dominated by MegaCorp.

To deter Startupo from taking a part of their market share, MegaCorp can engage in a costly advertising campaign, which would involve significantly reducing their prices.

Since Startupo is a smaller and more flexible company, they can wait and see whether MegaCorp runs their ad campaign before deciding if they should enter the market.

As such, each company has two possible moves: MegaCorp can decide whether or not to run the ads, while Startupo can decide whether or not to enter the market.

Therefore, there are 4 possible outcomes for the game, each ranked differently by the players (1 is the most desirable outcome, while 4 is the least desirable outcome):

 

Megacorp:

  1. No ads, no entry (of Statupo).
  2. Ads, but no entry.
  3. No ads, but entry.
  4. Ads and entry.

 

Starupo:

  1. No ads, yes entry.
  2. Ads, but no entry.
  3. No ads and no entry.
  4. Ads and entry.

 

Based on this, we get the following game tree:

Game tree showing the possible moves in the scenario.

 

When making the decision whether to or not advertise, MegaCorp starts by looking at the possible outcomes, and then asking themselves which moves their competitor will make:

  • If MegaCorp runs the ads, then Startupo will choose not to enter the market (since it gets them their #2 choice, as opposed to their #4 choice). In this case, MegaCorp also get their #2 choice.
  • If MegaCorp doesn’t run the ads, then Startupo will choose to enter the market, since it leads to a better outcome for them than not entering the market (choice #1 versus choice #3). In this case, MegaCorp get their #3 choice.
  • Clearly, MegaCorp should run its ads, to prevent Startupo from entering the market. This way they get their #2 choice (similarly to Startupo), while if they decide not to run the ads, they will get their #3 choice, while Startupo will get their #1 choice.

This rationale is phrased so that it appears we start by considering MegaCorp’s moves. However, we in fact start by considering the outcomes, and then considering which move Startupo will make in each of the two scenarios available to them (ads/no ads). Only then do we consider MegaCorp’s initial move.

 

Other considerations

This method of backward induction can be used to find the optimal solution of a game when the following conditions apply:

  1. Sequentiality: the game must be sequential, meaning that the players act one after another (as opposed to a simultaneous game, where the players act at the same time).
  2. Finiteness: the game must be finite (have a clear endpoint).
  3. Perfect information: the players must have perfect information regarding the possible moves, outcomes, and the desirability of each outcome.
  4. Assumption of rationality: the players must make the rational choice (i.e. select the option that is best for them).

Of course, in reality, things are more complicated. Perfect information rarely exists, and the potential moves and motives of each player tend to be more complex. However, this method is nonetheless the best way to approach such scenarios, and these extra factors and consideration can be appropriately incorporated into the model. Similarly, the addition of more players to the game doesn’t change the overall strategy either; rather, it just increases the complexity of the game tree.

This all leads to an important caveat: just because the game has an optimal strategy that you should select, doesn’t mean that it’s easy to find it. (Think about chess, for example)

 

Summary and conclusions

  • When thinking strategically, start by looking forward in order to see the possible moves and outcomes in the scenario.
  • Try to predict how desirable each outcome is for each player.
  • When you have the game tree mapped out, with all the possible moves and consequent outcomes, reason backwards in order to find the best moves for you to make.
  • This allows you to find the optimal solution to a game, given that some conditions are met (sequentiality, finiteness, availability of perfect information, and assumption of rationality).