It’s Monday morning and your alarm has just had the audacity to wake you up at 6:30am after another 4 ½ hour sleep. What’s the very first thing you do? Do you get up, stretch, tidy your room and spend time thinking about how great it is to be alive? Probably not, no.
The chances are you groan, roll over, grab your phone and check what you’ve missed in the past 4 hours (yes, I’m trying to convince myself that 4 hours sleep is normal, get over it).
For the majority of us, waking up and checking our phones has pretty much become an essential part of our morning routine. However, very few people are aware of the negative effects associated with reaching for the phone as soon as your eyes open. Here are just a few examples aided by our good friend, science.
Eating up your time
It isn’t simply a case of checking your phone in the morning. Reading emails, responding to texts and scrolling through social media keeps you in bed and prevents you doing more productive activities like reading or making a healthy breakfast.
In a previous article I wrote about our phones acting as pocket sized dopamine simulators, whereby we feel good for a short period after checking our phones. Checking your phone as soon as you wake up has the same effect – your brain craves this dopamine hit. As with drugs, the ‘high’ becomes harder to achieve, so we do it more and more, often without even thinking.
So how on earth can you get your time back? You have to retrain your brain and encourage the dopamine hit to come from other morning activities. Why not better invest your time in going for a run, prioritising your tasks for the day, taking your dog for a walk or begging your ex to take you back? Anything to keep your eyes away from that screen (he’s never going to take you back).
Another key issue associated with looking at your phone straight away is increased anxiety. Google’s former Design Ethicist, Tristan Harris, claims that waking up to a list of notifications is like waking up to a menu of ‘things I’ve missed since yesterday’, bringing with it instant FOMO.
Chelsea Pottenger claims that “When we first wake up, we transition from a delta brainwave of sleep into a theta brainwave – where the brain is more flexible and malleable,” which is essential for becoming more emotionally intelligent, creative and effective problem-solvers.
Looking at your phone as soon as you wake up means we skip this important theta brain wave and head straight from a delta brainwave to the high stress beta brainwave. This can have a significant impact on the physical structure of the brain and increase anxiety. If you can’t get your head around the whole brainwave issue, don’t worry – I’m just quoting someone else and pretending I know what I’m talking about.
This concept of problem solving is furthered by Dr Benders-Hadi who states that the information overload that hits you as soon as you wake up has a negative effect on your ability to prioritise tasks. If you find yourself forgetting your lunch, forgetting your keys or forgetting to take all of your kids on holiday with you, maybe its time you put the phone away.
Exposure to the news is depressing
Admittedly, I like knowing what’s happening around the world and I take a keen interest in politics. But let’s face it, it’s fucking depressing. It’s soul destroying seeing the bushfires in Australia and hearing about the coronavirus. It’s heartbreaking seeing that mad man in America trying his best to destroy the world. It’s mind-numbing listening to a media funded by a government who doesn’t care about the poor, speak about rises in homelessness.
One day I’d love to be able to have a significant say in these matters, but at the moment I don’t – and unless you’re a part of the 1%, neither do you. So maybe it’s time we reduced the amount of news we watched, especially as soon as we wake up.
- What does the science say about reading the news?
Studies have also shown that news media exposure and anxiety are positively related at low levels of irrationality”. Reading the news also triggers the limbic system. “Panicky stories spur the release of cascades of glucocorticoid, deregulating your immune system and inhibiting the release of growth hormones” – essentially, your body finds itself in a state of chronic stress.
“High levels of glucocorticoid cause impaired digestion, lack of cell, hair and bone growth, and susceptibility to infections” (excellent news given the spread of the Coronavirus). If that didn’t put you off, other potential side-effects include aggression, nervousness and desensitisation.
No better way to start your day.
Obviously, the key stumbling block for this is that most alarms are now on phones. To avoid exposure to the screen in the morning, put it on airplane mode before bed (to avoid notifications), turn the brightness the whole way down and only look at the phone briefly to turn off your alarm.
Alternatively, continue waking up stressed and increasing your susceptibility to the Coronavirus (you’ll be fine). THINK OF THE BRAINWAVES!