True Story: This Small Habit Made Me Less Addicted to My Cell Phone


Stocksy/Dimitrije Tanaskovic

Here's a vaguely frightening (albeit very 2019) statistic: Surveys show that as many as 71% of smartphone users sleep with their devices within arm's reach. Filter that sample pool to users between the ages of 18 and 29, and that number skyrockets to 90%. As someone who, until very recently, slept with her phone inches away from her head on her mattress, I perhaps shouldn't have been so surprised to learn that the numbers are as high as they are. Perhaps my addiction felt like less of an addiction when it wasn't contextualized by such a clear and large-scale epidemic.

As I've since learned, if you take the time to really talk to people about their electronic usage, the problem—and yes, it is a problem—becomes too obvious to ignore. Many friends I know sleep with their phones not just next to them or in their hand but under their pillow. A co-worker laments those instances that she has to pass off her device to a bartender or restaurant hostess for a desperate charging session—a special kind of torture. Another carries two backup chargers at all times specifically to avoid those situations. Sometimes, when I'm retrieving my things after an hour-long yoga class, I'll be disappointed if I don't have any texts or snaps waiting for me (though I don't seem to have this issue in the way of unsettling news alerts). After one hour.

At a recent lunch hosted by Pursoma, a wellness-meets-beauty brand that circles around digital pollution and urban toxins, what started as a casual discussion about our own digital tendencies snowballed into similar, thoroughly modern confessions. One woman recalled going on a digital detox retreat and feeling phantom vibrations in her pocket, though she had checked her phone at the front desk when she had arrived. It was a compulsion I related to all too well; when my phone isn't in my hand, I grasp, reach, and search. My handbag is a black hole of Mary Poppins proportions, and my phone slips between the crevices of books, papers, and loose makeup on a daily basis. I always find it, but not before my brain begins to spiral into panic. The thought of being disconnected from my network leaves me momentarily breathless with anxiety.

So it was quite refreshing when Pursoma founder Shannon Vaughn assured this table of women—many of whom, myself included, had careers that relied on media and interconnectivity—that it was unreasonable to demand that we quit our devices cold turkey. Instead, she said, we could simply make conscious tweaks to our existing habits that ultimately wouldn't disrupt our lifestyles. I felt a sigh of relief tumble from my lips. After joking to my friends for years that I need to delete my Instagram and Facebook, I realized at this moment that I actually didn't want to—and it was a freeing thought.

Instead, I'd grapple with the habits that were detrimental but ultimately meant nothing to me. I had already recently taken the first step by removing my phone from my bed on a nightly basis, but according to Vaughn, I actually could go even further by putting my phone in airplane mode every night. I've done it every night since, and no exaggeration, it's kind of changed my life. I sleep significantly better, and honestly, I don't miss waking up to the glow of a new text message at all hours of the night.

Keep reading to see how it works.