August 25, 2019 at 08:00PM by CWC
For me, “stressful” and “mornings” are like avocado and toast—but like, if the avocado were brown. I don’t think I’ve ever woken up and not felt anxiety. Or at least that’s how it was until I discovered the Bedtime function on my iPhone.
Open the Clock app and, wedged between the alarm and stopwatch, you’ll find a cute little bed icon. Tap it, and you’ll be prompted to answer a series of questions: What time would you like to wake up? Which days of the week should the alarm go off? How many hours of sleep do you need each night? Follow them through to the end, and your phone will set a recurring alarm for the same time each morning (minus the weekends, should you so choose) and will also send you a gentle reminder each night when it’s time to start your 10-step nighttime beauty ritual—I mean, time to start heading toward bed.
The magic of the Bedtime app is that you can set it and forget it. You know that panicky feeling when you wake up at 3 a.m. and can’t remember whether you set your alarm? Yep, that’s gone. (More importantly, those mornings when you sleep through the night only to discover that, well f**k, you did in fact forget to set your alarm, are also gone.) When the alarm wakes you up at the pre-set time, it does so by slowly increasing the volume of your alarm instead of just, like, blaring the Radar tone at you aggressively. You can hit snooze—or not—and then, when you finally turn the alarm off, the app greets you with a “Good Morning.” How civilized! How nice!
But the Bedtime function is more than just convenient—there are real mental and physical health benefits associated with going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning. For instance, a 2018 study of 91,000 adults found that people with inconsistent sleep routines were at higher risk for major depressive disorder, more subject to loneliness, and reported lower levels of happiness and health satisfaction.
A 2018 study of 91,000 adults found that people with inconsistent sleep routines were at higher risk for major depressive disorder, more subject to loneliness, and reported lower levels of happiness and health satisfaction.
Of course, quality of sleep is just as important as quantity—and Bedtime can help you in that regard, too. During the time you’re supposed to be asleep, you can enable a do not disturb mode, which will hide all notifications from your lock screen. So, when you’ve tipsily texted your crush and fallen asleep before they respond, you don’t see the message bubble when you flip over your phone to check the time in the wee hours. I know this problem isn’t just a me thing (well, the drunk texting might be, but compulsively checking one’s phone definitely is not): A 2015 study reported on by the Harvard Business Review found that participants “who were more anxious about being apart from their phones used their phones more during a typical day, and woke up to check their phones more often at night.”
So, anxious people check their phones more often, and, according to functional medicine doctor Frank Lipman, MD, checking your phone in the middle of the night can disrupt your sleep. This, in turn, can lead to increased anxiety. It’s a vicious cycle. But turning off notifications in the middle of the night, one researcher of the aforementioned study says, is an effective way to break the wheel. (I know this story is about an iPhone app, but if you don’t have an iPhone, there’s a feature on Androids called “show silently” that you can enable.)
Bedtime also keeps an eye on your sleep quality by tracking how long you spend in bed and how long you’re actually asleep. Guidelines say adults should get seven to nine hours of sleep per night; the Bedtime function gives you a way to easily assess your sleep and find out how short you’re falling. (Because, show me someone who says they actually get eight hours of sleep, and I’ll show you a liar.)
I’ve been using the Bedtime feature for a couple of months now, and I’ve noticed that my mornings are more chill due, in part, to having a structured bedtime. The reminders to go to bed are helpful when I’m deep in a Parks and Rec rewatch at 10 p.m. Plus, the peace of mind I have in knowing that my alarm will go off just as surely as the sun will rise means I don’t reach for my phone as often in the middle of the night—and therefore don’t give my brain that “shot of espresso,” as Dr. Lipman says, that comes with looking at the screen. And as a single person who wakes up alone more often than not, it’s nice to have someone—even if it’s only my phone—tell me “Good morning.” (Hey, it worked out well for Joaquin Phoenix. Sort of.)
Confused about WTF a circadian rhythm is? We break down everything you need to know about sleep cycles, here. And here’s how alcohol impacts your sleep (sorry).