by Lindsay Robertson
Everyone is like, “Do not sleep with your phone! “Keep Your Phone in Your Backyard at Night!” “Sleeping with your phone is literally killing you!” “iPhone 5 Burns 2-Inch Hole In Teen’s Forearm While He Sleeps!” (Gross pic, also maybe fake.) But you probably still sleep with your phone anyway, so here are several ways I have found, through trial and error, to actually use my phone to avoid thinking about mortality and the future and the terrible Internet and fall asleep in under five minutes.
(Background: last fall, when I realized the government would soon be knocking on my door to find out why I hadn’t started meditating yet, I downloaded the Headspace meditation app and used it for ten minutes each day for five days. Each time I used it, typically mid-morning, sitting up straight, I fell asleep. Even when I wasn’t tired. Eureka! What follows is my journey toward the perfect use of non-music phone audio to fall asleep.)
After the Headspace Incident, I realized there must be actual apps for this. After reading reviews, I chose one called iSleepEasy (five dollars). It has an un-sleek, kind of like, Wiccan interface, but it worked for me the very first night. Basically, you choose from a variety of guided audios ranging from short ones (two to five minutes) like “Belly Breathing,” in which you learn that it’s “fine” (everything is “fine” in this app) to pretend to breathe from your belly, to longer ones like “Darkness Meditation,” where you think about how dark it is or isn’t in your bedroom for a long time. When I first started using this app, I told everyone about it, because I was obsessed with the narrator and her voice. I’ve decided she’s the bassist in an all-girl band, that she lives in Portland (Maine, obviously), has ZERO tattoos, is Wiccan (seriously this app is so Wiccan!) and might be a robot. The main thing about her voice is that it’s extremely, almost impossibly disaffected. Oh and the very best part of the entire app is this one audio called “Wee Hours Rescue,” in which Audio Chick tries to make a slow, disaffected-yet-strident case for the absurd idea that it’s actually good to have woken up in the middle of the night. (“It’s the middle of the night, and you’re awake. It’s fine… know that it’s a good thing that your body is throwing off stress and tension. It could be that there are some very strong emotions present…”) (I always took that last part to be a euphemism for “fuccccck I’m awake at 3:36!!! Strong emotions present!!”)
After I got bored with the guided audios and memorized them, I decided that if I was going to fill my brain with subconscious messages during my sleep, I wanted to get a little more intellectual than “My left foot is warm and heavy. My right foot is warm and heavy.” So I decided to try poetry. This is a little tougher, because you have to go to YouTube, basically, and find a poem that isn’t shitty. And then the poem is invariably too short, and also usually read by the poet, in 1947, angrily, and literally every poem is about mortality and that’s what we’re trying not to think about, right? I mean, “Howl” was nice and long and comforting in that “Ah, ninth grade!” sort of way, but I kept getting impatient for the Rockland part and impatience is not sleep-conducive. Maybe someday I will make a seamless hours-long playlist of good-yet-calming poems for this purpose but who are we kidding, because I found The Answer!
Audiobooks, guys: They’re the answer to everything! I may never even try to sleep again without an audiobook in my ear! I know people listen to audiobooks in bed all the time but not specifically for the purpose of sleep, right? Anyway, you must follow these rules three:
1. The audiobook cannot be a book you haven’t read or haven’t read recently (unless you, like, never want to read it? But that would be strange. It actually might be a good way to say you’ve read “Infinite Jest” without technically lying, though.) It should be a book you’ve read and enjoyed, preferably more than once, that didn’t make you cry, and that you feel comfortable dipping into at any part, because that’s what’s gonna happen to your relationship with this book for the rest of your life together, just you and this book, every night, listening out of order and all over the place. (My choice is my favorite audiobook: “Snobs” by Julian Fellowes. But listen to it awake first! It’s sooo good.)
2. The audiobook cannot be (the otherwise excellent and acclaimed) “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End” by Atul Gawande, because THE ENTIRE BOOK IS WHAT WE ARE TRYING NOT TO THINK ABOUT SO WE CAN FALL ASLEEP. I learned this the hard way.
3. This goes for all the above suggestions, but obviously, if you wake up to an alarm and that alarm is the phone, you should either listen with the phone face-down on the pillow next to you (especially if there’s another person’s head there, lol), use an old iPod, or set a separate alarm. With enough practice/experience, you’ll actually be able to reliably pull the earbud cable out of the phone just before the moment of sleep, but this “pullout method” is, like others, not to be depended upon when the stakes are high.
If you have any questions, I will be answering them below in Kinja.
Photo by ddqhu