One of the best icebreaker questions I’ve ever been asked was, “What’s an unpopular opinion that you have?” In the way of all well-crafted, open-ended questions, this conversation starter produced a breadth of discussion, helping the individuals gathered get to know each other and sparking reflection and laughter. Answers ranged from controversial (I don’t think recycling is worth the effort) to light (McDonalds makes the best hamburgers) to downright horrifying (I hate Harry Potter).
Since initially hearing this discussion starter, I’ve utilized it at gatherings I’ve hosted, and the question also lingers in the back of my mind in a general, personal kind of way. Every now and then I’ll find myself doing something or considering an idea, and then go on to think, “That’s an unpopular opinion that I have.” Most recently, I’ve realized that I have an unpopular opinion concerning phone use in the bedroom at night.
Scientific research and self-improvement wisdom makes it abundantly clear that phone use before bed destroys your sleep and contributes to a plethora of other issues. I certainly do not deny the findings of scientists, and as I read the research, the data makes a lot of sense to me. Of course bright light stimulates the brain, waking you up instead of lulling you to sleep. Of course goofing around on your phone in the final waking minutes of the day instead of connecting with your partner impacts your relationship. Of course doctors, therapists, and productivity experts recommend charging your phone in the living room at night, removing the temptation to pick it up between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
And yet, I can’t put this wisdom into practice in my own life. It’s not due to a lack of willpower or an inability to break a bad habit, but because I have an unpopular opinion as far as this matter is concerned: I adamantly believe that the right place for my phone at night is on my bedside table.
I use my phone at night—before falling asleep, and then also, horror of horrors, during the wee hours of the morning when I can’t sleep—for several reasons. First, I try to stay away from social media during the day, and I find scrolling through Instagram and Pinterest to be a fun and relaxing way for me to wrap up my day. It makes me happy to wind down with updates from friends and beautiful images.
Secondly, I often wake up around 3:30 a.m. and just can’t sleep for the next hour and a half or so. I’ve tried all sorts of fall-back-asleep strategies and the one that works best for me is reading. I find reading a physical book or my kindle with a reading light to be cumbersome, and the noise of the rustling pages and the glow from the reading light often wake up my husband. My phone with the kindle app is small enough that I can take it under the covers, thus not disturbing my husband, and unless I’m reading a page-turner (which I avoid during these middle-of-the-night reading sessions), a few pages put me right back to sleep.
Finally, I have the hardest time getting out of bed most mornings, due mainly to its warm coziness and my snuggly puppy, and so instead of “wasting” time under the covers or forcing myself out of this happy place, I use my phone to make a productive use of what would otherwise be lost time. I check my email, read articles, make a to-do list for the day, meal plan, or connect with friends and family members through texting. My phone makes a productive hour in bed possible.
I’m not advocating for the return of phones to everyone else’s bedrooms, because I understand that for most people, phone use at night negatively impacts their physical, mental, emotional and relational health. Instead, I’m advocating for time spent examining our unpopular opinions, knowing ourselves and what works for us, and owning the opinions and resulting actions that help us be the best versions of ourselves.
The popular opinion might not work for us, and that’s okay. In the wise words of Amy Poehler, “That is the motto women should constantly repeat over and over again. 'Good for her! Not for me.’"
Teresa lives in Providence, Rhode Island, where she works as a Director of Faith Formation at a Catholic Church and dabbles in hospital chaplaincy. She has a BA in English, a Master’s in Divinity, and a passion for thinking about the intersection of spirituality, self-improvement, and well-being. Her perfect day includes slowly savoring a morning cup of coffee, reading for work and for fun, and receiving snail mail.