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Home » Notifications or Night Talks? Setting Phone Boundaries in Bed

Notifications or Night Talks? Setting Phone Boundaries in Bed

Key Takeaways

  • Setting boundaries around phone use in bed improves sleep quality and relationship intimacy.
  • Nighttime notifications on phones disrupt sleep cycles and increase stress.
  • Partners should communicate their needs and compromise on reasonable cutoff times for phone use in bed.
  • Set do-not-disturb schedules, dock phones outside the bedroom, and establish relaxing bedtime routines.
  • Unplugged time in bed fosters presence, togetherness, and better rest.
  • Address excessive bedtime phone habits calmly and carefully.
  • Help partners become aware of phone overuse with tracking apps and gentle reminders.
  • Establish tech-free buffers before bed to wind down. No phones 30-60 minutes before bed.
  • Make exceptions for emergencies and important matters but set guidelines.
  • Appreciate your partner’s effort to be more present in intimate moments.
Notifications or Night Talks Setting Phone Boundaries in Bed

We all do it. Grab our phones while cozying into bed, whether to catch up on news, scroll social media, or chat with friends. The blue light and stimulation interfere with falling asleep, however.

Partners can feel ignored when the other is glued to their phone in bed. Setting boundaries around phone use in the bedroom improves sleep, intimacy, and presence.

Why Phone Use in Bed Matters

Sleep is essential for our physical and mental health. Being on our phones right before bed makes it harder to fall asleep and reduces sleep quality. The blue light from screens tricks our brains into thinking it’s daytime. This delays the release of melatonin, the hormone that makes us feel sleepy. Phone use also stimulates our brains when we need to be winding down for rest.

Intimacy suffers when we get into bed and ignore each other to look at our devices. Our partners can feel hurt when we prioritize phones over their presence with them. It diminishes the opportunity for pillow talk, affection, and catching up on each other’s days. Being on our phones during intimate times sends the message that the phone is more interesting than our partner.

Being on call and dealing with notifications when we should be relaxing adds unnecessary stress. The dings and buzzes stimulate our senses when we need to unwind. This can make it harder to fall asleep and negatively impact sleep quality. It also means we start and end the day “on”, without an opportunity to fully disconnect.

Communicating About a Phone Boundary

The first step is kindly and directly communicating your need for boundaries around phone use in bed. Don’t accuse or shame your partner. Simply express how their bedtime phone use makes you feel. “I have a hard time falling asleep when you’re on your phone next to me” or “I feel lonely laying here while you scroll” opens an honest dialogue.

Ask your partner how they feel about setting a cutoff time for phone use in the bedroom. Some people may be unaware of how their habit affects their partner and will be receptive. Others may be more resistant or negotiate at later times. Explain your reasons and try to compromise on a reasonable cutoff that works for both of you.

If one partner is more attached to their phone than the other, the more phone-focused partner may need to make a bigger adjustment. But the other partner can also work on making the wind-down time together more appealing. Cuddling, giving massages, watching a mutual show or reading out loud to each other makes for better bonding before bed.

What Is Your Phone Doing to Your Relationships?

Setting Boundaries Lovingly But Firmly

Once you’ve agreed to limit phone use in bed, set clear boundaries. Turn on do not disturb settings on your phones at the decided cutoff time. Put phones on airplane mode or turn them off completely. Ideally, phones get charged and left outside the bedroom overnight.

It helps to establish a consistent relaxing routine to transition into sleep mode. Take turns getting ready in the bathroom, put on pajamas, tidy up, set your alarm, and do a quick stretch or meditation. Read a book or talk instead of turning on the TV or phone. Lights out by the same time each night.

At first, your partner may “cheat” and try to sneak in phone time. Gently remind them of the boundary without shaming them. Say goodnight, turn over, and go to sleep, don’t wait up for them. Your partner may just need time to adjust to the new normal. Be understanding but firm.

Dealing with Excessive Phone Attachment

For some people, especially teens, excessive phone use in bed points to a bigger attachment issue. Create awareness by having them track their usage with an app. Note how much time bedtime phone use takes away from sleep.

Help them turn off app notifications and remove tempting apps from their home screen. Make sure their bedroom is an inviting sleep haven free of distractions. Set up a charging station outside their room and establish a consistent bedtime routine.

Dealing with Excessive Phone Attachment

If they stay on their phone for hours past an agreed-upon cutoff time, unplug the Wi-Fi as a firm reminder. But also show empathy for the draw of the dopamine hit phones provide. Talk through less stimulating activities to replace the habit.

Ultimately intrinsic motivation works better than ultimatums. Instead of shaming them, focus on the benefits of being present and well-rested. Give hugs and praise when you notice effort and improvement. Change takes patience but pays off.

Making Exceptions

Some exceptions around the phone boundary will likely come up. If you or your partner need to monitor work emails or messages during a specific time period, discuss an exception. But try to keep this time window small and the phone on silent.

For dealing with emergencies or important family matters, basing exceptions on notification type works better than person or group. Allow calls or texts from “emergency contacts” or “family” to come through as needed. But silence everything else.

Be understanding when exceptions occur but reestablish the normal boundary after. Avoid constant exceptions that render the boundary meaningless. Hold one another accountable while being flexible and kind. The goal is restful uninterrupted sleep and quality time together. But life happens.

Focus on the Positives

Boundary settings around phone use can lead to resistance, especially when it involves altering existing habits. Try to focus on the positives instead of what your partner is losing or “giving up”. More restful sleep, increased intimacy, calmer routines – these meaningful gains develop over time.

Notice and appreciate when your partner puts their phone away to be present with you in bed. Thank them and give them a kiss. Positive reinforcement goes a long way. When you wake up feeling more rested without the disruption of notifications, reflect together on how setting this boundary served you.

Making any behavior change is hard. Your partner will likely slide up at times. Lovingly get back on track together. Relish falling asleep and waking up without phones as a little victory. Remaining flexible, communicating needs kindly but directly, and compromising can help partners navigate the delicate balance between staying connected and being present.

Why Unplug at Bedtime

We are conditioned to be available 24/7 through the small computers we carry with us everywhere. But human beings need true rest, not just sleep. Setting boundaries around phone use in the intimate space of bed allows partners to disconnect, be present, and recharge.

One glance at a text or email before bed turns into getting caught in a rabbit hole of stimuli when we need to power down. Saying no to the urge leads to better sleep, time together, and more mindfulness. A bedroom oasis free of intrusive tech reclaims space for what matters – each other.

Why Unplug at Bedtime

Partners who get into the habit of putting phones away sufficiently before getting into bed prime their brains for better sleep. Without the stimulation of notifications, scrolling, and blue light, natural sleep cues can trigger more easily. The resulting high-quality rest leaves both partners feeling refreshed.

Rather than rolling over to give their phone attention, partners learn to have tech-free pillow talk. They rub each other’s backs, cuddle, and talk through their days. Removing phones from the wind-down equation brings partners closer together. They can express affection and appreciation before drifting off.

More presence before bed also allows for more intimacy. Without the distraction of phones, couples have the space to get romantic if they choose. And improved sleep quality boosts libido the next day. Setting phone boundaries creates the conditions for improved closeness on multiple levels.

How To Unplug from Phones Before Bed

  1. No phones for 1 hour before bed. Give yourself time to power down properly.
  2. Agree on a cutoff time. Compromise with your partner on a consistent phone away time.
  3. Remove tempting apps. Delete or hide apps that suck you in like social media, games, and news.
  4. Turn off notifications. Mute non-emergency notifications during wind-down time.
  5. Establish a relaxing routine. Follow the same sequence – wash up, pajamas, alarm set, lights out.
  6. Let your partner know if the boundary is crossed. Don’t shame, just remind them firmly but kindly.
  7. Reward success. Show appreciation when your partner stays off their phone. Reinforce the benefits.
  8. Dock phones outside the bedroom. Make your room a phone-free sanctuary. Charge devices elsewhere.
  9. Set do-not-disturb schedules. Use phone settings or apps to enforce disconnect time.
  10. Make exceptions sparingly. Only for true emergencies, not boredom or distraction.
  11. Stick to the routine. Consistency allows new habits to form. It gets easier.
  12. Focus on the positives. Better sleep, intimacy, peace of mind – it’s worth the adjustment.
  13. Communicate needs calmly. Don’t bottle up annoyance, but be understanding of phone attachments.
  14. Lead by example. Be the first to put your phone away to signal wind downtime.
  15. Allow gradual change. Don’t expect an immediate overnight transformation. Be patient.

Talking Points

  • Phones in bed get in the way of sleep and intimacy. Partners deserve each other’s full attention.
  • I want us both to get the best sleep possible so we’re refreshed for our days together.
  • Checking work stuff stresses me out when I should be relaxing with you.
  • I miss cuddling and pillow-talking without phones distracting us.
  • Let’s wind down together screen-free so we can really connect and recharge.

Responding to Defensiveness

When bringing up setting boundaries around phone use in bed, your partner may respond defensively. Here are some ways to thoughtfully navigate these conversations:

If they say: I just need to check this one thing.

Respond: I know it seems quick, but it adds up and affects our sleep. Let’s both power down our phones at the same time tonight.

If they say: My phone comforts me if I wake up at night.

Respond: I get that. Maybe we could try cuddling instead if you stir. I’m here for you.

If they say: You’re always on your phone in bed too though.

Respond: You’re right, I’m not innocent here either. I want to work on this together.

If they say: Are you accusing me of ignoring you or something?

Respond: Not at all! I just want us to try being more present without distractions before bed.

If they say: But what if there’s a work emergency I need to know about?

Respond: Let’s allow exceptions for something urgent, but silence notifications after a certain time.

phone at bed

General tips

  • Be understanding. Phone habits are hard to change.
  • Compromise on limited exceptions for emergencies
  • Focus on positive effects for sleep, intimacy, and focus.
  • Establish a tech-free buffer before bed.
  • Set phone boundaries lovingly but firmly.
  • Be patient. It takes time to form new habits.
  • Offer alternates like reading out loud or giving massages.
  • Avoid shaming or ultimatums. Foster intrinsic motivation.
  • Reinforce effort by showing appreciation.
  • Dock phones outside the bedroom for full removal.
  • Use apps to track usage and set do-not-disturb schedules
  • Allow gradual change. Don’t expect overnight transformation.
  • Communicate needs clearly and reciprocate compromise.
  • Prioritize better sleep, winding down together, and presence.

What the Experts Say

Setting boundaries around phone use in the bedroom improves sleep, intimacy, and focus.

Here are tips from sleep experts on creating healthy phone habits before bed:

“Abstain from screens one hour before bedtime and keep phones away from your sleep space. The blue light and stimulation interfere with your body’s sleep cues.” – Dr. Meeta Singh, Henry Ford Health System

“Gradually move up your phone away time by 15 minutes until you have a sufficient tech-free buffer before bed. This allows your mind to unwind.” – Dr. Raj Dasgupta, Keck School of Medicine

“Establish relaxing activities like reading, stretching, and meditating to cue your body that it’s time for bed, not screens.” – Dr. Lisa Medalie, University of Chicago

“Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet. Dock phones and devices outside the room so they don’t disrupt sleep.” – Dr. Kathryn Pinkham, Mountain View Family Physicians

“Avoid digital alertness in favor of emotional closeness in the soothing refuge of your bedroom.” – Dr. Aarathi Prasad, Harvard Medical School

“Set your phone to do not disturb and schedule offline wind-down time together. This protects your sleep.” – Dr. Seema Khosla, North Dakota Center for Sleep

“Agree on ground rules and explain why you need boundaries. Don’t shame your partner, focus on the benefits.” – Dr. W. Chris Winter, Charlottesville Neurology & Sleep Medicine

“Be understanding of attachments to devices and social media. Help your partner gradually replace poor habits with better ones.” – Dr. Sujay Kansagra, Duke Neurology

Phone Boundary

Troubleshooting Phone Boundary Challenges

1. I shut off my phone but my partner sneaks their phone in bed.

  • Gently remind them of the boundary and your need for restful sleep.
  • Try leaving phones docked outside the bedroom so it’s not tempting.
  • If it continues, unplug the wifi as a firm consequence, but avoid ultimatums.
  • Appreciate when they comply to positively reinforce the habit.

2. My partner gets mad when I try to set this phone boundary.

  • Validate their feelings but restate your needs kindly.
  • Suggest compromises like certain exceptions for emergencies.
  • Share examples of other couples who improved their relationship without phones in bed.

3. My partner needs their phone for anxiety at night.

  • Acknowledge this attachment compassionately.
  • Offer alternatives like cuddling or lavender oil that can soothe anxiety.
  • Suggest they keep the phone docked outside the room and come get you if they need company.

4. I feel guilty asking my partner to unplug if I still use my phone.

  • Lead by example. Make sure you put your phone away first.
  • Explain your reasons for wanting to stop using phones in bed and ask if they feel the same.
  • Commit to supporting each other in this if you feel attached to your phone too.

5. My attempts to talk about this just lead to fights.

  • Reframe it as working together for better sleep and time together, not taking something away.
  • Write a letter explaining why it’s important to you to avoid pressuring them.
  • Suggest a trial period and then reevaluate. Or start with small limits.

6. My partner says their job requires them to be on call at night.

  • Ask them to silence non-urgent work notifications during set bedtime rest hours.
  • Compromise on them checking phone during limited times only, not constant scrolling.
  • Ensure the room is dark when they check your phone to avoid affecting your sleep.

7. I hate the feeling of “sneaking” to check my phone when my partner is asleep.

  • Remember why you set this boundary and how it benefits your relationship.
  • Put a note on your phone as a reminder about your commitment.
  • If you slip up, gently get back on track instead of giving up.

8. My partner doesn’t seem to care that I unplugged, and is still on their phone.

  • Lead by example. Eventually, they’ll notice the benefits you’re experiencing.
  • Plan relaxing activities before bed so they won’t default to their phone out of habit or boredom.
  • Tell them how much you appreciate when they make an effort to be present.

Summary Table

Partner sneaking phone in bedReframe, suggest a trial periodRemove temptation
Partner gets madValidate, compromise, share examplesStay calm and kind
Dock phones outside the roomOffer alternatives like cuddlingShow empathy
Feeling guilty if still use my phoneLead by example. Commit together.Take responsibility
Attempts lead to fightsReframe, suggest trial periodCompromise and patience
Partner on call for workCompromise limited checking timesBalance needs
Sneaking phone useReframe, suggest a trial periodInternal motivation
Partner unaffected by my effortsLead by example. Plan activities.Consistency pays off.


Creating boundaries around phone use in the bedroom requires care, consistency, and communication between partners. With empathy, compromise and focus on the positives, couples can protect their intimacy and sleep.

The appeal of phones pulls partners in competing directions. But a sanctuary for unwinding together, free of intrusive tech, builds connection. With patience and teamwork, small steps like silencing notifications and docking phones outside the bedroom add up.

Setting phone boundaries before bed demonstrates prioritizing presence over distraction. As new habits form, couples feel the benefits – falling asleep peacefully entwined, and waking up refreshed and ready for cherished days ahead.

phone in bed
phone in bed

Frequently Asked Questions

Why limit phone use before bed?

Limiting phone use before bed helps your brain wind down for optimal sleep. The stimulation and blue light from phones delay your natural sleep cues. Unplugging allows you to relax, spend quality time with your partner, and fall asleep more easily.

How can I get my partner to agree to put phones away before bed?

Kindly communicate how their bedtime phone habits make you feel. Suggest a reasonable cutoff time you can both compromise on.

Explain the benefits like better sleep, more intimacy, and less stress. If they resist, start by leading by example, putting your phone away first to signal wind down time.

Offer relaxing alternatives like reading or giving massages before lights out.

What are some good bedtime routines without phones?

Establish tech-free activities before bed to transition to sleep mode like taking turns getting ready in the bathroom, putting on pajamas, tidying up, setting your alarm, reading, light stretching, and meditating.

Dim the lights and avoid stimulating screens. Prioritize emotional closeness over digital alerts.

Where should I keep my phone for better sleep hygiene?

Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet, and remove electronic distractions. Dock cell phones and devices outside the room so notifications don’t disrupt sleep.

Consider investing in a traditional alarm clock so your phone doesn’t need to stay in the bedroom while charging.

How can I get my teen to stop using their phone before bed?

Empathize with their strong attachment and gradually help replace the habit.

Have them track their usage to build awareness, remove tempting apps from their home screen, and create an inviting sleep space free of distractions.

Offer alternatives like reading or journaling and set a consistent phone-free bedtime routine. Lead with understanding, not ultimatums.

What apps help limit phone use before bed?

Use apps like Freedom, Offtime, Flipd, and Forest to schedule “Do Not Disturb” buffers, block certain apps, limit screen time, or gamify staying off your phone.

Set alarms reminding you to put phones away. Track your usage to stay aware. Activate Night Shift or blue light filters.

How can I compromise on boundaries with a partner who needs their phone for work emergencies?

Be empathetic to their work requirements but set limits. Ask them to silence non-urgent notifications during set sleep hours.

Compromise that they only check their phone during certain times if absolutely necessary, while keeping the room dark. Allow exceptions but try to keep them minimal. The goal is peaceful sleep and reconnection.