Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Disconnected Bedroom

A long time ago I banished most electronics from my bedroom as a way of getting a good night's sleep. There's no TV there (what started out as no TV in the bedroom ended up as no TV at all), there are no computers and no cell phones. There is a hard telephone line that only a very few people know the number for (the sort of people who would hide me) and if it rings I want to be woken up.

The dearth of pixels also means a dearth of backlit screens and the disruption caused by their light that confuses the body into thinking it's day time. The lack of connected devices also means that I'm not tempted to just check my email one more time (or check it in the middle of the night) and since my phone has a calendar and other functionality in it there are all sorts of alerts that could wake me up. The phone is sent away to another room for the night to recharge in silent mode. There's no computer so that I don't work in the same place I sleep and therefore delay going to bed.

But there is one recent electronic device: my Amazon Kindle.

The Kindle makes the grade for three reasons: it won't ever alert me to anything (and the day Amazon adds some sort of alerting that I can't reliably disable it gets banished also), it is not backlit (I can read it in bed just as I would a book and as my eyes start to droop there's no bright light to keep me awake) and there's no colour (the lack of bright colour prevents reading from being an exciting experience that might keep me awake: any excitement has to come from the words).

I wake up using an alarm clock that is electronic but it has just one function: waking me up.

I would allow my cell phone back into the bedroom (to use it as a clock and alarm clock) if, alongside "airplane mode", it had "bedroom mode".

Bedroom Mode would disable all data connectivity and dropping out of Bedroom Mode would require me to wait 10 minutes (a sort of time lock that prevents me from checking my mail or Twitter in the middle of the night). Bedroom Mode would also completely silence the phone (no alerts, no vibration, no waking up the screen when an SMS arrives). And finally Bedroom Mode would allow a small number of selected phone numbers to get through to me in an emergency.

Anyone want to write a Bedroom Mode app for Android (I doubt it's possible on iPhone because of restrictions on what an app can do)? I might even switch phones for that.

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If you enjoyed this blog post, you might enjoy my travel book for people interested in science and technology: The Geek Atlas. Signed copies of The Geek Atlas are available.

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