I had two thoughts when I first heard the phrase "electric sundown." 1) Great band name. 2) Catchy marketing campaign for a modern version of the Clapper.
Alas, the electric sundown is neither of those things. Rather, it is a sexy way to say that you should take some time off from your electronic devices before turning in for the night.
Such is a difficult task for me. I love electronics. After all, I am a Millenial. They are all I know, besides debt and unemployment. My day often ends with my cheek resting on my keyboard, sending e-mails reading "af;kdaponfeoinlr,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;" to my high school English teacher. Sometimes I fall asleep with one eye half-cracked open, watching for the blinky-blink of my BlackBerry beside me. I cannot. Resist. The blink.
But then I read this article in the New York Times, about how my cuddly devices are turning our brains into raisins. Evidently all those LCD screens are worse for us than Velveeta. Obsessively checking your phone "can take a mental toll." We can't even watch a whole episode of Project Runway without getting distracted by something battery-powered. We live, instead, for "micro-moments." Pathetic.
No doubt my sleep is affected by my subconscious addiction to the tiny moments I share with my phone. I aim for six hours of shut-eye a night, but that's easily whittled down to four -- sometimes two (It worked for Bill Clinton, I tell myself, while showering in my pajamas.)
So I decided to join the sundown wave for a night, to see what I found on the other end of the healthy sleep cycle.
Step 1: Preparation.
Sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus says that you should charge your devices in another room so you're not tempted to check them pre-bedtime and further atrophy your mind. I live in a one-room apartment, so I resorted to plugging in my cell phone and sliding it under the refrigerator. (My laptop found a home in my hamper.) Earlier in the day, I worked on bettering my sleep environment. I removed all mugs, granola bar wrappers, books, clothes, panda figurines, nail polishes, colored pencils, extension cords, Mahjong tiles and shoes from my bed. I fluffed my pillow, smoothed my sheets and replaced my bedside flood light with a softer bulb.
Step 2: Execution.
Experts say you should power down at least 30 minutes before bedtime. I did better. At 11:29 p.m., I made the necessary rounds with my OFF buttons. I dimmed the lights. I sipped warm almond milk. I even put a Post-it note over the numbers on my digital alarm clock. Once in bed, I felt an odd sense of clarity. Then I felt bored. Soon enough my non-digital thoughts began to flow. I thought about writing this blog. I thought about animal-shaped cities. I thought about Yo-Yo Ma.
That did it. Because seven hours later, I woke up.
Step 3: Reflection.
It was different that next morning. My room was cool shade of blue. Squirrels scampered up oak trees. Even the rats seemed more cheerful, ready to take on the day. I felt .. older. In a good way. Wiser. Less anxious. I stayed in bed an extra five minutes, just sitting, mind calm.
I eventually got up to retrieve my BlackBerry. And then I realized the true genius of Dr. Breus's advice. Covered in fridge soot, I hardly wanted to touch the thing.