A Love Letter To Flight Mode: My Daily (And Nightly) Saviour

Thank you for helping me get a good night's sleep

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As a teen, the instruction of switching on flight mode elicited a hard eye-roll every time I was sat on a plane about to take off.

How would I manage a whole three hours without checking Facebook? What about my friends’ regular and completely unimportant SMS updates? What if I missed something on Instagram, Snapchat, email? (It’s safe to say adolescent me needed to get a grip.)

I like to think I’ve come a long way since those days. Flight mode has become a force for good and I’m proud to say I use it without hesitation every single day. And no, my job doesn’t involve lots of travelling.

Flight mode (or aeroplane mode) is a feature on smartphones and other devices which disables signal-transmitting technologies meaning you can’t access Wi-Fi, voice calls, text messages, 3G/4G and Bluetooth – although you can turn Wi-Fi back on manually.

In other words, it means you can’t really use your device to connect with other people. And in a world where we’re increasingly switched on - a recent survey from Better Buy Insurance found 18-24-year-olds use their phones a staggering 81 times per day - flight mode has become a very precious function to me.

Every night when I get into bed, somewhere between moisturising my face and my head hitting the pillow, I swipe my screen up and press the bright orange button with the aeroplane icon. The premise is simple - it stops the temptation of scrolling Twitter or Instagram for hours on end; it deters me from replying to messages on Whatsapp and it prevents me from checking my emails (a bright red notification tells me I currently have 10,368 unread).

My love affair with the setting doesn’t end there either - I know, I’m too much. Sometimes at the weekend I’ll keep my phone on aeroplane mode for an entire day (providing I don’t have to use Google maps or arrange to meet someone). And guess what? It’s a real treat. 10/10 would do again.

I decided to make the change about two years ago after interviewing various sleep specialists on what it takes to get a good night’s kip. “Remove your phone from your bedroom altogether,” one told me. “Stop scrolling at night, the blue light will keep you awake,” said another. I didn’t have to be told again.

Blue light emitted from phones is a problem when it comes to getting some shut-eye because it suppresses the hormone melatonin which affects the body’s circadian rhythm. This means your brain becomes stimulated when it should be shutting up shop for the night. A 2017 study found exposure to blue light reduced a person’s duration of sleep by approximately 16 minutes and people were likely to wake up 6-8 times in the night. Not good.

There’s also the issue of phones bleeping once you’ve drifted off, which can make for a disruptive night’s sleep. And, of course, the content of the incoming messages themselves could trigger all kinds of emotions - excitement or anger, you’ll probably feel far more awake.

What is the impact of this? Continued sleep deprivation raises the risk of a number of chronic health problems, according to Harvard Health, such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. A study from this year suggests scrolling on your phone late at night could heighten your risk of mood disorders. It was also associated with decreased happiness and health satisfaction, and - ironically - a higher risk of reporting loneliness.

Since switching to a flight mode-filled existence, I have to say my ability to get to sleep in time for a seven to eight-hour snooze has improved dramatically. I was already pretty good at drifting off quickly (it runs in the family) but I’ve definitely noticed a difference between scrolling-Twitter-for-half-an-hour-Tasha and ahoy-there-flight-mode-Tasha: the latter could win the sleep Olympics regularly and she definitely wakes up mid-slumber far less often.

Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I don’t switch straight to flight mode because I’ve seen a notification while setting my morning alarm or I’ve had that uncontrollable urge to check Twitter (I’m only human, after all). But every time this happens my sleep takes a hit - it takes me ages to get to sleep, I drift in and out of slumber throughout the night, and I end up tired and cranky the next day.

So thank you, oh mighty inventor of flight mode, for helping me get a good night’s kip. If you’re feeling up to the scroll-free challenge, try switching on aeroplane mode each night and let me know if it helps.