Why it’s OK to turn off your phone at night

If you are reading this sentence on a mobile device, you probably aren’t surprised that your technology is already obsolete.

Somehow, the bauble vendors — those that have convinced us that before the phone, nobody made money or fell in love — have led us to believe that we will lose our competitive edge in business and life unless we buy in to the upgrade mania. If you have a 5, then you need a 6. And the 7 is due out soon, so reserve one now. And so on.

I find this all a bit sad.

It’s almost as if in the rush to get better computing power in our hands, we have lost respect for our own minds, and our own time.

To be certain, handheld technology has allowed us to be more productive than ever before. Instead of logging on to the Internet (or some such archaic practice) when we roll into the office, we can literally take the pulse of our business — the latest communications, market events, newsfeed — from the comfort of our bed before we get up in the morning.

I bet many of you reading this article do just that. But I wonder: How much time, and how much edge are you really gaining? Does the never-ending flicker of email, text and voicemail serve to alert, or merely distract?

The 3 a.m. wakeup call

I always turn my phone off before going to bed — even though I work in the restaurant and bar business, and it is not unusual for me to get a text at say, 3 a.m.

I’ve had to think about whether or not it is a wise choice to do this — but after some consideration, I figured that, if there is a dire emergency well, the police and EMTs are available for that.

More importantly, by the time I receive a message about an incident, that incident is already in the past. There is only so much that I can do. And in almost every instance, the problem can sit until the morning.

Last night, of course, I received a message from my morning baker that she was feeling ill and would not be in for the day.

The message came in at 3:13 a.m. I read it at 6 a.m. when I got up and activated my phone. Had I left the phone on overnight, I would have certainly heard the text, gotten out of bed and then sent a flurry of texts to my staff (waking them up, probably) — with the net result being a loss of sleep all around.

Yet I slept through the night. This bit of information, though important, remained inert until I chose to use it. It waited while I dreamt. And when I woke up, I sent off a salvo of texts while I drank coffee, and then dealt with the other stresses of the day.

No advance in technology should come between you and your sleep. Or you and your dreams.

Dennis Leary is a chef and restaurateur in San Francisco.