A Somewhat-Ridiculous, Totally-Cool, Year-Long Experiment.

There’s something I’ve been considering for the last couple of years. It occurred to me one night when listening to a friend talk about how much artificial light can mess up our sleep schedules. I’ve never been a great sleeper – by which I mean, I’ve never slept well at night (I can nap with the best of them, but I have a feeling this is because I’m chronically sleep deprived).

So I started wondering… would my sleep patterns change if I turned off the lights?

(And by now you’re all wondering “is she kidding?!” No. I’m really not.)

Of course, I’d have to limit “screentime,” too, though it’s impossible for me to cut it out completely right now. I know that a downfall of mine is playing/working/social-networking until well past midnight. By the time I feel ready to go to bed, my brain is wide awake and buzzing.

When we moved to the little farmhouse last March, my craving for simplicity and even darkness only increased. We are here on a road with no streetlights. It is relatively quiet at night (though we can hear the African wild dogs from the neighbourhood conservation centre, who are probably howling at the coyotes who run wild). I’ve thought about this every equinox and solstice for at least the last 2.5 years. At a period of time in my life (NOW) where my insomnia is worse than ever, I couldn’t help but consider this again, and this time I got really excited…

After mulling it over “for real” and mentioning it to my husband a smattering of times, I decided to really convince him this past weekend. He agrees it’s worth a try. I’m married to a man who is always up for adventure. But even so, I’m not jumping straight into it. I want to aim to keep the house lights off for a full year, and I think that the spring equinox is the perfect time to start. It will be a gentler transition than plunging ourselves into darkness in the middle of winter. But we’re still negotiating the timing and rules – he wants time to finish a basement project first. I want to mull over the best way to blog about this. And, we have some supplies to collect. I want to make sure this is done in a reasonable manner, with more regard to safety than just having dozens of candles around the house.

I’m sure you have questions, and I’m sure some people will have questions that will trigger things I haven’t yet thought of. So please ask them here and in a few days I’ll put up another post answering them. I’ll start with the easy one:

WHY exactly are we crazy enough to try this? I claim that this experiment will see us sleeping more, sleeping better, and generally healthier. It will save us money, get us in tune with the cycles of nature, and strengthen our marriage. I believe it will make us more relaxed and generally… happier. I’ll explore each of these in more depth over the coming weeks and check in on them often.


  1. The lantern is actually quite safe (the candle is enclosed, and it’s a tea candle (they go out easily if jarred). That Lee Valley lantern is pretty darn safe, having seen it in action.

    HOWEVER: I totally agree with George about candles in general being dangerous. You do NOT want candles that have any chance whatsoever of falling over or being knocked over. And simply putting them up high so that the dog doesn’t knock them over somehow is not sufficient. You WILL accidentally leave them unattended (or fall asleep accidentally, etc.).


  2. Obviously we don’t want long tapers or something with a high chance of being knocked over, but I already addressed the safety thing in my post. We are both adults with a high regard for the safety of our house, and we’ve both had a lot of time to give this thought already.

    Anyway, gentlemen… you can nag outside of this blog. ;o)


  3. I love the idea but I think you have to make sure you get lots of outside time especially in the darker times of the year. I know electric lights aren’t the answer to SAD but having no electric lights may be a problem. I don’t really know tho’. Good luck on this experiment and keep us updated if you go ahead with this…


  4. I definitely would like to have some wind-up flashlights/lanterns on hand as an alternative. We do have a small flashlight so I know they are available. I see them as a much safer alternative particularly, say, in the middle of the night.

    Donna, you could be right, and I’ve wondered about that, too. I think orchestrating ways to get sunlight during the day will be key, but we’ll monitor carefully. I will NOT be shy about ending or changing the game if we find it has adverse effects. It occurs to me that in the summer we may get MORE sunlight that we normally do, because it is easy to come home and be inside rather than outside soaking it up.


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